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Proudly Supporting

Bystanders, Bullying and Breaking Points

By Yvette Vignando - 16th March 2011

A video shared online this week shows a very distressing scene of a smaller Year 7 boy hitting a larger Year 10 boy in the face and body while several students stand by (including the camera person) - watching and making comments. The video footage culminates in the smaller boy being injured. A part of this video was shown to me by crew at The Morning Show on Channel 7 yesterday morning - a pure coincidence, as I was about to talk about approaches parents can take if they find out that their child is a bully. See the Morning Show clip here: What To Do If Your Child is a Bully

My first reaction was utter sadness for the larger boy who was in an absolutely awful situation - being bullied and assaulted in a school by a smaller boy while peers stand by - the humiliation for him must have been unbearable. I challenge anyone to watch that video and not have deep empathy and sympathy for the larger boy, in spite of the ultimately also distressing conclusion to the footage.

Let's not be too quick to judge the school here other than to make the general observation that a school is also responsible for doing its best to create a safe learning environment for students - and this includes comprehensive anti-bullying policies and anti-bullying education that is actively communicated and enforced. But we also know that teachers can not be everywhere in the playground all of the time and students who bully often act in very intentional ways to avoid being found out. If only the student bystanders in this video had immediately called for help, perhaps the outcome would have been different. We just don't know enough about the school or people involved to know why the other students did not act.

I know that the vast majority of callers on radio (hear for example talkback and commentary by me on radio station MMM this morning ) are applauding the larger boy in this video for standing up for himself, and for his restraint before he finally stopped the smaller boy. I thought his initial restraint was remarkable and I thought at first he would walk away. But I can not condone what the larger boy did to stop the smaller boy's bullying - I can totally understand it and I can also understand that he reached the point where he ran out of personal resources to defend himself from a group of kids who were humiliating him even by their mere presence.  But I am very worried about the consequences.  I worry about how the larger boy will move on and get over this incident. I worry that the public support for the outcome in this video will incite other children to use violence to stop bullies.

What else worries me? How did the smaller boy get to the point in his young life where he sought the emotional power of humiliating and assaulting another child? How did the bystanders in this scene get to the point that they either enjoyed watching this disgraceful behaviour or were so intimidated that they could not step in to stop (a small Year 7 boy) or run/call for a teacher's help? How did the camera-person and whoever uploaded this video to the internet get to the point in their young lives where their level of respect for another child was so low, where their empathy and compassion was so lacking, that they participated in publishing this scene?

So many questions. No answers.

The one clear general observation about bullying is this - some parents are not sending children to school with sufficient guidance and social and emotional intelligence to prevent them from behaving as bullies. In an ideal world a school would only need to teach academic, thinking and physical skills and parents would do the rest. It's not an ideal world. Education is the opportunity to teach the next generation of parents - hopefully a generation that will be more respectful and more emotionally intelligent than the last. This video is no doubt just one example of what is going on in some schools every day. Its publication is shocking but it's a reminder about why schools need to teach children emotional intelligence as part of the school curriculum.

My thoughts are with both boys today - I am hoping that some wise and loving adults will step in to help them achieve some happiness and stability after what can only be described as a life-changing episode.

( I would love to know your thoughts but as there are children involved and a school, please do not mention the children's names or the school's name or location.)

You can read my Tips sheet on the Channel 7 The Morning Show website for ideas about what to do if your child is the bully: What If Your Child is the Bully? I also like the book Bully Blocking by Evelyn Field as one resource to look at if your child is being bullied.

image freedigitalphotos.net graur razvan ionut

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