The Anti-Bullying Handbook


Keith Sullivan

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part 1: Defining and Describing Bullying

    Part 2: Philosophy, Planning and Policy

    Part 3: Preventative Strategies

    Part 4: Interventions

    Part 5: Follow-Up and Conclusion

  • Copyright

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    Acknowledgment of Grant

    This publication was grant-aided by the Publications Fund of National University of Ireland, Galway.


    This book is dedicated to the memory of:

    Dr Vahe Aslanian, late of Salinas, California, musical guide and mentor, wonderful friend and outstanding musician.

    John Fisher, late of Oxford, England. John was a generous, thoughtful and warm-hearted friend and a deeply caring father and husband. I think of you often. Long live Tottenham!

    My sorely missed brother, Terrence Francis Sullivan. Terry was an understated, caring and dedicated pastor who worked closely and well to support the spiritual and practical needs of convicted criminals in the prisons of California and Nevada.


    About the Author

    Keith Sullivan BA MPhil PhD DipBusStuds is the Established Professor and Head of the Discipline of Education at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He was educated at Hartnell College, Salinas, California, USA; Concordia University, Montreal, Canada; the University of Leeds, and St John's College, the University of Cambridge, England; and Massey University, New Zealand. Professor Sullivan's teaching and research focuses have been: educational psychology (with particular reference to bullying), the education of disadvantaged students, social and cultural processes, education policy and reform, and effective teaching, learning and managing.

    At the secondary level, Keith has taught at schools in England and Canada and was a guidance counsellor in New Zealand. He also spent three years working in Government in New Zealand, first as a researcher in the Department of Justice, where he worked on criminal and civil justice issues (and had a particular interest in violence and its causes and effects); and second in the Department of Education, where he was working on education policy at the beginning of an era of extensive reforms.

    In the tertiary sector, he has held appointments at the Open University in England and at Waikato and Massey Universities and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and at the University of the South Pacific in Kiribati. Professor Sullivan was given the opportunity to fully pursue his interests in school bullying when elected to the Charter Fellowship in Human Rights at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Victoria University of Wellington provided him with a sabbatical so that he could take this up. He has since published extensively on the important topic of bullying. Oxford University Press published the first edition of The Anti-Bullying Handbook in 2000. It was reprinted four times and nominated for New Zealand's prestigious Montana Book Awards. Dr Sullivan also co-authored the Sage book Bullying in Secondary Schools: What It Looks Like and How to Manage It (2004) with high school principal Mark Cleary and anthropologist Dr Ginny Sullivan. This book was reprinted twice and translated into Spanish and Estonian.

    Professor Sullivan's work has been well received by school practitioners and tertiary lecturers alike because it successfully bridges the gap between the scholarship and research processes of the university and the challenging, down-to-earth and immediate needs of busy schools. As well as writing books and articles, he has provided practical workshops and programmes for school principals, teachers, counsellors, psychologists, youth workers and administrators. He has also delivered keynote addresses for the Centre for Child Mental Health (London), the British Psychological Society, ISPA (the International School Psychologists Association), the New Zealand Police, and the NZ Special Education Services, the OECD, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, and UNESCO and the Israeli Ministry of Education. Furthermore, Professor Sullivan has lectured about school bullying at universities around the world including the Universities of Melbourne, South Australia and Flinders University (Australia); Die Pädagogische Hochschule Kärnten, Viktor Frankl Hochschule (Austria); the University of British Columbia, Toronto University's Ontario Institute for the Study of Education [OISE], McGill and Queen's Universities and York University's LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution (Canada); the Odense Socialpædagogiske Seminarium (Denmark); Brunel, Oxford, Queens University Belfast and Roehampton Universities (England and Ireland); the Åbo Akademi University, Vaasa (Finland); Auckland and Victoria Universities (New Zealand); and the University of Stavanger (Norway).

    Dr Sullivan has a long-term interest in the philosophies and practices of the various martial arts, particularly in terms of the development and use of psychological self-defense skills. He has a black belt in and has been a teacher of Kyokushin Karate.

    Keith's email address is: His personal web pages can be found at:


    I would like first of all to thank Marianne Lagrange, Publisher, Sage Publications Ltd, London for her advice and support in developing this project; Matthew Waters, Development Editor, for his encouragement in the early days; and Monira Begum, Editorial Assistant, who shepherded me along the way.

