Editor's comment

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Bullying has always been the hidden evil of the school environment - insidious and lurking beneath the surface. There are unlikely to be any schools where it does not happen, although some would like to pretend they are immune. It is a brave move for schools to come out and admit publicly that cyber-bullying is a growing problem.

Last month, The TESS reported on the actions taken by headteacher Helen Glen at Springhill Primary in East Renfrewshire when it emerged that P6 pupils were using mobile phones and computer chatrooms to bully classmates.

The behaviour was having a damaging effect on the whole class, and it took radical steps to effect a turnaround.

This week (p3), we reveal how Hermi-tage Academy in Helensburgh is reacting to cyber-bullying, which has grown significantly in the last two years, according to guidance staff. Incidents of happy-slapping are on the increase, and teachers have identified "hate sites" relating to their pupils. The school is employing teachers, senior pupils, and community policemen to open up the issue with pupils - a heady combination of shock tactics, peer mentoring and restorative justice.

What is sobering about this evidence is how little parents, and even staff, are aware of its extent. In the past, the nasty handwritten note would have conveyed the same element of spite from the bully to his or her victim.

Now, technology allows that same stream of viciousness to be circulated among a whole class or school, within seconds, at the touch of a button.

Hermitage Academy's decision to open up this issue to public scrutiny is commendable. Staff believe that incidents are below the national average - but if they are concerned to devote such sustained attention to the problem, it begs the question: 'What is happening in other schools?'

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