Bullying and Communication

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Bullying and Communication – By Bill Appleton

“We don’t have a bullying problem”. I looked at my wife, turned back to the acting Headmistress of the school we were checking out for our little boy and said “Thank you very much, we’re done.” I fought for, and got him a place in a village school, where the Headmistress was considerably more pragmatic- “We don’t like bullying here, and will try to intervene when we know it is happening.”

bully-655660_1920Bullies at school like to do what they do below the radar. They like to present one face to the adults in their lives, and quite another to their targets. A friendly Autistic kid who doesn’t understand the concept that some people are just fucking nasty is ripe for exploitation. The teacher that finds him crying under the stairs or in the toilets when he should be in class will often dismiss his complaints of the children that made him cry as “just teasing” telling him he should say “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” or she or he may ask for the names of the other children, only to choose instead to believe the three, or five, or nine friends who protest with loud innocence that they were only teasing, it was just fun, it was just joking. He’s our friend. The bullied child is told that he is wrong to cry and tell tales on his friends. The bullies have reinforced their position as innocent, the teacher moves on to their next class having “dealt with” the issue with the minimum expenditure of effort and the target is once again available for sport.

A teacher has TOLD him that it is “only teasing”. An authority figure. The person Mum and Dad said that you have to pay attention to. They said they were your friends, they wouldn’t say that if it were not true, because lying is bad, everyone knows that, that’s why no-one does it, and people who do go to prison. The teacher said they are his friends. He believes that the fuss is his fault because he is given that impression by the person who is supposed to be acting in loco parentis. He doesn’t know what is actually happening, so he assumes this is just how school is. He doesn’t tell his parents he is being bullied.

This time the bullies see if they can make him angry. They succeed, a shove, a scornful comment, the trashing of his school bag. He lashes out in desperation or self-defence, hitting one on the shoulder. One runs for a teacher while the “victim” bursts into floods of crocodile tears, and he is in trouble. He is told HE is a troublemaker, HE should behave, that HE should be nicer to his friends. He doesn’t understand what is actually going on, so he assumes this is just how school is. He doesn’t tell his parents he is being bullied.

By the end of term he is a shadow, hollow eyed, silent. He loses his speech. He can’t tell his parents he is being bullied.

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  1. Kate Gladstone  November 6, 2015

    “We don’t have a bullying problem” usually translates as “We don’t define ‘problem’ to include assault, torture, and the like.”

    It’s rather as if a medieval king had proclaimed:
    “We don’t have a problem with unbelievers in this country:
    unbelievers show up, we kill them — no problem!”


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