    Many thanks to the Fellows of Wolfson College, Oxford, who elected me to the Charter Fellowship in Human Rights and supported my endeavours to research about and find solutions for addressing school bullying; and to Professors Richard Pring and David Phillips of the Department of Education, Oxford University who provided me with an academic home. Thanks also to the University for access to the Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera, where I carried out much of the initial work, which resulted in the first edition of The Anti-bullying Handbook. I am indebted to Oxford University Press for releasing the rights to me so I could write a second edition.

    Also in the UK, I extend my appreciation to the highly productive and creative duo of Barbara Maines and George Robinson of Bristol who have given permission for the use of ‘A Circle of Friends’ and ‘The Support Group Method'. My thanks go also to Professor Peter Smith of Goldsmith College, University of London. Peter has created an immense body of work in his own right, has brought leaders in the field together via edited books, and over the years has mentored numerous emerging scholars, including the outstanding Dr Sonia Sharp. He also supported my initial work. Professor Helen Cowie of Roehampton University was similarly inspirational and has contributed vastly to our knowledge about bullying, especially in relation to counselling and mentoring in its various forms. The anti-bullying group of social workers, counsellors and psychologists involved in Dundee and the Greater Tayside area of Scotland in the 1990s were guiding lights for me, turning accessible theory into effective practice. The creative thinking of Val Besag, Professor David Hargreaves, formerly of Cambridge University and Scottish psychologist Alan MacLean, have provided important reference points for me.

    In Scandinavia, I wish to acknowledge and thank the following people: in Finland, Professor Kaj Björkvist and Dr Karin Österman of the Abo Akademi University in Vaasa for their wonderful hospitality, for introducing me to the Finnish school system, and for their excellent anti-bullying work, particularly in terms of relational aggression; and Professor Christina Salmivalli and Dr Ari Kaukiainen of the Psychology Department at the University of Turku, who hosted me briefly and introduced me to their groundbreaking research, which now includes their cutting-edge KiVa project. In Norway, I wish to thank Dr Elaine Munthe and Professor Erling Roland who welcomed me to and supported my time at the Centre for Behavioural Research, University of Stavanger and introduced me to the Zero programme for combating school bullying. Tove Flack provided me with deep and insightful knowledge into how this excellent anti-bullying programme works in practice. It is important to acknowledge the seminal work of the University of Bergen's Professor Dan Olweus, which has served to inspire and provide direction to much of the excellent research that has emerged within the anti-bullying area, both in Norway and internationally. I also wish to thank the OECD and the Norwegian Government for inviting me to represent New Zealand at the ‘Taking Fear out of Schools’ Forum at the University of Stavanger in 2004 and for thereby providing me with the opportunity to meet world leaders in the anti-bullying area. In Sweden, I would like to thank Emeritus Professor Anatol Pikas of Uppsala University for allowing me to use his excellent Method of Shared Concern in this book.

    In New Zealand, I wish to thank Owen Saunders, Gill Palmer and Inspector Morris Cheer of the New Zealand Police who twice invited me to carry out an evaluation of the New Zealand Police's Kia Kaha anti-bullying initiative and openly accepted my criticisms and recommendations for making radical changes in order to improve it significantly. I would also like to thank the counselling and administrative staff of Feilding High School for allowing me to use their school as a laboratory in which to do this. I also extend my appreciation to Yvonne Duncan and the New Zealand Peace Foundation for allowing the use of their Cool Schools programme in this book, to Barbara Craig and Dr Raymond Pelly for providing an inspiring location for writing in Otaki Forks, and Margaret and Richard Wheeler of Christchurch for inspiration and ongoing support.

    My thanks go also to Mark Cleary and Ginny Sullivan, my co-authors for another Sage book, Bullying in Secondary Schools: What It Looks Like and How to Deal With It, for permission to incorporate and update materials from that book for this edition. I am also grateful to Paul Denford for his assistance with the application and use of the SWOTSS analysis in schools and to principal Hoana Pearson and pupils and parents of Newton Central School, Auckland, for permission to use their re-visualization and modification of ideas of space; and to Sharon Bowling and Jacob Sullivan for the diagrams and cartoons they respectively created and to my daughters, Amy and Hannah Sullivan for their illustrative contributions.

