Bullying isn’t cool
The Victorian Government is running an anti-bullying campaign. As parents, bullying is something that Mr O and I watch out for signs of, as any parent should. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any indications and the children attend schools with active anti-bullying strategies in place so we don’t expect to see any signs! How do I know about this campaign? Mr O Jnr 2 wants to enter and win the iPad, iPod Nano and the $500 iTunes voucher prize! Clearly though, they have been talking about the topic at school.
There is a competition to name the campaign, entries can be made at http://www.namethecampaign.com.au/.
In the old days, bullying was physical or verbal in nature. Now it has expanded:
Cyberbullying: is direct verbal or indirect bullying behaviours using digital technologies. This includes harassment via a mobile phone, setting up a defamatory personal website or deliberately excluding someone from social networking spaces.
I find it sad that as a species, humans seem to manage to turn anything and everything to a negative purpose. There is a page devoted specifically to cyberbullying on the Education Department site.
Bullying doesn’t just happen in school. Victoria has criminalised bullying in the workplace, prompted by the death of 19-year-old Brodie Panlock in 2006. Brodie committed suicide after co-workers bullied her relentlessly. Over the years there have been many reported cases of “initiation rites” going wrong in workplaces and young people being badly injured or killed. While not specifically bullying, surely a workplace culture that accepts or promotes such activities is rather strange. It is one thing to send an apprentice on a hunt for a left-handed screwdriver or striped paint: it is another altogether to encourage or demand dangerous activities.
Another bullying case reported in The Age in 2010 alleges:
Pay was regularly docked for taking too long on a task, or cleaning tools, and Mr Hutchinson and other staff were regularly abused.
Why on earth do people do such things? What is funny about abusing or bullying either our fellow-students or our co-workers?
There has been an increase in reports of bullying in the workplace since the introduction of Brodie’s Law, but it seems often these are not substantiated.
”I think what we are seeing is that the term bullying is being used quite loosely in the community now in many instances to describe something that has ‘gone against me’ or ‘that I haven’t liked’ or something that ‘I haven’t wanted to do’,” says Mr Forsyth.
”As a result, we are seeing a mismatch between what is being labelled bullying and what would really constitute bullying under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
I find this equally odd behaviour. Why trivialise a very serious issue by making claims that clearly are NOT bullying and tying up resources that could be concentrating on serious cases? From the above article, the Occupational Health and Safety Act defines bullying as ”repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”. Missing out on a pay-rise might be infuriating personally, but it doesn’t create a risk to health and safety.
Under the new laws, the penalty for workplace bullying in Victoria is up to 10 years in jail.
Let’s go back to bullying in the schoolyard. One could suggest it might be a good idea to penalise parents when children are found guilty of bullying. Perhaps not jail time, but a hefty fine might be a deterrent. The problem with this approach is more often than not bullies are from dysfunctional homes, in which case the child is likely to be subjected to verbal or physical abuse in the home if the parent is penalised. This simply exacerbates the problem, rather than solving it.
I’ve seen cases reported of some very strange parents defending unacceptable behaviour by their children and arguing the school is wrong for enforcing policies, such as school uniform policies. These are the “My little Jimmy would never” type of parents. They set no behavioural boundaries and the children run riot. Some of these children also become bullies. Some of these parents would be taking people to court if it were suggested “little Jimmy” was ever a bully.
What do childhood bullies grow into? Bullies in the workplace. Bullies in their domestic life.
If you are reading this and you are worried or concerned about bullying in your workplace and don’t feel you are able to raise the issue safely at work, you can contact Fair Work Australia, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or WorkSafe.
If you are a parent and you suspect your child might be a victim of bullying, speak to the school immediately. If you feel you are not being heard, escalate the matter. Bullying is unacceptable. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Bullying may occur because of perceived differences such as culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability or disability, religion, body size and physical appearance, age or economic status. Bullying may be motivated by jealousy, distrust, fear, misunderstanding or lack of knowledge.