The importance of supporting/how to support victims
The School – Implement a Whole School Community Approach to Bullying
Bullying, and by extension supporting victims is best addressed as a collective approach, not as a problem for individuals or individual groupings within the school community. As such a Whole School Community Approach is the best route to supporting victims and achieving safer schools.
A successful Whole School Community Approach not only addresses bullying behaviour it also implements multiple intervention and preventative strategies, improves the climate and ethos of the school, improves relationships among staff, children and young people and parents, supporting the emotional health and well-being and learning potential of children and young people, and allowing children to feel heard and supported across all levels of the school community making it easer for them come forward.
The Whole School Community Approach advocates the inclusion of students/young people, student participation and student voice as being crucial to the process allowing them to work with the adults at all levels in the school community and building confidence and trust in the process, so that should they experience difficulties they will be more likely to come forward and report the problem.
Importance of Supporting the Victim
Bullying thrives on secrecy and openly supporting victims is crucial, not just for the crucial well being of the students themselves but for the message it sends and the culture it helps to foster. By supporting victims you encourage others to come forward, and discourage bullies to continue in their practice, and help create an anti bullying culture and ethos which every school should strive for.
Indeed schools that do not properly support victims, leave themselves open to a failure of duty of care, and may find themselves facing legal challenges. Conversely, the support of victims and creation of a anti bullying ethos can help teachers by removing disruptive elements in their classroom and improving the learning environment.
How Teachers Should Support Victims
Every member of the school community, especially teachers should look firstly to their own behaviour and manner in the classroom. How a teacher carries themselves and deals with students in their classroom impacts on the student’s own behaviour, setting the tone for how they themselves can behave to one another.
- Create an ethos that is positive and friendly and fosters a culture of respect.
- Openly discourage bullying behaviour
- Challenge all Single Acts of Inappropriate Aggression
- Promote a culture of disclosure to break the code of silence
- Develop and maintain a classroom environment that is co-operative and rewarding
- Implement preventative and intervention strategies within their classroom – including practical, curricular, awareness raising, sociometric and specific, e.g. No Blame Approach. (For more details see Strategy Module)
When a Teacher is Approached by a Victim
Listen – Coming forward takes courage. Find a private place to talk. Allow time for them to talk. Be attentive and patient. Prompt gently.
Take Notes – The nature of the incident, names of those involved, names of witnesses, time and place.
Allay Fears / Provide Reassurance – It is critical to praise them for coming forward. Reassure that bullying is unacceptable. Assure that action will be taken to stop any bullying.
Ensure The Students Safety – Contact the parents to inform them of the situation. Inform pastoral teachers/counsellors if possible to help watch over student.
Negotiate Confidentiality – Deal with students concerns about being labelled a tell-tale, in addition different types of bullying require different levels of confidentiality (e.g. where sexist, homophobic/transphobic bullying may be involved)
Arrange to Keep in Contact– make arrangements to meet again, reassuring them they will not be left alone after the meeting, and will be kept informed about progress. Not knowing what is going on can increase a victims sense of unease and worry.
Make the Intervention – follow the schools anti-bullying policy if it exists, and set as quick a time frame as possible to do so, keeping school, parents and victim in the loop.
Make a Record – For the good of the teacher, the student and the school a record of the incident should be made and kept on file, including the details of meetings, actions taken and the resolution of the matter. This can be useful for the schools data on both individual students actions as well as bullying incidents across the school.
How Parents Should Support Victims
Exactly like teachers, parents should look firstly to their own behaviour and manner in the home. How they speak about others, and deal with their children gives the guide for what their child thinks is the norm for dealing with others, at home, among their peers and in school. They should also empower schools to act, and if possible be involved in the school community.
Parents should in order to help prevent bullying:
- Become informed about bullying, different types, signs and symptoms allowing them to make an early intervention.
- Talk to their children about bullying and cyberbullying
- Assure them it’s okay to tell
- Talk to them about Peer Pressure
- Build Empathy for others – to ensure they don’t get drawn into bullying others
- Build Self-Esteem – to help them better combat/cope with aggression and bullying
- Build Resilience – Independence, Interpersonal Skills, Effort rather than Results, Self Control, Use a Restorative rather than Punitive Approach at home. Impart Pride in how they are.
- Encourage Friendships – increasing self esteem
- Encourage Sport Participation – building team skills, learning fair play, taking care of team mates.
Steps for Parents Supporting a Victim
Listen – Allow time for them to talk about what’s going on. Be attentive and patient. Prompt gently.
Take Notes – What kind of bullying, names of those involved, names of witnesses, how long has it been happening, time and place it happens.
Provide Reassurance – Reassure them it is not about them, but about the bully.
Involve the School – Parents may need to reassure children about involving the school in the fear it will make things worse. Assure them they will be told everything, and that the most successful interventions are those involving both school and parents.
Work with the School – Take a proactive, positive approach with the school. Keep calm in meetings, and bring notes to help in discussions. Keep notes and logs of all meetings, and copies of all letters. Keep the victim appraised of all developments.
Talk with the Child Throughout – bullying may have undermined their self image and self worth, they may be suffering from anxiety and even have PTSD, and parents will almost certainly need to help rebuild their self esteem, with love and praise, listening to them and working carefully to change the way they may think of themselves and others.
Suggested Further Reading & Links
Violence Reduction in Schools : How to Make a Difference. (2006) Council of Europe Publishing.
Dealing with Bullying in Schools (2004) O’Moore, M. & Minton. S.J. Paul Chapman Publishing.
101 Ways to Deal with Bullying : A Guide For Parents (1997) Kidscape. UK.
Understanding School Bullying (2010) O’Moore, M. Veritas. Dublin
Resolving Bullying (ages 6 -12) (2010) McAuslan, F. & Nicholson, P. Veritas. Dublin.
Bye-Bye, Bully: A Kid's Guide for Dealing with Bullies (2003) Jackson, J.S. Abbey Press. Indiana.
Don’t Pick On Me (1993) Stones, R. Piccadilly Press.
Video: Talking to your children about bullying - NSW Public Schools - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BOh8Arcrek