    In Australia, Professor Ken Rigby arranged a Fellowship for me at the University of South Australia and generously shared his ideas and research findings, introducing me to the work being carried out in local schools and organisations and to the initiators behind them. Professor Phillip Slee co-hosted my visit and he and Professor Larry Owens (both of Flinders University) also shared their research and introduced me to their anti-bullying initiatives.

    In Canada and the United States, I wish to thank Debra Pepler, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and member of the Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution at York University, Toronto; Professor Wendy Craig of the Department of Psychology of Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario; and Professor Shelley Hymel of the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education of the University of British Columbia for hosting me and introducing to me an array of creative developments in Canada. They also allowed me to share my ideas with them and their students. I would particularly like to thank the Government of Canada for providing both Faculty Enrichment and Canada–Asia–Pacific Research Awards to support my visits.

    I am indebted to Pauline Tessler of Tessler, Sandmann & Fishman Law Offices, San Francisco, California, for the important work she has carried out in collaborative law: her ideas were very influential in my development of the CPR (Collaborative Problem-solving and Resolution) method. Thanks also to elementary school principal Cathy Baur and the students of Monta Loma Elementary School, Mountain View, California, for allowing the use of their playground rules.

    In Ireland, I would like to thank Professor Mona O'Moore of Trinity College, Dublin, for the excellent work she has carried out in Irish schools and the workplace and for her ongoing support and encouragement. I owe a debt of gratitude to Una Kelly whose use of puppet theatre to address bullying in Irish primary schools inspired me to develop Interactive Puppet Theatre. Many thanks to the staff of the 12 Pins Hotel, Barna, Galway, who provided warmth, hospitality and a place to write during a cold, wet winter.

    I am indebted to my colleagues in the School of Education at the National University of Ireland, Galway and to Professor Terry Smith, Vice-President for Research for their support; Anne Whelan, formerly of the Vice-President's Office, for providing advice and facilitating financial support for editing costs; and to Gwen Ryan, AHSS Research Support Librarian. I also extend my appreciation to the University for giving me sabbatical leave in 2009, which allowed me to research and write this second edition.

    Many thanks to Charlotte Silke for her excellent assistance with research during summer 2009, to Geri Hughes Silke for bringing the area of collaborative law to my attention, for critiquing my chapter on CPR and for both ongoing and caring support and allowing me to use her lovely house in St Chinian, Langue d'Oc Roussillon, France as a writing base; to Anna Coffey for the wonderful diagrams she created, and to Dr Seamus O'Beirne and Gavin Davis for spiritual support and inspiration.

    Lastly and most importantly, I would like to thank Dr Ginny Sullivan for editing this book. Ginny is a contract editor who not only pays attention to detail and expression but also exercises intellectual insight when editing. The quality of her wordsmithing, research abilities and structural realigning makes her, by far, the best editor I have ever worked with.

    Galway, Ireland, September 2010


    Bullying is a major problem in Irish schools and around the world. At the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College, Dublin, we are constantly deluged with bullying problems that need to be solved. It is an uphill and difficult battle but one that must be fought. We have dedicated staff and research students here looking for answers and dealing with issues both at the chalkface and in the workplace. One enthusiastic and talented student arrived at my office one day and said she had found the best book that had ever been written about bullying. It was The Anti-Bullying Handbook. When I was speaking with Keith about his plans to write a second edition of this excellent and very successful book, he asked my opinion about what he should retain, update or drop. My honest response was that he should change nothing, that it was ‘grand’ as it was.

    Having become familiar with the choices made, with the changes and updates and the creation of new strategies and programmes, however, I can honestly say that he has surpassed himself in the creation of an up-to-date book which answers the challenges bullying presents to us in a way that is creative, insightful, down to earth and completely appropriate for addressing this problem in its many forms.

    I recommend this book to you most highly.

    Congratulations and good luck. Slainte go saol agat (Irish for ‘Health for life to you').

    Professor Mona O'Moore

    Trinity College, Dublin

    Republic of Ireland

  • Appendices

    Appendix 1: A School Anti-Bullying Policy

    Our policy

    This school believes that, in order for students to learn to the best of their ability, this school must be a safe and friendly environment. We therefore declare the school to be a no-bullying zone.

    We have discussed matters thoroughly with the school's community – students, teachers, parents, trustees and the wider community – and, in order to make the sort of school we all want, we have created an anti-bullying policy. In this policy, we define bullying and outline what people should do when they experience it, see it happening or hear about it.

    A Definition of Bullying

    Bullying is a conscious and wilful repetitive act of aggression and/or manipulation and/or exclusion by one or more people against another person or people. It is also an abuse of power by those carrying out the bullying, which is designed to cause hurt. Bullying contains the following elements:

    • harm is intended;
    • there is an imbalance of power;
    • bullying is often organized and systematic;
    • bullying is repetitive, occurring over a period of time; or it is a random but serial activity carried out by someone who is feared for this behaviour;
    • hurt experienced by a victim of bullying can be external (physical) or internal (psychological).

    Bullying can be either physical or non-physical.

    • Physical bullying can include biting, hair-pulling, hitting, kicking, locking in a room, pinching, punching, pushing, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack. It also includes damaging a person's property.
    • Non-physical bullying can be verbal, which includes abusive telephone calls, text messages or messages sent by computer; sending (often anonymous) poisonous notes; extorting money or material possessions; intimidation or threats of violence; name-calling, racist remarks or teasing; sexually suggestive or abusive language; spiteful teasing or making cruel remarks; and spreading false and malicious rumours.
    • Non-physical bullying can also be non-verbal, which includes making rude gestures and mean faces; manipulating relationships and ruining friendships; and purposely and often systematically ignoring, excluding and isolating someone.

    Bullying can be any one of the above or a combination of them. It includes racist bullying, sexual bullying, bullying of special needs children and the bullying of children with a different sexual orientation.

    Dealing with Bullying: What you Need to know and do
    What Students Need to Know

    Students have the right not to be bullied. Bullying is harmful to everyone, in both the short and long term. No one has the right to bully anyone else. All cases of bullying brought to the school's attention will be taken very seriously and all necessary steps to stop it will be taken.

    In order to stop bullying occurring, students need to tell us when it happens. The unwritten rule of the code of silence for many students is ‘Don't tell adults about things that are occurring in your group', ‘Don't rat on your mates'. The best weapon bullying pupils have is their misuse and abuse of this code of silence. No one has the right to be protected by their peers when they physically or psychologically abuse others.

    If students are being bullied or know of instances of bullying, it is important to tell somebody. Bullying only gets worse if it is not stopped, so it is important to do this right away. You can do this by speaking to a teacher, by taking a friend in trouble to a teacher, by going to the deputy principal or another staff member, or by asking your parents or another adult to help you follow things up. All incidents of bullying brought to the school's attention will be investigated and taken seriously. In dealing with such matters, confidentiality for those concerned will be safeguarded.

    A strong anti-bullying stance by students contributes in a major way to making the school a safe place. Another major weapon of those who bully is that they may seem ‘tougher’ than their peers, and individual bullies often have a small group who encourage their bullying behaviour. If most students decide that bullying is not acceptable and support each other in letting adults know or in intervening assertively and showing their disapproval, much of the bullying will stop.

    What Parents need to Know

    If you know or suspect that your child is being bullied, contact the school immediately. You can contact any staff member. We all take bullying very seriously. All matters will be thoroughly followed up and appropriate action taken. We will also assure confidentiality in our contact with you. When the school knows or suspects that a child is being bullied, we will contact the parent(s) of all children involved, seek their advice and support, and keep them informed of progress with the handling of the bullying.

    What Teachers Need to Know

    Bullying can grow to become very serious or it can be nipped in the bud. If teachers know of bullying or suspect that it is occurring, they should report this first to the deputy principal. After discussion, it may be decided the teacher can handle the bullying satisfactorily. A brief report is important so that the matter is on record: if another incident flares up later it can be seen as part of a pattern, not an isolated occurrence. This is not intended to label people as victims or bullies, but it is important to track bullying behaviour.

    Because teachers cannot be everywhere at once and because bullying is often a clandestine activity, it is important for teachers to encourage students to tell about bullying.

