Based on the calls he receives from both parents and schools, Chief Executive Officer of the Supreme Counselling for Personal Development, Shawn Clarke, believes that bullying remains a problem and there is a need for intervention.
Clarke, who is a certified Olweus trainer and consultant, says the issue must be addressed with some urgency.
“If we look at bullying in its holistic form, which is not only things that are done, but things that are said as well, then we do have a lot of bullying on the island and it is something that we need to address… as quickly as possible,” he said.
Clarke said that victims of bullying exhibited low self-esteem.
“Children are so depressed that they no longer want to attend school. They shy away from participating in activities they once enjoyed… staying in their room, not wanting to come out of their room, being very anxious around people and having panic attacks when they are in large crowds… lower school rates so that you used to perform well at school but you’re not performing that well anymore because you can no longer concentrate on the subject matter.
“You have to think about who I walk with in terms of an adult and where do I hide at lunchtime? How can I make myself invisible from the bullying at lunchtime? And then you have suicidal ideations. A lot of our young people who are being bullied, they’re contemplating committing suicide. We have a lot of suicide attempts and luckily for us, we have not had a lot of success in that regard,” he explained.
Clarke said that in many cases, fights between students began online with a war of words. With easy access to the internet and social media, a majority of children were often exposed to bullying online.
“The reality is that cyberbullying is one of the more difficult aspects of bullying to trace. It is hard to find the origins of a message, so oftentimes we really cannot tell where the message originated, but by the press of a button, that message can go viral… And we find that a lot of physical fights start on social media, with a war of words. So, again cyberbullying is something that we cannot overlook. It is not something that we can say that just happens to a minority of our children,” he said.
Clarke suggested that extensive training for all adults within educational institutions – including teachers, ancillary and ground staff – was critical to mitigate the amount of bullying prevalent in schools. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme that he is associated with offered training for all the adults on the school compound.
The programme was launched in February 2013, with a focus of not only intervention and counselling, but also educating and raising awareness about the different forms of bullying for both students and adults, while focusing on empowering bystanders.
“There must be a level of intervention for all three parties in any episode of bullying. What has happened in our schools is that you have a concentration more on the punitive measures and not on rehabilitation… We cannot just punish the person exhibiting the bullying behaviours without getting some level of intervention for that person,” Clarke explained.
He said St George Secondary and Grantley Adams Memorial were actively participating in the programme, while preparations were being made to relaunch at Frederick Smith Secondary school on January 20.
“We have a waiting list. There are schools that have contacted us that have expressed an interest in joining onto the programme. The reality is that there is a cost involved, that you would incur in having the programme. The Ministry of Education, I think in March of last year, asked me to submit a proposal to them to have the program implemented in all secondary schools on the island… but there are schools that are asking us to launch the programme as soon as possible,” he said. (JK)