Friday, April 10, 2015

Bullying and Harassment in Schools!

 Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a 'power imbalance.'
The person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized.
(There are different types:  physical, verbal, social, cyber.)
Bullying turns into harassment when the behaviour goes against
Canada's Human Rights Law.

No Age Limit on Bullying

The following are excerpts written by a doctor, MD, FRCP  practising in Southern Ontario
 (published in Hamilton Spectator, August 29, 2014).

In the light of all of the suicide and heartache related to bullying that has made the news in the recent months, I have chosen to reflect upon and share my own experience.

As a fellowship-trained physician who was well-liked in the grade/high school, university, medical school and residency, one would have thought I had safely sailed through the “effected age group” unscathed by bullying.  But I met it face on in my last year of medical the hands of another professional.  Ignition takes very little and often, I believe, it has little to do with the person you are, but more to do with the insecurities of the attacker rather than actions or qualities of the attacked, which unfortunately, makes us all potential targets.

Before you know it, 'a fire starts burning in a dry forest.'  Rumours start flying, becoming more and more inaccurate as they spread and judgments are made.  Those caught in the middle observe and may even partake as they are too afraid to walk away or stand up...they too have a lot to lose.  To avoid and rise above such tactics admits weakness or guilt  in some eyes.  To address them directly results in denial, intimidation or worse.  For really, choosing to wrestle with a pig means you too will come out covered in mud.

Bullying flies under the radar, with little “documentation,” neatly sidestepping the formal processes put in place to deal with this sort of thing.  Most notably, witnesses are afraid to come forward because they don't want to end up in the 'line of fire' themselves.  As such, the most that can be often handed out to the offending party is a warning, which serves little more than to make them aware you have attempted to fight back. This simply moves the target 10 feet closer to the shooter, as it all just gets worse.  Before you know it, you are a walking smile hiding the constant stomach ache, anxiety and shame that goes with living a fight that you cannot win!

You learn to keep your head down. It slowly ruins you and your thoughts and feelings about yourself and the world you live in. It slowly spills over into your work...your ability to learn...your relationships...your willingness to trust people...your desire to even set foot in school or work..even your career path.  You name it ~ one day at a time, it crushes!  Before you know it, as in my case, you are raising a 'white flag' and are taking a job in a different city.  And the scars run deep!

Perhaps this is an effort to raise awareness of a realization I was forced into making...that bullying is a lot more prevalent than recognized.  It occurs at any age, in any setting and takes on a number of forms, some so subtle it can be difficult to recognize.
And it is a social epidemic, we all, not just our children,
need to get a handle on.

Michael J. Fox stated,
“One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked,
but it can never be taken away, unless it is surrendered.”

Avoidance May Not Work.
Confrontation turns you into a mudslinger.
Sometimes, there is no effective way to end the attacks.

As a teacher for several years in Elementary Schools, I observed both girls and boys being “Bullied and/or Harassed” by either sex at unsupervised times...usually after the day classes. 
In that generation, a school principal’s hands were tied
unless serious infractions occurred on school property.
Each teacher had duty times on the playground prior to classes...and at both recess times...also at lunchtime when an assigned room was designated on inclement weather days. I relate incidents that occurred to an accelerated academic student, Jerry, who “wouldn't even harm a fly.” As his Grade 5 teacher, his parents, very concerned about their son's  welfare and the emotional effects he suffered, kept me informed. Consider these traumatic events (Grade 6, 7, & 8) happening to your son or daughter:

During  lunchtime on a blizzardy-snowy day, the teacher leaves the assigned room for a few minutes; this student, going to the water fountain in the hall, gets his head pushed into the water-head resulting in a partially broken tooth. And another time,  returning to the lunchroom with door intentionally smashed into his the joy of  his attackers! His bicycle tires were often slashed; and once while returning home, bullies followed him as he biked along a busy 4-lane street...trying to shove him into oncoming traffic.  Another time he was swarmed  in a nearby plaza by same bullies. Fortunately, a police cruiser passing by came to his rescue. (The officers obtained names of the bullies, then drove Jerry home with a bloody nose and face lacerations.) A familiar phrase often given to him was, “You die tonight!” signed by a few Grade Six students.  This he took as a threat upon his life. Boys pushed him into the hall wall while gleefully mocking him. In the Library once, boys made tightly-folded paper missiles, launching them with elastics at his face;  sometimes there was a straight pin attached to a few. Of course, no one claimed knowledge of this! The harassment continued; he dreaded going to school…he was distraught when the end of August arrived, knowing that ‘past behaviour would dictate future behaviour.” Due to all injustices that were inflicted  upon him, it was doubtful he would pass Grade 8. I knew very little of the foregoing atrocities he endured.

New History Creates a New Future (Dr. Phil)

His parents advised me in May of that final year in Senior Public School that, because these bullies would be attending the same designated High School, the family was moving to a new neighbourhood, new school and new opportunities. Taking about a year to adjust, he experienced what I call “A Rebirth”...subjects and activities of friends…and incentive to achieve academically. After five years, he enrolled in University earning a Degree; with this…he entered the business world into a successful career.
Jerry’s parents were indeed proud of his achievements!

Today:  Administrators address the issues of Abuse and Harassment in Class Assemblies.
(whether ‘face to face’ confrontation or through cyber technology).
Today:  ‘The Strap’ and other hands-on-discipline is illegal.
Today: Students are empowered to observe, act and report.
Today:  Life through the ‘grades’ is a smoother journey!

 “People who love themselves, don't hurt other people. 
Those who hate themselves want others to suffer.” (Dan Pearce)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written August 29, 2014
I invite your comments on this issue…email to:


  1. FROM MEG: "That is so true! There was nothing we could do before. I am so glad it is finally being dealt with."

  2. Most persons would not realize the extent to which bullies will bully! With the facts in my pocket, I knew the continuance of the atrocity would be astounding to those who are not aware.
    And he was just ONE STUDENT!
    Thanks Meg for your concern!