At the core of bullying and harassment behaviours is an expression of disrespect for the right of others to feel safe, valued and listened to. In today’s society, it is unfortunate that we don’t have to look too far to find reports of bullying and harassment. Such behaviours are not restricted to a particular geographic location, community setting or socio-economic status. Bullying and harassment can take place just about anywhere, including the schoolyard, classroom, on the way to or from school, online, by phone, at home or at work. It can be related to just about anything and can come in many forms. For example, bullying can include physical, verbal and social aggression and it can be either face-to-face or online (cyberbullying).
It’s important to note that not all unusual behaviour from students at school may be labelled as bullying. For example, occasional fights or name-calling between two pupils of equal power may not be labelled as ‘harassment’. Bullying and harassment is defined as repeatedly hurting another person who is less powerful – either physically or psychologically. It involves a desire on the part of the bully to hurt, followed by the carrying out of a hurtful action in a context where there is an imbalance and the unjust use of power. This behaviour is typically repeated.
Victimisation is the key to bullying. The victims of bullying feel powerless, intimidated, threatened and too weak to stop it from happening to them. They may feel angry, depressed or bewildered. The victims of bullying report the effects as: loss of sleep and appetite, dreading the thought of going to school, and an inability to concentrate. Bullying has both long-term and short-term effects on victims. The long-term effects may range from mental and psychological damage to personal loss, such as poor parenting skills, effects on relationships and loss of employment opportunities.
Bullying affects both the victims and the bully. Research shows that bullies are generally disliked at school. They are likely to experience abuse at home and tend to have lower self-esteem and happiness than others. Aggressive behaviour on the part of the bully can contribute to antisocial behaviour later in life.
Christian College is committed to providing a safe and caring environment which fosters respect for others and does not tolerate bullying and harassment in any form. Bullying directly contradicts the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. It was He, after all, who sought out the outcasts and powerless and who taught the critical importance of helping "the least of these”. Foundational to the College’s Bullying and Harassment Policy and the Student Wellbeing and Management Policy is the strong expectation for each member of the community to be accountable to making positive contributions to Christian College.
Preventing, detecting and responding to bullying and harassment is a shared responsibility between the College’s staff, students and parents. Parents and teachers have a responsibility for modelling and teaching values of love and respect for other people, regardless of age, appearance or other characteristics. Thus the ‘norm’ at home and at school should be one in which abusive speech or actions are clearly understood to be unacceptable for everyone, children and adults alike. Both parents and teachers should strive to impress upon on our children that people and relationships are the most important aspect of community, and that bullying and harassment are violations of a person’s right to feel safe and valued.
By teaching our young people the skills and developing their self-esteem, students should be empowered to report bullying to an adult (teacher or parent), whether they themselves or someone else have been the target. Furthermore, students should understand that coming to the assistance of someone who is being bullied is not only appropriate, but an act of courage.
Bullying thrives on secrecy; it is what keeps the offender powerful and the victim powerless. We must encourage victims to speak out. It is of the utmost importance that we urge our students to tell, and make it safe for them to do so. Anne Fine, in her children’s book ‘The Angel of Nitshill Road’, writes: “The rule not to tell tales was invented by bullies – and the people who don’t really want to stand up to them”. Our aim must be to empower the victim and disempower the offender.
Foundational to student wellbeing at Christian College is an ongoing collaborative effort involving teachers, students and parents to maintain community ‘norms’ and a social climate that clearly does not accept bullying and harassment in any form. Our College is a supportive learning environment that respects the rights of all members of the community and celebrates diversity. Our aim is to make this College one at which all students and all staff feel safe, valued, listened to and spiritually nurtured.
Head of the Bellarine Campus
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