News and opinions on disability
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Stopping Bullying

The Policy and Advocacy team and David Matthews tackle the very important issue of bullying. For too long we have tolerated bullying in our schools.

It is difficult for parents to always keep their children safe and free from harm. This is especially true of bullying, which is an age-old problem.

Bullying is about someone acting or speaking in a way that gives them power over another person. I am sure we have all seen the results of bullying in schools. The consequences of bullying can be severe and tragic.

In our society we sometimes have a “kids will be kids” attitude towards bullying. This attitude often downplays the impact of bullying. It also tends to shift the blame from the bully to the victim. Often there is an implicit idea that the victim deserved the bullying by being different and that the victim just needs to ‘get over it’. This is wrong.

Bullying affects us all. The result of bullying is a suppression of difference and diversity. People often resort to hide aspects of themselves that could be seen as different, from something as minor as music preferences to something as major as their sexuality. We often discover, when people leave school, that there was far more diversity among our peers than we had thought. How many of us, have run into an ex classmate and discovered things we never knew about them?

We pay a high price for our suppression of difference; our shocking statistics in youth suicide and self harm bear testament to that. A tolerance of bullying also does no favours to the bullies themselves. Because we tolerate their actions, they will often end up on a dead end path to greater cruelty and violence.

Children with disabilities often have no choice about hiding their difference. As a result, they are at a high risk of bullying. This increased risk of bullying was a major part of the recent media coverage on residential special schools. These concerns cannot be underrated. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the solution to bullying is to remove victims from mainstream schooling. You can’t stop bullying by hiding the victims away.

Instead, we need to focus our attention on the attitudes that enable bullying and the actions of the bully rather than the victim. For example, if a child who behaves unusually is being bullied, we need to focus on the bullies and society’s response to them rather than the child’s unusual behaviour. That is not to say that the child might want to work on ways to manage their behaviour with support. At the end of the day, however, our differences help make us who we are. You can’t always fix difference and often it is not right to try. Society should be diverse and so should our schools.

We must not tolerate bullying in our schools and in our communities. We need to strive for change and “stomp out” bullying behaviour, rather than advocating people avoid it. Only by tackling bullying head on can we hope to advance inclusive education and ensure everyone can attend their local school.

CCS Disability Action understands and will always uphold the rights of parents to choose to have their children in environments that are safe. We are clear though that bullying should not be tolerated at any level.  We all need to work to fight this. Bullying affects us all. If we allow bullying to distort the potential of future generations and our leaders of tomorrow, all of society will miss out.

What do you think we can do stop bullying? Have you had a personal experience of bullying that you want to share?