Taking a stand against bullying – Part 2
Last Friday was the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. As you may have seen on the School Facebook page, or heard from your child, different classes and tutor groups discussed and took action to reinforce the anti-bullying message. You may also have seen a very powerful segment on “The Project”, the night before. (If not, you can catch up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw3iWDWE8CQ). The segment re-visited the sad story of Dolly Everett and reminded us of the message she left behind – to “speak … even if your voice shakes”.
Of course, bullying doesn’t just involve a bully and a victim, and it shouldn’t be left to just the victims to speak up. Bullying often takes place in a social context, like the classroom or the playground. And, these days, much of the bullying that our children are subjected to occurs on social media platforms. Yes – sometimes bullying may take the form of private messages, or secret violence, but more often it’s public – as if the bully seeks to amplify their sense of power and control through the approval of others.
Others see and hear what goes on. They are known as bystanders – although they don’t have to just stand by and watch. In fact, my encouragement to our students this week is to be “upstanders”, rather than just bystanders. An “upstander” is defined as “someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for what is right and doing our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt. “
Of course, it takes courage to be an upstander. Courage is one of the virtues we have included in the St Paul’s School Character Framework. We define courage as – “Strength to do what is right, in the face of fear, loneliness, pain or grief”. The Character Framework is also quite clear on the types of behaviour that are incompatible with the virtue of courage, including “not stepping in to help another”.
Rev. Mark Leam is taking the opportunity to speak to students in Chapel each fortnight about the virtues, and this week he also spoke about courage. Rev. Mark reminded us that we find many reminders in the Bible regarding this virtue, including Psalm 31:24 –
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!
May I point out that a range of verses throughout the Bible give us the secret to courage, and tell us why we do not need to be afraid (eg Isaiah 41:10) –
Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Whether we are victims or bystanders, we can all take courage from the knowledge that God is with us. We may not ever be able to completely eradicate bullying, but we can certainly reduce the incidence. Doing so, though, is going to require that we are all prepared to take a stand. We need to find the courage to be upstanders.
For further ideas about the topic of Cyberbullying, you might also like to read the attached article.
Mr Nigel Grant