Bullying fix starts without blame

MATT STEWART
Last updated 06:30 24/06/2014
Wellington High bullying
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

ALL TOGETHER NOW: Children's COmmissioner Russell Wills launches new anti-bullying guidelines at Wellington High School with, from left, Lucy Booth, 16, Floss Deakin, 15, and Ben Roberts, 14.

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Wellington High School has been chosen as a positive model for other schools, as new bullying guidelines were launched at the inner-city co-ed.

Deputy principal Anya Satyanand said the school had strong support networks and an emphasis on restorative justice, which was a good climate in which to implement the new guidelines.

Satyanand said addressing the issue was imperative for all schools.

Although there were no data to show the level of bullying in the school compared with other schools, she said yesterday that Wellington High was well positioned to take on the guidelines because of its restorative approach.

When conflict arose, the relationship between bully and victim was put under the spotlight, rather than looking to allocate blame or dole out punishment.

Year 11 student Floss Deakin, 15, spoke at the launch and said her school was unique and a natural fit for the new guidelines. "We don't really look at the differences - we're kind of like a community all together as one. We express ourselves without judging."

The guidelines have their genesis in last year's Secondary Principals' Association symposium, at which the need for more guidance around bullying was highlighted.

Secretary for Education Peter Hughes then convened a series of meetings using the experience of schools such as Wellington High. The result was Bullying Prevention and Response: A Guide for Schools.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said at yesterday's launch: "We know there are schools that do this really, really well - like Wellington High - but we'd all like to do this well and we'd all like to have safe schools . . . where bullying is never OK and people feel safe to step in."

Wills said school bullies and their victims did not do as well once they are adults, with research showing that bullies ended up suffering even more than victims later in life.

"It's in our interests to look after both bullies and victims, and learn different ways of behaving."

The strength of the guidelines was that they had been drawn from the real experiences of schools over the past two years, he said.

However, cyber-bullying was an area that still needed work as schools struggled with social media and emerging digital technologies, and had to find the right balance between protecting pupils' privacy, and their right to safety.

WHAT'S IN THE NEW GUIDELINES?

Bullying rates vary considerably between schools with similar demographic profiles, suggesting school culture powerfully affects the prevalence of bullying.

Change happens when students, staff, parents, family and other community members share responsibility for making their school inclusive and respectful.

Effective approaches to tackling the problem include fostering a climate where diversity is respected, giving pupils the chance to develop interpersonal skills and giving opportunities for high levels of social support and civic learning.

The Youth 2007 survey found 15 per cent of students who said they were gay or bisexual reported being bullied at school weekly over the previous year, compared with 5.5 per cent for heterosexual students.

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