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Responsive schools

(from Janis Caroll-Lind (2010). Responsive Schools. Wellington: Office of the Children's Commissioner. pp 15-17)

Other than the students themselves, teachers are a school's most valuable resource for combating bullying and victimisation. Teachers lie just outside the peer ecology and help shape, intentionally and unintentionally, the critical microsystems in which children interact at school.40 The attitudes, routines, and behaviour of all school staff have either a positive or negative effect on bullying. Preventive approaches will help to reduce school violence but it will happen despite schools’ best efforts and teachers need to know how to deal with it when it does occur. There are many positive responses that schools can make.

Table 7: Positive responses

What teachers can do to help

· Foster warm, caring relationships with students.

· Provide firm, clear consistent limits to unacceptable behaviour.

· Set class rules and consequences for bullying.

· Impose non-hostile, non-physical sanctions.

· Act as authorities.

· Practise active monitoring and supervision.32

· Teach bullies alternative methods of interaction and help victims to respond to bullies in prosocial ways.

· Discuss topic of bullying openly in class.

· Empower bystanders to take responsibility and intervene.12

· Constantly review the school environment.

· If schools are to teach values and attitudes, then adults in that school community must also practise those attitudes and beliefs.

· Provide safe learning environments to ensure children can learn new skills in settings where it is safe to practise them (developing and maintaining relationships in schools may be the most important resource for violence prevention).41

Professional development

· Should be provided for all teachers to ensure they are skilled in anti-bullying strategies for identification, prevention and intervention.42

Appropriate intervention requires immediate action and the majority of whole school approaches view professional development of teachers as a prerequisite to building a safe school culture.

Whole school training on anti-bullying policies and procedures.

Addressing technological bullying

· Traditional anti-bullying policies and curriculum must incorporate the use of interactive technologies such as email and chat rooms.25

· Implementing procedures around mobile phone use at school will not only help to reduce levels of text-bullying by students in school time, it will also help to prevent the quick gathering of crowds of young people to witness fights or film bullying incidents, where circulating coverage of the incident risks “revictimising the victim” over and over again.

· Some teachers may require appropriate training to gain an accurate understanding of the educational issues related to cyber-bullying and the best ways to address these issues when they arise.

· Parents and teachers need to work together to manage online bullying in both home and school environments.25

School safety web

Schools may consider developing a framework or school safety web, which is a concept promoted by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for some time.43 This web consists of six components:

Table 8: School safety web

1. A common definition of safety that, in addition to other safety issues identified by the school, should cover:

· child abuse

· bullying

· sexual harassment

· management of traumatic incidents (including suicide)

· behaviour management and discipline within the school

· cultural safety

· safe physical environment.

2. A student safety team

· The number of members in a safety team will vary, depending upon the size of the school.

· Their role will be to:

1. keep informed about current policy and practice in relation to the issues they are responsible for

2. help decide what the most appropriate response would be to particular safety issues, including what policy to use.

3. A procedure for making complaints or suggestions to the school

· This would involve having a transparent and well-publicised system to enable students, families, and other members of the school community to raise concerns with the school.

4. Student advocates

· These people would support and take up issues from the students’ perspective (eg. when allegations are made against a staff member, the advocate ensures that the child’s best interests are made paramount). This advocate could either be a member of the school’s safety team or an individual advocate from within the school community (eg. a parent).

· Two levels of advocacy are required:

1. The child safety advocate will primarily be responsible for ensuring the school policies incorporate the paramountcy principle, eg. by advising the school on how to balance the competing rights and interests of its students.

2. The child safety advocate may at times need to be an advocate for individual children to ensure their views are heard and given due weight through the process. The student concerned should choose this advocate.

5. School safety advisors or contact people

· These people form a web to provide community support when schools seek assistance regarding safety.

· Safety advisors are people outside the school who can be contacted to:

· provide advice to those responsible for managing safety issues within the school

· be a resource to the school

· assist the school’s self-review and monitoring of safety policies.

6. A principle of reporting abuse

· Schools should have a clear statement so there is no doubt that the school will make a notification to Child, Youth and Family and/or Police if there is concern that a child is being abused.

Last Updated (Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:33)