When a pupil tells you that he/she is being bullied it's important to gather all the facts from both sides. This includes talking to the bully and any witnesses.
Bullies will often not act alone and it's important to remember that you may be dealing with a number of pupils who are friends and who may give similar versions of events that differ to that of the victim.
You will know from your own experience of the students who is friends with who and can use this as a way of assessing the accuracy of what you are being told.
How to find out the real story
Try to interview the pupils accused of bullying in such a way that they don't have the opportunity to get together to make up stories.
Explain to the pupil accused of bullying what they are supposed to have done and get him/her to write down exactly what they think happened, who was there and what led up to the incident. The bully may admit the event occurred but it's worth while getting them to write it down anyway so you can talk to them about it in more detail later.
Ask them what their friends were doing while the incident was taking place and whether any other pupils or adults were nearby.
Bullies rarely admit what they have done so just because the bullies may be 'nice' children and high achievers from good families doesn't mean that they are not bullying someone else.
Once you have all the facts and have established that bullying has taken place you will need to decide how to proceed and what punishments are suitable. Much depends on the nature of the bullying.
You should explain to the pupil that what they have done constitutes bullying and that the school has a zero tolerance of this behaviour.
If it includes violence then you need to report this to a member of SMT. Schools should always consider calling in the police over violence where the attacker is over the age of criminal responsibility which is 10 in England and Wales.
Explain to the bully why their actions were wrong and help them to understand that that these actions could land them in trouble with the police later in life.
Examples of bullying which are criminal offences
- Assault: Hitting, punching or kicking
- Theft: Stealing someone's money or property or taking property and damaging it
- Harassment: Continual name calling, making abusive phone calls, posting abuse on the internet or sending threatening text messages
It's appropriate in cases where bullying is persistent, for the bully's parents or carers to be called in to school.
Not all parents are horrified to learn of their child's behaviour and some may think their child is simply standing up for themselves. They may even be carrying out the parents' advice to 'hit back'.
Bullying makes children's lives a misery and must be punished. For the last seven years Bullying UK has heard of a succession of trendy ideas for dealing with the problem but we made our views known to the government in 2005 following which former Prime Minister Tony Blair made it clear that he expected sanctions to be used.
Sanctions could include
- Internal exclusion within school
- Withdrawal from school trips
- Temporary exclusion from school
- Permanent exclusion from school
There is help for pupils who have serious behavioural problems through the LEA education support service and there's no reason why badly behaved and disruptive children should be allowed to terrorise other pupils.