A new problem?
Although bullying is not new, the systematic study of the nature and incidence of school bullying is often considered to have begun as recently as the 1970s in Scandinavia with the work of Dan Olweus, seen by many as the ‘father’ of research into bullying.
Towards a definition…
Despite three decades of systematic research into bullying prevention, there is however still no universally accepted definition of bullying. Perhaps the most widely cited definition is by Olweus (1986, 1991, cited in Olweus 1993, p. 9) who writes that “A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students”. This definition has three key characteristics (frequency, duration and intentional harm) which are often reflected in other more recent definitions.
Forms of bullying
In recent years interest in bullying has broadened from a traditional focus on physical bullying to include many more forms of bullying. These include verbal bullying, relational bullying and bullying which is motivated by different forms of prejudice such as racist bullying, sectarian bullying, homophobic bullying and disablist bullying. Most recently, attention has focused on cyberbullying. Of course there are many overlaps. For instance, a child may receive nasty comments on Facebook about his/her sexual special educational needs.
In Northern Ireland schools must have an anti-bullying policy (a requirement since 2003). Article 19 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 2003 makes it a requirement that:
- the Board of Governors must consult with registered pupils on the general principles which will be reflected in the school’s discipline policy;
- the principal, when deciding on measures which will be used to encourage good behaviour in the school, must specifically include measures to prevent bullying among pupils;
- the principal, before deciding on measures to encourage good behaviour, must consult with pupils registered at the school and their parents.
Increasingly there is a focus within schools on a collaborative approach involving teaching staff, non-teaching staff, pupils, parents and the local community in tackling bullying. There is no single recommended solution to tackle bullying, but it is now generally agreed that measures must be preventative as well as reactive.
In Northern Ireland DE/ELBs are about to publish new guidelines for schools on dealing with bullying incidents.
- SITE – Much useful information can be found on the site of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF). The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) has a membership of over twenty-five regional statutory and voluntary organisations all acting together to end bullying of children and young people.
- VIDEO – Cyberbullying Video (click here)
- LEAFLET – A leaflet designed for parents on the issue of cyberbullying is available (click here)