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Last week, we celebrated Bully Free New Zealand week alongside the Mental Health Foundation’s Pink Shirt Day. Both events aim to promote an anti-bullying culture by celebrating diversity and promoting kindness and inclusiveness.
Research is deeply concerning, suggesting New Zealand has the third-highest rate of bullying out of 38 countries in the OECD (OECD, 2019). In line with other schools, we have observed an increase in incidents of cyber-bullying, especially in the middle years.
Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Beecroft, has emphasised the importance of schools actively working alongside students to bring about cultural change. In the lead up to Pink Shirt Day, our student and staff well-being committees have taken space to reflect on how well we are bringing our whole school value of inclusivity to life at St Andrew’s. Students did this by asking an important question: How do we create a community where people feel safe, valued and respected regardless of their identity?
This year, student leaders celebrated the week by raising awareness on two key areas: What constitutes bullying? and What does it mean to be an upstander? Selena Gan (Year 13) created a wonderful video where she curated students’ perspectives on these two questions. This was shared with all students and provoked interesting discussions.
What is bullying?
Bullying has specific features that make it serious and harmful. These include that:
Research tells us that people are more likely to be bullied if they are different from their peers in some way. This might include being clever or popular, differences in sexuality, ethnicity, gender identity, disabilities and abilities, weight or height.
New Zealand students reported that some of the most common forms of bullying were "other students made fun of me" (17 per cent), "other students left me out of things on purpose" (13 per cent), and "other students spread nasty rumours about me" (13 per cent) (PISA, 2018).
People bully others for a variety of reasons including that they are unhappy, that they have been the target of bullying themselves or they want to feel important or powerful. Sadly, some people bully because they believe that being different is a bad thing.
The antidote to bullying is about celebrating diversity and holding a perspective where we accept and embrace difference as a strength in our community.
I encourage you to watch the speech delivered by our Heads of Well-being, Selena Gan (Year 13) and Lachlan Odlin (Year 12). In it, they raised awareness of bullying and discussed with the student body what it means to be an upstander. Lachlan outlines how an upstander is a person who sees/hears/knows about some bullying and then chooses to do one of four things: support the person being bullied, interrupt the bullying in some way, let the bully know what they are doing is not okay, or take action to support the victim.
Pink Shirt Day Speech - please click image below to view
St Andrew's staff and student leadership teams will continue to champion efforts to promote bullying prevention through reviewing policies and procedures, ensuring key values are embedded in the curriculum and by enabling student voice. It is important this work is done alongside parents, whānau and the wider community.
Does your family discuss and bring to light the issue of bullying?
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