    The Process

    The process for dealing with cases of bullying is as follows.

    • The bullying must first be reported to the deputy principal, either directly or via other staff.
    • A brief report will be made detailing the nature of the bullying, who was involved and what happened. This should go on file.
    • It is important to inform parents (of victims and bullies) that bullying has occurred and that it is being dealt with.
    • The teachers of those involved and the deputy principal and school psychologist will discuss how best to find a solution to the bullying. Together they will devise a strategy that may call on a programme that the school has adopted.
    • If, after adopting a course of action, the bullying has been resolved, a report should be written and put on file.
    • If the bullying is not resolved, those trying to find a solution will need to meet again to decide what should be done. An account of this meeting should also be put on file.
    • When a solution is found, it should be decided if back-up strategies are needed (for example, referrals, peer support, other interventions).

    Appendix 2: Using Bullying Scenarios

    Bullying scenarios can be used in classroom and other school-based activities to explore how bullying works.

    • The use of scenarios helps students enter into all the dynamics of bullying.
    • The immediacy of the scenarios may encourage empathy and understanding, and lead to a cessation of bullying.
    • A major vulnerability in the bullying dynamic is the fact that one bully has inordinate power over a large group, which could in fact intervene and bring a stop to the bullying. When students work together to solve a problem, they not only think about what is happening and come up with answers, but also realize that together they can be strong and combat bullying. The potential power of a group of students acting against bullying cannot be overestimated.

    The scenarios presented here can be used by teachers in classroom work on bullying and in preparation for the adoption of and training for preventative and inter-ventionary programmes. The scenarios of the physical beating up of a boy in the school grounds (scenario 1), and the harassment of a gay/effeminate boy (scenario 2), are intended for use in secondary schools; the scenarios of the racist bullying of a Punjabi boy (scenario 3), and the isolation of a young girl (scenario 4), can be used in primary/intermediate settings. These scenarios can be adapted and changed in discussion, and others generated using the format provided here.

    Scenario 1: Physical Bullying – the Beating up of Ben by Shane and his friends

    In the playing fields of a large secondary school, far from the main teaching blocks, Ben, aged 14, marches towards a prearranged spot looking very determined. When he gets there he is surprised to find a crowd of about a hundred teenagers restlessly milling around. It seems as if everyone has heard about what is going to happen and has come to watch. Soon, a self-assured and slightly older and bigger boy called Shane arrives with a group of his friends who are sniggering among themselves.

    When the fighting starts the crowd becomes noisy and there is a sense of excitement in the air. Some of the boys yell out to encourage Shane ('Come on, Shane. Give him what he deserves') or to discourage Ben ('Go home, loser!'). The verbal support fans Shane's aggression, and almost immediately it is apparent that he will win. He is obviously a much better fighter and has many other advantages – more weight, more confidence and the support of friends. Ben is knocked to the ground and Shane's friends start to kick him. He tries to protect himself by contracting into a foetal position and covering his head with his arms. Shane and his friends then walk off with a sense of camaraderie, of a job well done. As they leave, they make taunting and threatening remarks to Ben. The crowd disperses and leaves Ben lying on the ground, alone, humiliated and hurt.

    Ben knows better than to go to the school authorities, first because, despite the savageness of his beating, he would be transgressing the ultimate taboo of ‘ratting on his peer group’ but, perhaps more important, because even if the school supported him over this incident, he knows Shane and his friends will get back at him and that in the long term his prospects will be very poor.

    There are several useful pieces of background information that are relevant to this incident.

    • Ben has been bullied by one boy in particular, Shane, who has been supported by a group of boys.
    • The bullying of Ben started off in a low-key way, with one of Shane's group accidentally-on-purpose tripping Ben as he passed him in class and making low-grade insulting remarks, such as ‘Who cuts your hair, your mummy?’ Things have gradually got worse.
    • With some encouragement from his father that he should stand up for himself, Ben decided enough was enough. He responded to Shane's challenge to fight him.
    • Unlike so many Hollywood movies when the good guy wins and the bully, who is always a coward, either runs away or loses the fight, Ben does not have the skills or support to do anything but lose and lose badly.
    • The school's principal will defensively state that bullying does not occur in this school. He will agree that there is some rough play: ‘All right, there may be odd incidents, but boys will be boys! You have to learn how to stand up for yourself – it's good preparation for life.’
    • A huge amount of research indicates that there are innumerable myths about physical bullying, including how to stand up to it and how to ‘beat it'. (See also Chapter 2, and

    What observations and inferences can be made about this incident?

