There has been a lot of media swill lately in New Zealand about bullying at school. Now, I must immediately reveal that I think I was bullied at school. It happened like this. A lunch time tussle got a little out of hand and Jacob, one of my best mates, and I ended up in a situation that of it was a game of rugby would have been called “willing”.
The next day Jacob informed me that I had “broken his arm”, an allegation that I was too ignorant, simple and scared to challenge. He went on to inform me that “his father would be coming around” (I understood clearly just where he would be coming around to) and that I would subsequently be sent to jail. I accepted this at face value and plunged into deep despair.
I lived in grim anticipation of the visit of Jacob’s father and was now clearly in a situation of psychological bullying. About a week later I arrived home from school and Mum had visitors in the front room. I went in and as expected took part in polite conversation until I saw, out the window, Jacob’s father cycling along our street. I fell to the floor as if being attacked by an Al Qaeda squad only to turn and sheepishly look up at my Mum and her friends. “What are you doing dear?” Mum said. I beat a hasty retreat out of there.
Now that was bullying!
But the events we see in the media these days are not bullying, they are criminal assault, they are doing grievous bodily harm, they are the robbery, humiliation and degradation of others. That they are captured on mobile phones does not diminish the criminality of the actions of these thugs in school uniforms. That they are happening in schools does not make them mere bullying rather than criminal acts.
So it was somewhat astonishing to open a newspaper to read a shock horror story that a relatively small number of primary school students have been suspended or expelled from school because of behaviors’ that cannot be contained within the context of a school. Make no bones about it – these are the new thugs. These intolerable young ones are to our times what the mod, rockers, bodgies and thugs were to the sixties.
If people don’t like it they should do something about it.
And that means a national trans-Tasman effort to produces a less violent environment in our communities. This means new responsibilities for sportspeople, new commitment to zero tolerance for violence in schools, renewed effort to moderate the behavior of people in bars, on the streets and in the homes. In other words, a community that will not accept behavior that simply cannot be tolerated in a school – that must be the standard.
If our schools are supported by the community in this way, then the benefits are there for everyone. Bullying in schools, violent behavior by school-aged students outside the schools and other unacceptable behaviours are a matter for all the community not just schools.
On the other hand, the statement of a New Zealand principal after two girls from his school had allegedly beaten up an old man in a shopping precinct that the worrying aspect of the matter was not only that they were of school age and in uniform but that they were girls was not very helpful.
Was the implication of his statement a suggestion that had they been boys it might have been understandable or perhaps even acceptable?
Sadly, given prevailing attitudes of the community, it might well have been.
To get more information and to register visit: