WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying in the workplace is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person or persons. Bullying is where aggression or cruelty, viciousness, intimidation or a need to humiliate dominate the relationships. Isolated incidents of aggressive behaviour, while to be condemned, should not be described as bullying. In the workplace environment there can be conflicts and interpersonal difficulties. Many of these are legitimate industrial relations difficulties which should be dealt with through the appropriate industrial relations channels. Only aggressive behaviour which is systematic and ongoing should be regarded as bullying.
EFFECTS OF BULLYING
The effects of bullying on the person can be manifested by any or all of the following:-
Emotional effects (sever anxiety)
Cognitive (concentration) effects (making mistakes, having accidents)
Behavioural effects (smoking, excess drinking, overeating)
Physiological effects (contributing to raised blood pressure, heart disease)
Reduced resistance to infection, stomach and bowel problems
The most serious effects remain fear, anxiety and depression, which can (and have) led to suicide. To these may be added severe loss of confidence and low self-esteem. Bullying, like stress generally, has a detrimental effect on the organisation as a whole because people working a climate of fear and resentment do not give of their best. The effects on the organisation as a whole can include:
Poor industrial relations
Those perceived, in any way, as different are often targets for bullying.
These can include:-
Low status employees
employees who are unduly shy, lack education or learning ability, have physical disability or sensory impairment, or are know to unwilling to complain.
Employees of a different gender or sexual orientation.
Employees who are members of a trade union which is not accepted by management or which is perceived by colleagues as not being the right trade union to be in.
Employees who show a willingness to challenge harassment,(which can lead to victimisation)
Employees who choose not to be a member of a trade union and as a result suffer harassment by colleagues.
Employees suffering from poor physical or mental health.
Employees with very noticeable physical characteristics.
Employees with religious or political belief not shared by their colleagues.
Employees of a different race, ethnic origin, nationality, or skin colour.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BULLYING
There are three broad areas of bullying:-
By individual workmates and
By group of workmates.
FORMS OF BULLYING
The form which any of these kinds of bullying may take are:-
Jokes, offensive language, gossips, slander, offensive songs.
Posters, photocopies cartoons, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems.
Isolation or non co-operation or exclusion from social activities.
Coercion for sexual favours.
Intrusion by pestering, spying and stalking.
Repeated requests giving impossible deadlines or impossible tasks.
Repeated unreasonable assignments to duties, which are obviously unfavourable to one individual.
Vandalism of personal property (destroying clothing, scratching paintwork on cars).
MAKING A COMPLAINT
Any employee who feels that he or she is being bullied should ask the alleged perpetrator to stop.
Where this form of action is unsuccessful the employee may report the matter to the following:- the Principal, the Deputy-Principal, the Staff Representative or the Chairperson of the Board of Management.
Attempts should be made to resolve the matter informally with the alleged perpetrator, but if it is not possible to resolve the matter informally with the alleged perpetrator, the following complaints procedure shall apply: –
A written report should be made by the complainant or an authorised person to whom the complaint is made and signed by the complainant.
The complaint will be investigated with minimum delay as confidentially as possible. Due respect shall be had for the rights of the complainant and the alleged perpetrator of the bullying.
Both parties may be accompanied/represented at all interviews/meetings held and these shall be recorded.
Where a complaint is found to be substantiated, the extent and nature of the bullying will determine the form of the disciplinary action to be taken. These actions may include a verbal warning, a written warning or other sanctions permitted under the Health and Safety Act 1989 and the Education Act 1998 and deemed appropriate by the Board of Management and the Patron.
Where an employee is victimised as a result of invoking or participating in any aspect of the complaints procedure, including acting as a witness for another employee, such behaviour will also be subjected to disciplinary action.
If the complaint is found to be valid, following a through and objective assessment of the evidence of both parties to the investigation process, prompt action will be taken under sanctions as listed in (d) above.
