Caralise Trayes continues a series looking into an issue that affects a fifth of all school students - bullying. Part two includes what police are doing about the problem, a ‘politically incorrect' programme helping victims of bullying, and changes coming through Parliament to penalise cyberbullies.
Getting bullied is part of life, police school community officer Bernie Watt says.
"But when it pushes people to feel life is unbearable it becomes a serious issue."
Mr Watt says some kids swallow getting bullied while others act out.
"This is where the school climate is important. If there's a climate that doesn't accept bullying it is good. Everyone gets teased at some point, that's part of life, but when it is ongoing and people feel as a result of it that life is unbearable, that's an issue."
Officer in charge of youth and community services Sergeant Steve Perris says police are involved in serious bullying situations which constitute a criminal offence, or when the school, parents or pupils request their intervention.
"We also want to make the offending youth accountable for their actions and prevent any reoffending, as well as offering support for victims.
"Generally youth aid programmes are very affective."
But Mr Perris says they don't get too many calls from schools.
"It doesn't happen that often, but it has happened."
Mr Watt says part of a programme they teach in primary schools across the district called Kia Kaha (stay strong) is designed to give skills to resist pressure or handle situations when they are at risk of being bullied.
"But there are no magic bullets for the issue."
He says bullying is no more prevalent than it once was, "just kids have cellphones and the internet now".
"All those tools have done is provide another avenue for kids to get bullied, whereas before it was mostly face-to-face and physical.
"People say things online they wouldn't say to the person."
Dynamic Martial Arts trainer Dave Sawyer, who works with both bullies and victims of bullying, has a controversial way of dealing with the problem.
"You need to find out why people are getting bullied. I sit back and ask ‘why would I bully you, where is your weakness'. Then I decide where to go from there.
"My own son is 1.8 metres tall, with bright red hair. He stood out. He was a perfect target to be bullied. So I worked with him in minimising the potential for him to be bullied.
"At 10 he held his first blackbelt. I put confidence in him. He went to school with his black belt. Would you bully him?"
Mr Sawyer says bullies pick on people's weakness.
"I don't teach kids to bash their bullies. I just put confidence in them.
"I don't know what it is exactly, I have a way of pushing a kid to do things they have never done.
"We always praise them and we do things so they can succeed and not fail. This doesn't really have to come through martial arts, it could come through anything.
"The problem I have with ‘modern' techniques of handling bullying is that everyone just wants to take victims aside and give them a hug. If you have a victim mentality the only way to stop it is to change the mentality."
Mr Sawyer says he has also worked with kids that were bullies at school.
"When they set foot on to our ground they get introduced to the hierarchy system.
"We can come down on them a little harder than a school can.
"They want to be respected so we teach them how to respect."
While the programme is martial arts training Mr Sawyer says they don't teach kids to fight.
"We teach self defence."
Proposed changes to the Education Amendment Bill will give teachers the right to confiscate pupils' internet capable devices to find evidence of foul play in text messages, photographs, or online.
The bill, which will be introduced to Parliament later this year, will see cyberbullies held to account.
Justice Minister Judith Collins is fronting the changes which will include the possibility of cyberbullies being sent to jail for up to three years, and the creation of a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life.
It would also be an offence to send messages and post material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to three months' imprisonment or a $2000 fine.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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