    • This school is not a safe place for Ben or, by implication, for other pupils.
    • Many people were watching the fight. They vastly outnumbered the bullies, yet nobody intervened or provided any vocal or physical support for Ben.
    • Those involved in the bullying treated Ben as a ‘non-person’ and did not seem aware or to care that Ben could suffer serious, long-term, physical and psychological harm. They lacked a sense of empathy towards him.
    • The principal may have acted defensively in response to the suggestion that there is a bullying problem at the school. He may also truly believe that bullying does no harm but is character-forming. In either case, he lacks adequate strategies for dealing effectively with bullying, as does his school.
    Scenario 2: Jamie is Bullied because he is Gay

    Jamie is average in many ways: average height, average weight, average academically. One attribute which has set him apart from his male peers ever since he started school is that he is effeminate, and many people think that he is gay.

    Jamie has been teased from an early age and is frequently beaten up. He seems to be without any aggressive tendencies and does not have any real friends. Some of the teachers are ambivalent about him and treat him as if he brings his victimization on himself.

    Jamie tries to avoid other children at lunchtime by going to the library. There is a teacher on duty and a few children are scattered through the room working. While he is sitting and making notes in an alcove by himself, two boys come in to look for him. They signal to some other boys down the corridor, then go past the duty teacher and make their way to the alcove where Jamie is sitting. They sit down on either side of him. The door to the library opens and closes again, and they know their friends have arrived. These boys sit down in the next alcove.

    The first boy grabs Jamie by the knee and pinches hard. Jamie pulls away and looks as if he may cry. The boy then pats him on the head and says, ‘There, there, cry baby. Isn't mummy here to blow your poofter nose?’ The other boy giggles. The second boy pulls the book away from him. ‘What ya reading, freak? Trying to find out how to bugger boys?’ He pushes Jamie hard so that he falls against the other boy.

    The boys in the next alcove are watching and listening. They start to mutter, ‘Faggot, faggot', and to make sarcastic comments. They laugh. The first boy pushes Jamie back so hard that his head slams into the wall behind him. ‘Poofter, poofter, his brain'll be mashed', he jeers. ‘If he's got one', says the other boy. They grab the pages on which Jamie has been writing, scribble over them and screw them up.

    The duty teacher calls out, ‘What's all that noise? No noise in the library or you'll be thrown out.’ ‘Yes, sir, no sir', chorus the boys. They giggle again. The two on either side of Jamie hiss, ‘Teach you a lesson, homo freak. Just go die somewhere', and one punches him hard in the stomach. The others file past and stare at him with disdain. A couple make obscene gestures.

    Jamie stays still and silent until they have gone, gasps for breath, and then tries to wipe his face, straighten out his clothes and his pages, and get ready for the afternoon.

    There are several useful pieces of background information that are relevant to this incident.

    • Jamie feels very confused about his sexuality, especially in light of the disgust with which he is treated. He lives with his mother who is a solo parent. She loves him and supports him, but is low in self-esteem herself and does not have many resources for helping Jamie to survive in the world. He never sees his estranged father who detests the idea of having ‘a poofter’ for a son.
    • Children of gay or lesbian sexual orientation are likely to be bullied. The Mental Health America website ( reported in 2009 that, ‘While trying to deal with all the challenges of being a teenager, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender … teens additionally have to deal with harassment, threats, and violence directed at them on a daily basis. They hear anti-gay slurs such as ‘homo', ‘faggot’ and ‘sissy’ about 26 times a day or once every 14 minutes. Even more troubling, a study found that thirty-one percent of gay youth had been threatened or injured at school in the last year alone!’ (See also Chapter 4.)

    What observations and inferences can be made about this incident?