It is the responsibility of the school authorities that complaints of bullying are investigated and dealt with by the authorities and not the complainant.
Where disciplinary action is taken following a complaint and subsequent investigation, the alleged perpetrator retains the right of appeal under existing disciplinary procedures and the right of natural justice.
No record of any complaint will be registered on an employee’s file unless the formal procedure outlined above has been invoked.
It is the opinion of the school that issues of this nature are best dealt with within the school.
However, no aspect of this policy affects any employee’s individual legal rights to take their complaint outside of the school.
Staff members subjected to bullying shall make a formal complaint to the Principal who will be responsible on behalf of management for investigation such complaints and recommending action. Prior to the commencement of the formal investigation, the alleged perpetrator will be given a copy of the formal written complaint and advised that an investigation will ensue which may lead to disciplinary action. Both the complainant and the alleged perpetrator will be advised of their right to be accompanied and/or represented by their Staff Representative or a colleague.
Where any staff members do not find it appropriate to report to the Principal as above, he/she may report to the Deputy-Principal or Chairperson of the Board of Management.
SCHOOL POLICY ON BULLYING
It is the belief of the teaching staff and Board of Management of Scoil San Phroinsias that every child has a right to pass safely through childhood to an education free from fear and intimidation. Preventing bullying is the responsibility of adults. Most bullying is behaviour that children learn from adults through physical punishment, humiliating treatment, bad example, and from violent images and messages conveyed through the media.
We must keep children safe by teaching them, with the aid of programmes such as the Stay Safe Programme, of their total bodily integrity and their right to talk or tell about any problem to parents, teacher and other carers. We must by our own behaviour and approach give children a clear message that bullying and intimidating behaviour in any form is an infringement of their rights and as such totally unacceptable. They must feel that they have permission to talk and tell of such problems and that adults will act effectively and quickly to protect them.
Our school policy aims to show how a pro-active rather than a reactive approach, which recognises children’s rights and adult responsibilities, will produce the best result for all concerned.
TEACHER – PUPIL PROGRAMME
The children will be told from Day One that bullying (verbal, emotional or physical) is not tolerated in the school. Everyone is expected to ensure that it does not happen and has the responsibility to tell – this is not telling tales.
The children will discuss bullying:- What it is? What can be done? To find out what children, teacher and staff think about bullying. Is it a problem, should it go on, should children tell if they are being bullied?
The class will discuss the rules for behaviour. A set of school and playground have already been agreed.
Possible solutions (or punishment if necessary) will be agreed. This can be done by involving the children themselves.
The children will discuss ways to help the bullies become part of the group.
If bullying is happening, the fact will be found out, the bullies and victims will be spoken to individually. If the bullying is about a particular issue (e.g. death, separation, disfigurement), an education programme will be initiated about the problem, but not focused on a particular child. The parents will be called in if necessary and asked for their support and suggestions.
HOW WOULD YOU KNOW IF YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED?
If your child is being bullied they may:-
Be unusually anxious, nervous or tense.
Have nightmares or eating problems.
Have unexplained bruises, scratches, etc., or come home regularly with books or clothes missing.
Constantly ask for or steal money (to pay a bully).
Begin to bully other children.
Be unwilling to go out to play at home or at school.
Be afraid of walking to or from school, or unwilling to go to school.
Begin to do poorly at school.
Become isolated in the school or playground.
Continuously make excuses to explain away any of the above.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED?
If you are worried that your child is being bullied, ask them what’s wrong.
It is not easy for children to tell about bullying so it is important to talk to your child and let them know that they can tell you if they have a problem.
Sometimes parents tell a child to “hit back” at the bully. This can make matters worse. Teaching children to be confident and to tell is better.
Teaching the child to say “no” in a good confident tone of voice and to carry themselves in a confident way will deter some bullies. The child can practice this at home. Children need to know that safety comes first. In a situation where a gang attack the child they should just get away and tell. Some children with disabilities will not be able to day no or to tell. If your child has few or no words they may be able to let you know in some other way, for example through play, drawing, or body language.
