This can result in significant negative effects including poorer academic achievement; mental health issues; and lower quality of life in general. Children who are frequently bullied are nearly three times more likely to feel like an outsider at school, and more than twice as likely to miss school as those who are not frequently bullied. They have worse educational outcomes than their peers and are also more likely to leave formal education after finishing secondary school. They are twice as likely to feel lonely, to be unable to sleep at night and to have contemplated suicide.
This International Day provides an opportunity for those of us who work with schools to increase our awareness, and to take further steps in tackling violence, Bullying and Cyberbullying at schools.
Physical appearance is the top reason for bullying, followed by ethnicity, nationality and skin colour. Students who are seen as ‘different’ in any way are more at risk of bullying; such as girls who are perceived to look or act like boys; or boys who are perceived to look or act like girls.
Too many people think Bullying at school including Cyberbullying is an inevitable rite of passage to adulthood and that is relatively harmless, and that little can be done to stop it. Instead, there is strong evidence that violence and Bullying at school including Cyberbullying can be prevented and effectively addressed, if it happens. No student should live in fear of going to school.
School communities and the broader education sector must work together in unison to prevent and address bullying. This is called a whole-education approach and includes:
− Strong leadership and robust policy frameworks;
− Curricula to promote a caring school climate;
− Training for teachers and other school staff;
− A safe psychological and physical school environment;
− Mechanisms to report bullying and support for affected students;
− Student empowerment and participation;
− Involvement of all stakeholders in the school community including parents; and
− Collaboration between the education sector and other sectors and a wide range of partners.
Addressing all forms of school violence including Bullying is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, and SDG 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies.
Ireland’s efforts to support International Day Against Violence and Bullying in Schools are being co-ordinated by the team at the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre in Dublin City University.