Ignore the silent victim at your peril

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Headteacher David Marshall appears to have hit on an anti-bullying policy that works for his school, and that can only be a good thing (see page 3). There will be some, such as 18-year-old student Steph Smith, who will not agree. They will see anyone at the receiving end of a bully - whether it be a physical assault or name-calling - as a form of mental abuse. She is right, but that does not mean that Mr Marshall is wrong in his approach at Cardiff's Rumney High.

Bullying has always existed at school, doing untold harm to a person's self-esteem. While some young people will let low-level name-calling go over their heads it will cause lasting emotional damage to others. However, bullying has reached a new savage level in recent years.

The rise of so-called called happy slapping, often the dark hobby of girl and boy gangs, is all too apparent in newspaper headlines. Take the case of the seemingly angel-faced X Factor contestant Emily Nakanda. She was thrown off the show after a mobile phone recording of her beating up a young girl was broadcast across the nation. When we are dealing with such extremes, it seems right that the most violent and prolonged cases of bullying must be made a priority, particularly when a school is experiencing real problems.

The Assembly government has attacked schools in the past for not acting on their own anti-bullying policies. It seems it might have a point after it was revealed by Funky Dragon's report (also page 3) that 42 per cent of young people did not know one existed in their school.

But Mr Marshall has come up with a plan to help children in his school build up resistance to what he describes as low-level name-calling. Maybe he believes that empowering the victim with notions that the bully is an inadequate person will nip the problem in the bud.

The only snag here appears to be the child who does not report prolonged incidents to hisher teacher or family. Too often we read headlines of the teenager who commits suicide. If there is one message that should come out of this week's anti-bullying activities it is that schools should deal with all reported incidents as appropriate. But they should also watch out for the forgotten victims - the pupils suffering in silence - before it is too late.

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