Anti-bullying strategies necessary
A South Canterbury community is taking a proactive approach to help reduce the risk of bullying.
The Geraldine Primary Home and School committee called on Auckland man Richard Tucker to talk on the subject at a community meeting in Geraldine last week.
Mr Tucker, a senior guidance councillor at Auckland's St Kentigern College, has extensive knowledge on the topic of bullying and the harm it can do.
More than 100 people attended the Geraldine event, including teachers, parents, teenagers and elderly representatives.
Mr Tucker praised the community for their pro-active stance on the issue.
In some New Zealand communities bullying has resulted in some "horrific" consequences, including suicides, he said.
The Geraldine Home and School committee does not believe bullying has escalated to that level in the small South Canterbury town, but understood there was still a need to raise awareness on the topic.
The aim of the evening was to help people understand what bullying could lead to and what people can do to intervene if they see it happening.
Mr Tucker said key signs that someone was being bullied could include a change in personality, withdrawing from activities they usually enjoyed and loss of appetite, among others.
The interactive presentation gave people a chance to share their views on the topic and offer advice on how to deal with it.
A heartfelt message from a tearful Ellen DeGeneres on her US talk show was among the video clips shown to the Geraldine audience, proving the issue was a global problem.
She said bullying in the US had escalated into epidemic proportions.
"There's been a huge amount of kids that have been bullied. These kids need us," she said.
Mr Tucker said everyone, including teachers, parents, friends and bystanders all have a part to play in keeping people safe from bullies.
He said the problem was nothing new. He recalled some of the bullying he witnessed while attending an all boys' school in the late 1970s. One particular student was publicly humiliated in front of his peers because he was a tap dancer.
"We had some horrific moments in that class when the teacher wasn't there. (A group of boys) would get this guy to stand up on the teacher's desk and tap dance in front of the rest of us before the teacher came, and they loved it.
"The really tragic thing that happened about that was those of us that were onlookers, those that saw what was going on, we did nothing.
"We sat there and probably thought ‘thank God it wasn't us'."
Now he encourages people who witness bullying to do something about it before the problem escalates.
He said due to technology, bullying now comes in various forms, so it was important people were aware of the signs and risks, particularly surrounding the internet.
For more information visit: skylight.org.nz, bullying.org.nz, netsafe.org.nz