The problem with bullying
EDITORIAL: This week, Nelson's boys and girls colleges have been in the spotlight for fighting or bullying occurring at school.
It includes two recent incidents and one from early last year. On each occasion the bullying has been soundly condemned by the schools and the correct procedures followed, but left parents of the victims feeling the sanctions don't go far enough.
Schools around the country have faced similar problems in recent months, from Hutt Valley to Hawera, with some students ending up in hospital and police becoming involved.
The immediate action any parent would want to see is the expulsion of the perpetrators, and fair enough. But that doesn't address the problem. These students are children, mostly aged under 16, and they still need to be educated.
A response such as the restorative workshop at Whakatu Marae undertaken by Nelson College for Girls after last year's incident is far more beneficial towards altering the violent behaviour than a straight punitive measure. Parents are included and students are made to face up to their actions and hear directly the pain they have caused.
Most of us can probably remember an example of being bullied at school. For many of us, that is where it remained, at the school gate as we left for home each afternoon. Now, it is much more difficult for teens to escape. Social media is their constant companion, and home is no longer the `safe' zone it once was. Bystanders often film the conflict and post it on social media, causing both outrage and humiliation.
While Facebook can be great for keeping connected, it was also the catalyst for last year's incident at the girls' college and continues to nourish the nasty side of human nature. It's never been easier to vent on a platform which can quickly spread among a community, a city, a country or even the world.
Last month, an OECD survey found 15-year-olds in New Zealand reported the second-highest rate of bullying out of 51 countries – a statistic the Children's Commissioner has blasted as "utterly unacceptable and deeply disturbing".
Survey answers showed just over a quarter of the students taking part reported being subject to some type of bullying at least a few times a month.
The Ministry of Education points out that only seven incidents have been reported across Nelson-Tasman schools so far this year in a region with 17,000 pupils (0.0004 per cent). Of course we would rather it was none – but realistically, is that achievable? It is certainly a target to strive for.