CALLING VICTIMS OF BULLYING FROM AROUND AUSTRALIA:
We are asking for victims of bullying nationwide to come forward, in ABSOLUTE AND COMPLETE CONFIDENCE and speak up about their experiences. As mentioned on an early page, I have contacted all Ministers for Education around the nation to let them know that the anti-bullying policies AS THEY CURRENTLY STAND are not working...or if they are, what are the results and where can we see them. We have a set of strategies we want put into place, in addition to the existing policies or instead of.
Below is a reproduction of the letter I have and am sending to all local MPs around the country. This will give you a bit of an idea of what we are looking for and why:
'I am writing to you today about bullying and our efforts to try to change/tighten the existing policies or do whatever we can to help victims in this continuing act and to make schools more answerable/accountable. Also to offer victims a chance to 'vent' to a fellow victim with the chance of possibly 'going public'. My own local MP suggested I make this offer to all electorates nationwide following approaches to his office by members of their/my electorate - they are now also making this offer to any such people. This is something that had not occurred to me, that people would approach their own local MPs but it only makes sense when I started thinking about it and if it happens here in mine, then it must happen nationwide.
I have also had contact with WA's own Dr Constable and was planning to pursue this but her response to my second letter to her has left me deciding that I will just gather as much 'ammunition' as possible to present to her to SHOW that their existing policies etc are not necessarily working. They need something REAL AND IMMEDIATE to be done. Understandably in her response to my first letter, she outlined all the programmes and specialty advice that WA particularly (I believe) has for its schools and they really do sound wonderful - my question though is that IF all these things are working, where are the results - why aren't they being made public??? And why doesn't this act seem to be decreasing rather than the opposite??? To be honest, looking at the continuing cases that I am hearing about, almost on a daily basis, this problem needs to be dealt with realistically. To see BULLIES being punished and NOT victims.
We do have strategies that we are aiming toward but they have nothing to do with special programmes and specialist advice etc. They are targetting the root of the problem...the anti-bullying policies. From what I have experienced and am hearing, many of the principals and staff have very negative or 'don't care' attitutudes (OR are in denial that this act even occurs in their schools....and while this is a very naive comment, I do also consider it to be a fair one if victims continue to be too scared to speak up) toward bullying and little if any action is taken when and if a case is reported to them. I am not saying this applies to all schools but it certainly appears to apply to far too many - even one is far too many. Unfortunately many victims are still too scared to come forward and tell anyone about their experiences - the threats made by the bully/ies being much too real and scarey for them to even consider it. Even if they do it in complete confidence they are still too scared. And who can blame then given the lack of reaction of many schools and the Education Department??? This is all too often when suicide can seem a safer and far more comfortable alternative. And a very final one.
We want a step-by step programme of punishment (from lenient to severe) implemented for the bullies themselves and NOT to see them almost being rewarded while the victims are punished???? Huh???? I have listed our strategies (to date) following this letter...like my entire advocacy, these can and do change as people contact me regularly. Our strategies have been suggested by politicians, members of the public - some victims, others not - and from some teachers. Ideally we would love to see school bullying made illegal. Woudln't be it wonderful to see Australia leading the way? I believe there are moves afoot to do just this in the workplace...why not with schools as well???
After establishing contact with the mother of a victim of cyber-bullying, whose story appeared on the front page of a recent issue of 'The West Australian' newspaper and receiving her long and heartbreaking response to my email it was suggested that I gather as many cases of bullying (particularly cyber-bullying but any form is welcome) to prove to the Depts of Education that their policies, as they stand, are not working....not from what the public can see anyway. As mentioned above, members of the public do approach their local MPs so I began a massive letter writing campaign, sending letters to all MPs around the country making the offer that if any of their constituents do approach them, they could be offered the further chance to 'vent' to a fellow victim - me. With the added possibility of 'going public'.
I am also contacting all the major newspapers throughout the nation in an effort to gain details of journalists with whom I can work and send these stories to. Naturally ALL STORIES WOULD REMAIN ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL AND NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN WITHOUT THE EXPRESS KNOWLEDGE AND PERMISSION OF THE VICTMS..
