CHARTING COURSE to changing behaviours and dealing with bullying

Trigger warning: This article talks about bullying and teenage suicide.

Many of us were shocked by the recent death of 14 year old Amy Everett who played the role of ‘Dolly’ in the Akubra hats campaign. Amy took her own life after being bullied online and this prompted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszszuk to set up a anti-cyberbullying taskforce with a 14-member team of child psychologists, educators and academics. It is headed by author and columnist Madonna King who recently published a book about the way teenage girls think, entitled Being 14. The taskforce has six months to report back with recommendations and a framework for how to handle online bullying.

We will be very interested in the results. Online and face-to-face bullying is an issue that we, like all schools, must deal with. For the past year, we have been trialling a disciplinary approach to wrongdoing more closely aligned with our Christian values. Forgiveness, consequences, mutual respect, self worth and creating positive relationships are an integral part of this practise. Called Restorative Practice, this approach is recognised by the Queensland Government as a school-wide positive behaviour approach, an effective school based action against bullying. It helps both the student harmed and the student who has caused the harm and focuses on social-emotional literacy.

HOW DOES RESTORATIVE PRACTICE HELP WITH BULLYING? 

Researchers Margaret Thorsborne and David Vinegrad In Rethinking Behaviour Management: Restorative Practices and Bullying (2017) list many issues associated with bullying that make it a complex issue to deal with. Some of these include the following facts:

  1. Students are reluctant to report bullying for fear of making it worse
  2. Traditional responses to bullying sometimes put victims at further risk
  3. Bullying incidents often evoke high-level responses from supporters of both sides and this is often not dealt with effectively.

Real change is only possible when culture is changed, which can be a slow and complicated process. 

The restorative practices model acknowledges and validates the victim’s experiences whilst helping the wrongdoer understand the impact of their behaviour, supporting them in learning how to relate to others more positively, and giving them a chance to make amends. These breakthroughs create the right conditions for cultural shifts to occur.

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES 

A parent and school resource spearheaded by Australian researchers, The Bully Project says that one in four students are bullied in Years 4 to 9 across all states and territories. This makes bullying the number one social issue for students in this age bracket. Added to this, one in three are directly involved in bullying as perpetrator, victim, or both. Just as we teach students who struggle in English or maths, when students struggle with behaviour, through restorative practice, we teach them how negative behaviour disrupts and damages relationships (and the community as a whole), and show them ways of repairing and protecting those relationships. With restorative practices, children learn important life skills such as responsibility, accountability, self-discipline, empathy and forgiveness.

HOW CAN PARENTS HELP?

We seek to create a safe and caring environment for adults and children in our College, reflecting the value that God places on all people. We ask that you, as parent or caregiver, be part of this restorative approach to wrongdoing. Please go to the anti-bullying resources below and partner with us so that together we can build harmonious relationships and resolve issues of concern or conflict openly and respectfully in the spirit of the Christian gospel. Keep the lines of communication open and support our Bullying. No Way! emphasis week coming up soon by discussing this important topic with your children.

Anti-bullying resources

  1. The Queensland Office of e-Safety guidelines for positive and responsible technology use
  2. Bullying. No Way! has important advice for parents and caregivers who play an important role in preventing and responding to bullying.
  3. The Bully Project outlines 10 things you can do to prevent bullying and 10 things you can do to manage bullying

If you are seeking support and information about suicide prevention, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. 

AUTHOR: Principal Leanne Entermann writes a series of articles called Charting Course in which she talks about topics important to the future direction of the College.