Get friend to help. Encourage your child to invite friends in to play or to go on family outings.
Children can be encouraged to join in activities where they will not come into contact with the bully. Identify places where the bullying happens and take care that your child avoids those areas if possible.
If the bullying is taking place in school, talk to your child’s teacher.
If necessary the group dynamics will be broken up by assigning places. Most bullying groups have a leader with other children being frightened of not bullying. Peer pressure will be turned against bullying and groups broken up.
The children will be taught to be assertive using programmes such as Stay Safe. Differences should be acceptable and never a cause for bullying. The rights of each individual child will be affirmed.
IN THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND AND IN THE CLASSROOM DURING LUNCHTIME.
The children will be continually observed in the playground.
The following playground rules will be continually presented to the children.
(A) ROUGH PLAY IS FORBIDDEN.
(B) THE USE OF NAME CALLING AND OTHER INSULTING REMARKS IS FORBIDDEN.
(C) THREATNING BEHAVIOUR IS UNACCEPTABLE.
(D) ISOLATION OF AND THE INTIMIDATION OF OTHER CHILDREN IS NOT ALLOWED.
(E) DELIBERATELY LEAVING A PUPIL OUT OF GAMES/ACTIVITIES IS NOT ALLOWED.
(F) HITTING, JOSTLING, PUSHING, KICKING, ETC., IS FORBIDDEN.
(G) CONSTANT INTERFERENCE WITH A CHILD’S POSSESSIONS, BOOKS OR CLOTHES IN NOT ALLOWED.
An assembly will be used to present the rules to the children.
The times that children play will be staged if necessary.
Bullying and intimidation will be dealt with immediately. The sorting of problems is the responsibility of the whole school community.
There are clear procedures for the immediate reporting of such incidents. These incidents are to be initially reported to the teachers on playground supervision and then to the School Principal.
ADVICE AND GUIDANCE FOR TEACHERS.
Watch for early signs of distress in pupils – deterioration of work, spurious illness, isolation, the desire to remain with adults, erratic attendance. Whilst this behaviour may be symptomatic of other problems, it may be the early signs of bullying.
Listen carefully and record all incidents.
Offer the victim immediate support and help by putting the school’s procedures in operation.
Examine the victim’s behaviour. Is there something in the child’s demeanour that attracts the bullying? A child’s self image and body language may send out a message to potential bullies. Teaching a child to day “NO” in a strong, assertive tone of voice and to carry him/herself in a confident way will help them to deal with any situations. Practicing self assertion can be achieved through roleplays in the classroom.
Establish a sense of equality within the group, i.e. the same entitlement to space views, their own possessions, etc.,
Get other children to help by pairing vulnerable children with more confident ones. Emphasise to the class that your approve more of children who will help the victim, than those who join the bully. Too often, children join the bully from fear of victimisation themselves.
Children who are loners are extremely vulnerable. Parents may need to be alerted to this and encouraged to help their children by facilitating friendships.
Let children know that they did the right thing by telling and that it is not their fault if they are being bullied. Avoid making the victim feel guilty or ashamed for telling.
Keep an account of incidents to help you to assess how serious the problem is. Many children with a little help overcome this problem quickly.
It is important to be realistic, it will not be possible for a single child to assert their rights if attacked by a gang.
Children should be advised that in these situations the safest option is to hand over the lunch money. Then get away and tell. Tell them that you would have done the same in this situation.
DEALING WITH BULLIES.
One of the most frustrating things for teachers can be established the source of the incident. Bullies regularly redefine their own behaviour by saying “I was only playing with him” or “It was only a joke”. This places the blame on the victim because then they appear to have no sense of humour or to be unable to participate in a game. These statements should no go unchallenged. If it was only a joke, do you think the victim found it funny? If it was an accident, did you stop and help the victim, apologise, etc.,?
