Dr Wendell Wallace, lecturer in Criminology at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, is calling on teachers, parents and students to treat bullying in schools seriously, and to work together to control it.
Wallace, the feature speaker at an anti-bullying conference hosted by the Tobago Association of Student Councils at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Wednesday, urged students who were being bullied to talk to an adult.
“Bullying and acts of bullying can be prevented and minimised but there must be collaborative efforts with all students, parents and teachers as well as community residents. Bullying cannot be alleviated if we have a one tier approach; we need to have all stakeholders involved,” he told students gathered for the conference.
“When talking about bullying prevention we often focus on the students, whether victim of bully but we do not have the parents involved in this matter. Be mindful that children do not report incidents of bullying to adults; 70 to 75 per cent do not. Also, be mindful that children might develop their own coping strategies so they will not tell the teacher or parents they are being bullied.”
Wallace also said it was important that teachers and parents understand the physical, emotional, behavioural and academic warning signs of children being bullied. He said bystanders were the most important people to prevent most incidents of bullying as they have the power to take the necessary action.
“It is also important that you, the students who have friends and younger siblings, understand the signs of your peers who are victims. If a child has unexplained cuts, then that should be investigated. If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn from their favourite activities or lose their very energetic personality or if the child becomes depress or very aggressive, that that is also an emotional warning signs.
“You must also look out for a loss of interest in school work where the child doesn’t want to attend school anymore; this is a major sign that something is not right.”
Wallace urged parents to be aware of traits in their children that may reveal they were bullies at school.
“Sometimes parents do not believe their children are bullies. They are unaware most of the time their very good child is a known bully at the school - the child displays a particular behaviour at home and another type of behaviour at school.”
Wallace said uncontrollable aggression, having suspicious sums of money and belongings, and having a history of fights and suspensions were clear signs for parents to be take note of.
“For most adults, we think bullying is a natural part of school life and quite often we sweep it under the carpet. They must remember bullying is serious and has long terms consequences such as suicidal tendencies, self-harm. In Trinidad, this is a serious problem. People would have low self-esteem, long term psychological effects,” he said.
The conference followed a walk by students against bullying on Tuesday to Gulf City mall in Lowlands where they gathered for a cultural event and talks from speakers to bring awareness to the need to combat violence in schools.