    • In this school and community, there is clearly a sense of homophobia.
    • The pupils treat Jamie with scorn and hatred. This is not stopped by the school.
    • By doing nothing, the adults directly and indirectly condone the bullying.
    • This school is a very unsafe place.
    Scenario 3: Racist Bullying – Nilish Replies to Harassment and Racist Teasing with Violence

    Nilish is working by himself in the classroom. The door opens. ‘What are you doing, paki boy?’ taunts David. ‘Did ya fall in the shit, black boy?’ He struts closer. ‘Are you reading something? I didn't know you could read.’ ‘Hey, nigger', the other boys say as they start to filter in and see Nilish on his own.

    Instead of ignoring these taunts and provocations (as he has done four or five times over the last month), Nilish loses his temper. He turns on David. The two boys fight and Nilish is clearly a better fighter and is winning. David's friend Acbeh steps in, grabs Nilish around the neck and pulls him away from David, throwing him on the ground. He helps David up. The duty teacher arrives, and David and Nilish are taken to the deputy principal's office. David is crying and says he was just having fun and that Nilish went ‘psycho’ and really hurt him. When questioned, Nilish is surly and insolent and is suspended from school for a week for fighting and being rude to the deputy principal. David's friends back him up, saying Nilish went ‘psycho’ for no apparent reason. David is given a warning about fighting but is largely seen as the innocent party.

    Nilish is identified by those in authority as the aggressor. He is not listened to. Instead, the boy with more credibility in the school is believed.

    There are several useful pieces of background information that are relevant to this incident:

    • Nilish is one of only a few Punjabi children in this Somerset school.
    • Nilish is seen as having a bad attitude. He is regarded as violent, with a tendency towards bullying.
    • Nilish has shown he is tough and can stand up for himself.
    • The school sees him as causing the situation.
    • The school authorities believe racism does not exist in their school.
    • Research all over the world points to the high degree of racism and intolerance in society and also in schools. A BBC news story on 23 April 2009 reported that nearly half of 802 British teachers surveyed said that racist bullying occurred in the schools in which they worked. (See also Chapter 4.)

    What observations and inferences can be made about this incident?

    • Although there is a strong element of racism in this scenario, the school authorities believe the aggressors and discipline the victim.
    • These boys will probably not bother Nilish again.
    • Nilish, however, will probably harbour a grudge against the boys, will be angry at the racism and will turn against the school because of its inability to address the problem justly.
    • It may set him on a path to antisocial acts based on a sense of grievance and injustice towards society at large.
    • The other boys will turn their attention to somebody else they can victimize more easily.
    • The other boys may grow to think racism is acceptable.
    Scenario 4: Psychological Bullying – Rachel's Exclusion by Charlotte and her Peer Group

    Rachel is 9. She is playing in the school yard by herself. Four girls from her class, led by Charlotte, come up to her. ‘You can't play here. This is our area', says Charlotte. They push Rachel aside, purposely ignoring her as they do so, and start to chalk in hopscotch squares. She does not resist, even though she is taller than they are.

    ‘Can I play?’ she asks.

    ‘No, you dress funny and you're too dumb and ugly to play with us', replies Charlotte in a sweet voice that contradicts her words. It seems to be a bit of a joke, as if perhaps she does not mean it, and even Rachel laughs. Charlotte flashes her winning smile at her friends as she says this. They all giggle at her comments.

    ‘You can come over to Anna's house after school, though. We're going to watch a DVD', Charlotte says condescendingly, giving a knowing look towards the circle of admirers. Rachel's instincts tell her things are not as they seem but she really wants to go to Anna's house; she wants to be accepted.

    Rachel walks to Anna's house by herself after school and knocks on the door. No one answers the door. She knocks several more times. She sees the curtain move and hears the quiet giggling of several girls on the other side of the door. Her heart sinks. After a few more quiet knocks and no response, Rachel gives up and walks home despondently. Later that evening, Rachel answers the telephone. ‘Hello, this is Rachel', she says. Someone laughs at the other end of the line, says, ‘Weirdo freak', and then hangs up.

    There are several useful pieces of background information that are relevant to this incident.