Getting both the victim and the bully to write an account of the incident helps the teacher to make the bully examine his/her own behaviour. Compare the statement and make the bully look at it from the victim’s point of view!
Parents often find it difficult to accept that their child is a bully. Keeping a record of incidents and the children’s written account will help. It is easier for parents to accept their child’s behaviour if the topic is approached in a helpful and sympathetic manner. Schools need the co-operation of parents to combat bullying.
When dealing with the bully, separate the incident from the child. Give the message that you disapprove of the behaviour but not of the child. The behaviour may be a reaction to some stressful event or change in the child’s life, e.g. a new baby, a death in the family, a difficult home problem, etc., Bullies often suffer from poor self esteem. Use every opportunity you can to praise good considerate, helpful behaviour. Don’t only look for negatives.
Don’t punish bullying by being a bully yourself.
GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS
Watch for signs of distress in your children. There could be an unwillingness to attend school, a pattern of headaches or stomach aches, equipment that has gone missing, requests for extra pocket money, damaged clothing or bruising.
Take an active interest in the child’s social life. Discuss friendships, how playtime is spent and the journey to and from school.
If you think your child is being bullied inform the school immediately and ask for an interview with the School Principal who will deal with the incident. Furthermore, when discussing the problem with your son or daughter follow the advice given from victims.
Keep a written record if the bullying persists. It will be painful but it will provide supportive evidence regarding Who?, What?, Where, and When?
With an appointed member of the teaching staff, devise strategies that will help your child and provide him/her with support inside and outside school.
Keep in regular contact with the child’s teacher and Principal about the problem.
If the problem occurs outside school contact a solicitor, the Gardai, a Health Board Social Worker as necessary. Ask for a letter to be sent to the offender’s parents, informing them of the legal consequences of a recurrence of such behaviour.
Do not encourage your child to hit back. It will only make matters worse. Such behaviour could be contrary to your child’s nature. More positively encourage your child to recruit friends, join clubs. A child who has friends is less likely to be bullied.
The teacher may be unaware of the problem and will appreciate being told. Parents and teachers need to work together to help the child.
Tell your child that if they see someone being bullied, they should still tell. There are no innocent bystanders in bullying.
Many children with a little help overcome this problem very quickly.
WHY DO CHILDREN BULLY?
There are many reasons why children bully. It may be a reaction to something else in the child’s life, e.g. a new baby, a death in the family, a sudden illness or difficult home problems.
Children who bulky often have been bullied themselves. Some bullies suffer from a lack of self-confidence and have low self-esteem. They can be attention-seekers, trying to impress others by their bullying behaviour. Children who are under pressure to succeed at all costs may try to bully their way to success.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR CHILD IS A BULLY?
Talk to your child and try to find out if there is a problem.
Don’t punish bullying by being a bully yourself. Hitting or shouting at the child will make the situation worse.
Let the child know that it is wrong to bully. Explain how the victim feels. Try to get your child to understand the victim’s point of view.
Contact your child’s teacher and let them know about the problem. Parents and teachers together can help the child. Other people who care for your child may also be able to help with this problem.
The Department of Education and Science has issued guidelines on bullying to all schools.
Bullying can be:-
Physical e.g. constant hitting, jostling, pushing around, constant interference with a child’s possessions, books or clothes. Horseplay need not necessarily be bullying, but it can sometimes be used as an excuse for bullying.
Verbal e.g. name calling, hurtful or insulting remarks about a child’s appearance, parents, clothing or school work.
Emotional e.g. continuously letting a child know that they are the topic of conversation and/or deliberately leaving a child out of games or group activities.
All types of bullying are damaging, but verbal and emotional bullying are more difficult to detect.
Bullying can take place anywhere. It may be carried out by groups or by an individual. The most successful bullies are those who can keep their victims quiet by threatening or humiliating them.