Marlborough students take a stand against bullying

Marlborough Boys' College student Eddie Poswillo, 16, is speaking out about bullying for Pink Shirt Day.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Marlborough Boys' College student Eddie Poswillo, 16, is speaking out about bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

For six months, Eddie Poswillo dreaded going to school. 

Daily taunting from classmates made him feel alone and weak. 

"It was quite scary. I'd get up every morning, catch the bus, get to school and I'd sort of know what was going to happen," remembers Eddie, now 16.

As well as name calling, students would take things out of his bag and bully him physically. 

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The experience, which happened when he was in Year 9, affected his concentration in class, said Eddie, a Marlborough Boys' College student. 

"I'd be worried about it at school and in the fourth period before lunch I'd be thinking, 'Where am I going to go to avoid it?'" 

When he told his parents and teachers about what was going on, Eddie said he was offered great support from he school.

And now, he is encouraging anyone else who is being bullied to speak about their experience.

Eddie is one of thousands of students around Marlborough who will be celebrating Pink Shirt Day on Friday.

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"Don't be shy, speak out. Let your parents know and your teachers know.

"Don't hold it in and let it build up." 

Eddie's first experience of bullying was when personal comments were made about him on a Facebook page in year 7. 

Eddie only found out about the comments through a friend's younger sister. 

He said some of the people who posted the comments were his classmates.

"I knew them quite well. It was a bit of a shock."

Eddie, now in year 12, holds several leadership roles at Marlborough Boys' College. 

He chose to speak about his experience to let others know that bullying was not OK. 

"It definitely needs to be talked about." 

Mental Health Foundation director of programmes Moira Clunie said Pink Shirt Day started in Canada in 2007 after a student was hassled at school for wearing a pink shirt.

The next day the student's classmates turned up wearing pink shirts.

"It was a really wonderful show of support and solidarity and a bit of a movement was born from there." 

Pink Shirt Day came to New Zealand in 2009 and was spearheaded by the Mental Health Foundation. 

Research showed that bullying increased the risk of depression and anxiety, and could also affect their educational outcomes by making a student less willing to attend school, Clunie said. 

But being a bully was also associated with a greater risk of depression and anxiety, she said. 

"Sometimes they themselves have experienced bullying or have experienced something difficult in their lives, like domestic violence." 

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said about 20 per cent of secondary school students reported being victims of online bullying. 

Over the past 10 years the rate of cyber bullying had remained reasonably constant, Cocker said. 

"The thing that changes is the different tools that people use." 

As technology developed, the potential impact of cyber bullying was greater, Cocker said. 

A text message sent to one person had less of an effect than a viral social media post. 

"It's a case of the technology being used to ratchet up the harm that's being caused."

Marlborough Boys' College deputy principal Michael Heath said students at the college had embraced Pink Shirt Day.

"It's not just about bullying. It's about respecting diversity and allowing people to be who they are.

"This is a really important day on our calendar." 

Marlborough Girls' College guidance counsellor Julie Saul said there was a restorative justice scheme in place at the school.

Students were encouraged to work out problems face-to-face, Saul said.

If a relationship had broken down, students reflected on what had gone wrong and tried to repair any harm done, she said. 

DEALING WITH BULLYING

Children: Netsafe's cyber bullying advice tells young people to tell someone they trust, a friend, a parent or a teacher. Don't reply to bullies, but try to save the messages with screenshots.

Parents: If the bullying online or on a mobile phone involves physical threats, contact the police. Making threats of harm is criminal behaviour in New Zealand.

Teachers: Develop a "class contract" with your students that includes appropriate behaviour online/on mobile both inside and outside of school time.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812

 

 - The Marlborough Express

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