The third benefit of 'collecting' these stories is to have them as 'ammunition' to prove to the Ministers and Departments of Education around the country that the policies as they stand, are not working or if they are, where are the results, what are the effects both short and long term. What punishments are in place for bullies? How are the schools handling cases - as it appears to be at the moment, the schools need to be made much more accountable and answerable than they are. There is even a possiblity if we get enough support and can prove the above that we will try to have school bullying made completely illegal. However short of this happening, the list of strategies which we currently have, follows this screed.
PLEASE - TO HELP FIGHT THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED CASE HISTORIES FROM VICTIMS OF BULLIES AROUND THE NATION. THESE DO NEED TO BE WRITTEN AND CAN BE EMAILED DIRECT TO ME AT:
STRATEGIES THAT ARE BEING CONSIDERED FOR ADDING TO OR CHANGING THE ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES AS THEY CURRENTLY EXIST ARE:
* To ask (schools): if you put an anti-bullying programme in place in a school, how are the outcomes measured six months or a year down the track? What tool is used to report outcomes?
* Seeing that BULLIES are punished and NOT VICTIMS. The introduction of a step plan for punishing bullies:
From 1: very lenient - a telling off/warning/slap on the write; 2: a more severe warning/punishment of some sort; 3: expulsion or more severe.
* To see all anti-bullying policies made public on the school websites, along with: reports of effectiveness of any punishment both short and long term and similar with counselling for victims.
* To see a national framework where schools are liable should they fail in their duty of care, currently alloweing children to be psychologically and/or physically damaged sometimes for life.
* To see the same policies which are currently set by the Departments of Education in each state, the same nationwide? Rather than having a different set in each state?
* Ideally it would be lovely to see school yard bullying made completely illegal.
* Wouldn't it be wonderful to see Australia lead the way and set such a lovely example.
Sadly I am hearing of more daily. The only positive aspect of this would be that perhaps at last some victims who have previously been too scared to come forward and speak up and therefore in some cases have considered hurting themselves/suicide as a comfortable and safe (and certainly very final) alternative, are now feeling more comforable about speaking up/venting in complete confidence and with the chance that their story might 'go public'.
A couple of the most worrying aspect about bullying in schools is that the victims remain just too scared to come forward and tell someone about their nightmare. But with encouragement and reassurance and the above, this does appear to be very gradually changing. These poor kids, for whatever reason, are being picked on constantly, by another student or a group of them, more often than not, the 'cool kids' but not necessarily. Some of the bullying is 'mild' (although NO form of bullying is mild - not to the victims) and much isn't. These kids wake up every morning, terrified about going to school, terrified about trying to get through another day. I know. I've been there, done that. Only I was with it 24/7. I am presuming the schools do encourage any victims to come forward to report it, but they can't. They are far too scared. They have been threatened, sometimes with death and the threats are far too often not just limited to them. The bullies threaten the families and loved ones of the victims, their pets, their material objects...anything they can think of which will scare the wits out of the victims.
Another aspect we are hearing increasingly and which scares the wits out of me is the attitudes of many of the schools. Many are ignoring the problem or telling the victims they are to blame (as I was with my one cry for help) and the BULLIES are getting away scot-free. There is something very very wrong with the system. I know there are a lot of wonderful programmes in place and specialist advice, full of good intentions and I am not questioning this....I applaud it. What I am questioning is the effectiveness of it all? And how do the schools utilise it? It is not what I, nor most of the public it seems (particularly those who have been affected by bullying) call REAL.
When my family and I were relocated across the nation (many years ago, prior to the internet) I naturally contacted quite a few schools in the hope of having the issues of safety along with several other things guaranteed or as near as possible. This was all done by telephone. In each and every case I was absolutely assured that the schools were all completely safe and do take bullying very very seriously. My daughters were both bullied at the hands of both staff and students at various schools across the nation. In some cases they were too scared to tell me but when I did approach the schools in question absolutely nothing was done. Not a thing. Even the staff got away with it.
So, victims of bullying, PLEASE speak up and help us to convince the Departments of Education nationwide that the current system is NOT WORKING....not effectively and ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Please speak up by emailing me with your experiences, with the possibility of going public. But again let me reiterate that absolutely everything will be kept completely confidential.
PLEASE, WE NEED THE PROOF THAT SOMETHING DESPERATELY NEEDS TO BE DONE.