    • The school in this scenario is in an affluent neighbourhood. It is academically very successful and much value is placed on material possessions.
    • Charlotte's father is a successful lawyer who is well known in the school community.
    • Charlotte is an attractive child, does well at school and is highly thought of. She is her teacher's favourite pupil. She is widely recognized for her leadership skills, and is seen as having all of the hallmarks required for success at school and in the world at large.
    • Rachel is unusual in her dress and thinking. Although she is creative, interesting and intelligent, she is also introverted, quiet and whimsical, and sometimes appears to be sullen. She is not popular with the teachers. She is an average achiever and her teacher feels ambivalent about her. She either does not notice or is willing to overlook teasing or exclusion of Rachel by Charlotte and her friends, not only in the playground but also in the class. (See also Chapter 10.)
    • Becky, one of the girls who is part of Charlotte's circle of friends, once invited Rachel to play but told her not to tell Charlotte or the other girls. Becky was invited to Rachel's house several times but she never came.
    • Events like this happen to Rachel almost daily. It has become routine and nobody seems to notice.
    • Rachel suffers from a common form of bullying that occurs especially among girls. This is generally referred to as relationship bullying. (See also Chapter 2.)

    What observations and inferences can be made about this incident?

    • The crowd of girls around Charlotte has no empathy for Rachel, nor do they feel in any way responsible for what is clearly an act of bullying.
    • This sentiment is echoed by the teachers. They do not consider the purposeful exclusion of Rachel by her peer group to be bullying, they do not take it seriously and they see it largely as Rachel's problem.
    • Although not subjected to physical abuse, Rachel is still the victim of bullying. It is manipulative and cruel, and could have as detrimental an effect on Rachel as physical bullying has on Ben.
    • This school is not a safe place for Rachel.

    Appendix 3: Ethics and Confidentiality

    The important issues of ethics and confidentiality are applicable to all bullying interventions, and particularly to peer support programmes. All matters discussed in a bullying or peer support session are confidential to that session, and none of the matters that arise there should be the subject of idle discussion or gossip with staff, students or anyone else.

    Much anti-bullying work is collaborative and therefore relies upon discussion and conferring, and much of this can be done without using names. Staff directly involved will know the students being discussed anyway, so confidentiality is more a matter of discretion, respect and keeping information within anti-bullying groups.

    In cases of peer support, students giving support need to state at the beginning of a relationship that confidentiality will normally and routinely be kept, but they also need to specify that they have to be able to discuss problems and/or progress with their own supervisor. In addition, most peer support programmes rely on support groups of peers who meet regularly to talk about their work, any difficulties they are having and how to improve their effectiveness. Such discussions can usually refer to issues rather than specific and identifiable students, and any matters discussed in the peer support group are confidential to the group and should not be discussed outside it.

    However, there are exceptions to the rule of confidentiality in the case of both anti-bullying groups and peer strategies and interventions. When a person being supported says something that suggests she is at risk, for instance, ‘I feel so bad today that I want to end it', what does the teacher or counsellor do? In such cases, it is important that other professionals are involved. For the peer supporter, it is even more imperative to seek help, which will inevitably involve breaking confidentiality. These students are neither trained professionals nor adults. In all cases where there is talk of self-harm, the threat of harm from someone else or disclosure of sexual abuse, then the supervisor must be informed. The bottom line is that all students are the legal responsibility of the school when they are at school, and this includes both students needing support and students offering support. This is a health and safety issue as well as a legal requirement.

    Appendix 4: Ice Breakers

    Ice breakers are useful methods that can be used to ‘break the ice’ and establish ease and rapport when working in groups. They can be selected to match the ages of the students present. Three are suggested here.

    The Throwing and Naming Game

    A soft ball or toy is thrown around the group. The teacher starts off by saying their name and the name of the student they are throwing it to (for example, ‘Anil to Clare'). That student then throws it to someone else ('Clare to Raman'), and so on. The use of names is important: those present get to know each other, and humour and fun enter the activity.

    Balloon Game

    All participants are given a balloon and a small piece of paper. Sitting in a circle, they are asked to write something interesting about themselves, to roll the paper up, insert it into the balloon, blow it up and tie its end. The balloons are then thrown into the circle and each student grabs one. Taking turns, they burst their balloons, extract the paper and read it to the group. They then have to guess who this is about. This works well to ‘break the ice'.


    The students are asked to pair off with someone they do not know well. They tell each other about themselves and then introduce their partner to the rest of the group. This helps create a sense of mutual interest and trust.

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