Individual responsibility backed by systemic support is at the heart of a school culture that discourages bullying. Individuals need skills and training to empower them to act on their commitment to confront bullying. But they also need systems – in the form of policies and procedures – to support and guide them when they take the risk and find the courage to stand up to injustice.
To build a safe, strong and free school culture, all members of the school community – students, parents and school staff – need to have the necessary skills, knowledge and systemic support to ensure that bullying is not tolerated and that the rights of all are guaranteed and protected.
This is essential if we are to support students who are or who wish to be witnesses. In the dynamic of bullying, witnesses are young people who stand up for their peers who are targeted by bullying. Witnesses need to be able to count on systems that protect them when they act in the defence of a peer. Such measures may take the form of an anonymous reporting system or a clear, familiar and consistent procedure.
Systemic support is also necessary for parents whose children may experience or perpetrate bullying and for teachers or other school staff members. Intervention in a bullying situation is complex and demanding and no one should be expected to intervene without clear guidelines and support.
A school’s Code of Conduct is a key instrument for the development of a healthy school culture. It is a unifying document and a starting point for the development of a set of coherent policies and procedures. To be effective, a school’s Code of Conduct needs to be a “living” document; that is, it needs to permeate all aspects of school life.
Schools can increase the effectiveness and the relevance of the Code of Conduct by integrating principles related to child assault prevention. Guidelines for developing a Code of Conduct based on children’s empowerment can be found by clicking here.
Our Teacher Training Module is based on a vision for bullying assault prevention which recognizes the existence of bullying, the vulnerability of all children to assault, and the link between all forms of child assault, including bullying and assault by adults. This vision aims to reduce the vulnerability of all children to assault by facilitating their empowerment. More on this approach can be found in Tools Not Rules.