Bullying in public schools

“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” Stop Bullying.gov

SAPRA sometimes receives complaints from Pagan parents alleging that their children are being bullied in public schools by other learners, specifically because of their religion.

What can parents and learners do when faced with a highly dangerous scenario in which their child is threatened, slandered, ridiculed or attacked by other children?

There are two important things to consider in answering this question:

1. The affected child requires counselling in order to provide him or her with the tools with which to deal with the effects of their being victims of bullying.

“Bullying can cause serious physical, psychological and emotional harm that can last a lifetime. It can impact on children’s performance at school and in the worst cases has led to children committing suicide or dropping out of school because of the stress of being bullied.” Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention.

Children need to understand that being bullied by others is not their fault. Children who are bullied may suffer from low self-esteem or depression as a result of, or prior to the bullying, or may go on to become bullies as a way of compensating for their own insecurity. Children do not always have the tools available to deal with and resolve their conflicting emotions.

2. Parents are directly responsible for bringing the offence to the attention of educators and principle in order to force the school to take immediate action against the pupils responsible for the bullying.

“Approximately half (51.6 %) the learners who are victims of bullying have reported the incidents. Of these, 53.8% reported to parents, which shows that parents are viewed as the first line of protection and have an important role to play in the lives of children.” UNISA

Parents must take immediate action to bring the bullying to the attention of educators. Waiting in the hope that the bully will tire and move on is never a good idea. Children need to know that if they approach a parent with such a problem, that their personal safety will be regarded as most important.

Parents may pursue one of two options.

a) They may approach the school directly and raise the matter with their child’s educator/s.

Inform the teacher that your child is the victim of bullying. Demand that the educator raises this matter with other educators, the bully or bullies, and their parents urgently. A meeting may be called by the educators or principle of the affected school, between the parents of both parties, in order to air and discuss the matter.

Such a meeting must conclude with an undertaking by educators, bully and the parents of the bully, to prevent any further bullying from recurring. The parents of the bully will be obligated to discipline their child by offering appropriate support mechanisms to allow the child to (i) understand why their behaviour was and is inappropriate, (ii) learn to control their anger and aggression, and (iii) offer an unconditional and sincere apology to his or her victim/s.

Both educators and parents must continue to monitor their children beyond the day of the meeting, as bullying rarely ceases immediately.

b) Parents may alternatively approach an attorney and request that said attorney act on their behalf in order to approach the school principal and governing body about the matter.

The parents of the bully may be requested to appear at a formal meeting convened by the school, at the insistance of the attorney acting for his or her client, in order to take accountability and responsibility for the behaviour of their child.

Parents will take advice and direction from the attorney.

After lodging a complaint?

It is important to remember that educators are primarily responsible for monitoring the behaviour of pupils, especially those who have been identified as involved in either being bullied or of behaving inappropriately. Parents must ensure that school policies takes full cognizance of the need to have anti-bullying policies in place to ensure that both parents and pupils have recourse to justice.

“Ensure that the school’s Code of Conduct addresses bullying and/or develop specific anti-bullying policies. All policies should carry a clear anti-bullying message and clearly outline roles and responsibilities, procedures for staff and caregivers, how teachers and learners can report bullying, response protocols and consequences for bullies.” Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention.

For more information on Bullying in public schools, review the informative links provided below.

(Last accessed: 28 August 2016)

Addressing Bullying in Schools” Published by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention.

Bullying in Schools” by Cleo Protogerou, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, and Alan Flisher, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town.

Nature, extent and impact of bullying among secondary school learners in Gauteng” Published by the University of South Africa.

Bullying at school” Published by the Western Cape Education Department.


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