Anti-bullying campaign hits schools

HELP IS HERE: Stand By Me community liaison officer Sue Hobbs, left,  and North Shore Family Violence Prevention Network co-ordinator Deb Humphries will roll out the anti-bullying initiative to children at Onepoto Primary School in Northcote.
HELP IS HERE: Stand By Me community liaison officer Sue Hobbs, left, and North Shore Family Violence Prevention Network co-ordinator Deb Humphries will roll out the anti-bullying initiative to children at Onepoto Primary School in Northcote.

The mother of a young girl hospitalised after a bullying attack is behind a project aiming to put a stop to the torment.

Former teacher Nicole Price has joined forces with several community group leaders to develop the anti-bullying programme Stand By Me supported by the Ministry of Social Development's Te Punanga Haumaru Fund.

The plan takes a holistic approach to support the bullied, the bully and the bystander.

Schools, including Onepoto Primary, Northcote Intermediate and Hato Petera College, will be involved in the pilot.

North Shore Family Violence Prevention Network co-ordinator Deb Humphries says the programme is unique because it works both inside and outside the school.

"We are ensuring there are support networks for kids at every stage and by working with the bystander we are equipping those with a social concern to intervene safely, to step up and speak out," she says.

Ms Price says parents and teachers are at a loss over how to combat what has become an epidemic.

A Victoria University researcher found that 94 per cent of staff surveyed had witnessed bullying in their schools.

Almost half said instances of verbal bullying were brought to their attention weekly and that cyber bullying was mostly carried out by girls aged 11 to 14.

"I became involved when a close family friend lost their child to suicide from bullying at just 10 years old," Ms Price says.

"My own daughter was later bullied and ended up in hospital after a physical attack. She slipped through the cracks.

"I became extremely frustrated at the lack of support."

Ms Price says her daughter endured six months of cyber bullying even after moving schools. It's 24/7 abuse.

"They can't escape it. These young people are living in a constant state of anxiety and it's not healthy," she says.

Bullying has evolved so much that adults are often ill-equipped to manage it, she says.

"As parents the instinct is to take the technology away from them, but they can access it at libraries, schools or friends' places."

Some websites allow blocking and reporting of abuse but victims seem to have an irresistible desire to see what is being said about them, Stand By Me community liaison officer Sue Hobbs says.

"It's almost like the fear of not knowing is worse," she says.

Third party reporting stations at public leisure centres and libraries will be a key feature of the project.

"There's always that fear of being seen as a nark.

"The reporting stations will be a lifeline, where young people and parents can speak to someone removed from the situation."

Trained staff and youth leaders will be free to chat at set times throughout the week.

Ms Hobbs says an initiative like Stand By Me is crucial to preventing more victims.

"The damage is lifelong.

"The reality is it incites suicide and even abusive relationships down the track.

"It's time we put a stop to it."

North Harbour News