by Paul Phillips
Listening to the news tonight, I hear a guy who has created an app for kids who are being bullied at school.
In the same segment, someone responsible for investigating bullying talks about how ‘careful and thorough’ she has to be investigating allegations of bullying. It is a ‘long slow process’ of stitching together the bits and pieces of allegation, denial, whispers and gossip. She couldn’t afford to get it wrong.
I was bullied at primary school. I was kicked, punched, knocked to the floor and my clothes were ripped. This started with one boy, who ended up being joined by about a dozen others. It went on for weeks.
I’d try to avoid it by staying in the school building, but of course any adult who saw me would order me back outside. I, of course, told no-one, including my mother who kept wondering why I was scuffed, or frequently bruised.
It came to a head, though, with the clothes ripping. Clothes were expensive, and we were poor. By the time it got to the point where a third shirt had to be bought, my mother sat me down and dragged the truth out of me.
Naming and shaming
Within days – only two or three – the headmistress called as assembly. The entire school was there. Without pointing me out, or naming me, she said that a group of children had been bullying a younger child. She gave a speech on the evils of bullying. Then she called out six of the culprits – my main protaganists and his most loyal helpers. One of these was a girl.
And she caned them. Right there, in public, including the girl. And then she waved the cane around with an admonishment that this was what happened to bullies.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Not only the cane, but also the public humiliation. Truth is, the cane – and slapping, or slippering – were common currency back then. The cane was used throughout my schooling, and I frequently suffered it myself when the rebel in me emerged aged about 13.
But the point here is that it was dealt with quickly, efficiently and – by God – it didn’t happen again. Compare that with the mealy-mouthed approach that requires ‘stitching together’ events in a long, slow process, while the bullied either continues to suffer, or else is somehow coddled and protected in a manner that ostracises him/her from fellow students.
And an app! What have we come to when ‘in loco parentis’ has become so diluted that teachers and others in authority don’t have the confidence – or, frankly, the local knowledge – to tackle this stuff themselves?
1. It was my mother’s fault I was bullied. She sent me to school in a bow tie. Poor as we were, she had delusions of being middle class. She made me a target.
2. The boy who started the bullying eventually became my best friend. At secondary school we competed (I’m not kidding) to see who could get their name in the punishment book (caning) the most in a term.
3. I wasn’t scarred by the bullying (mentally). My stepfather stepped in where the bullies left off, and by the time I was 13, I was big enough to hit him back. I suppose I was intimidated, but once I struck back, I have never felt intimidated by anyone ever again.