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Young people attending high school may at some stage become victimized by school bullying, otherwise known as peer victimization. This essay will research the issue of bullying along with victim anxiety and explore current recommended strategies regarding best practice within a school environment. This essay will focus on victim anxiety from bullying and will evaluate Urangan State High School's practices and/or policies regarding this issue.
In the past for most young people school was perceived to be a place where they could feel safe and secure and where they could count on being treated with dignity and respect; bullying has now changed that belief (Ross, 2006). School bullying is "widely regarded as a serious personal, social and educational problem which affects a substantial portion of school children" (Ross, 2006, p. 1). Bullying according to the National Centre Against Bullying is, "when someone (or a group of people) with more power than you, repeatedly and intentionally uses negative words and/or actions against you, which causes you distress and risks your wellbeing" (http://www.ncab.org.au/privacy/). There are five types of bullying; direct, indirect, involving either/or a combination of physical, verbal, social, psychological and cyber-bullying as stated by the National Centre Against Bullying (http://www.ncab.org.au/privacy/). "Bullying behavior is differentiated from other types of aggressive behavior and conflict mainly as it pertains to the misuse of power" (Betlem, 2001, as cited in Wong, 2009, p. 11). "The bully must be more powerful than the victim - physically, verbally, or socially - and the intent to hurt must be consciousâ€¦" (Wong, 2009, p. 11). In a study by Hoover, Oliver, and Hazler (1992), it is stated that "over 14 percent of high-school students reported being severely traumatized or distressed by bullying, while
16 percent suffered negative impacts with respect to their academic performance" (as cited in Wong, 2009, p. 5). Results from an Australian study of 38,000 school-aged children indicated that, 'on average, school bullying affects one in six young people' (Rigby, 1997, as cited in Lodge, 2008, p. 1).
Anxiety from bullying is merely one of several psychological symptoms that a young person may develop. Other possible psychological symptoms are depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders and social difficulties/phobias (Sansone & Sansone, 2008, as cited in Psychiatry MMC, 2009). A Finnish study of boys conducted by Sourander, Jenson and Ronning (2007) found that frequent bullying was a predicting factor for the development of anxiety disorders in early adulthood (Sansone & Sansone, 2008, as cited in Psychiatry MMC, 2009). Another study conducted by Gladstone, Parker & Malhi (2006) discovered that in adult men and women being treated in an outpatient depression centre, childhood bullying was connected with these elevated levels of general state anxiety (Sansone & Sansone, 2008, as cited in Psychiatry MMC, 2009). These findings validate that a victim of bullying during childhood can be left with both short and long term psychological problems.
Many victims of school bullying are often are fearful of attending school and believe school to be an unsafe and unhappy place (Ross, 2006). Young people who are victims of bullying at school are characteristically anxious, insecure, cautious, and suffer from low self-esteem (Banks, 1997, as cited in Ross, 2006). According to Salmon, James, Casidy & Javoloyes, (2000), victims of school bullying appear to lack social skills and friends, therefore, are socially isolated from their peers (as cited in Ross, 2006).
Research has indicated that when a school discovers an incident of bullying, the main focus is on the perpetrator, not so much focus is on supporting the victim. As a result it was discovered by the writer of this paper that limited information was available on support aimed directly at assisting the victim. Research has suggested that focusing more on supporting the victim should be included in any school bullying issue. This could involve schools providing victims access to regular counselling appointments, support groups, assertiveness training, developing conflict resolution skills and including the victim in any school anti-bullying policies (Ross, 2006; Lodge 2008). These recommendations may assist the victim to regain their confidence, self esteem and could help to lessen their anxiety symptoms.
In order to provide effective therapeutic responses to young people who have been affected by bullying within a school environment it is essential that the school has access to the most recent information and utilise evidence-based strategies to prevent, act in response, and ultimately decrease the incidence of bullying. According to a report in the Children's Consultative Council (2009), schools should also focus on the victim; they suggest techniques such as counselling, increasing self-esteem, victim support groups, providing a safe room and frequent checking in with the victim to ensure no further bullying is taking place.
According to Lodge (2008, p. 4), "In general, anti-bullying programs emphasise either rules-and-sanctions approaches or problem-solving approaches" are mostly directed at the perpetrator. For young people who are victims of school bullying, the
article suggested that the capacity to deal effectively with a complicated problem or issue is also vital for maintaining self-esteem (Lodge & Feldman, 2007 as cited in Lodge, 2008). For that reason, teaching coping and social skills to victims of bullying may offer an additional avenue of support.
Ross (2006, p. 6) states that "Currently, schools rely almost exclusively on arbitration to resolve disputes between youth". Researchers Crawford and Bodine (2001) suggest an alternative approach for students, by bringing the parties of the dispute together for conflict resolution and believe through using the conflict resolution process, "students gain ownership of constructing a solution directly" (as cited in Ross, 2006, p. 6). Ross believes that programs aimed to reduce school bullying and violence should encourage collaboration, constructive controversy, and include conflict resolution.
Approaches such as the 'No- Blame Approach' and the 'Method of Shared Concern' are social problem solving methods to address bullying which intend to promote more 'socially responsible relationships and behaviours' to encourage those involved to take others perspectives into account (Maines & Robinson 1992; Pikas 2002, as cited in Lodge, 2008). These programs contain structured opportunities for students to understand the effect of their actions and allow for restitution. These methods are suitable for high school students (Lodge, 2008).
Col Baumann (personal communication, January 19, 2010.) From the Education Queensland Behaviour Support Unit (BSU) in Hervey Bay, spoke about the process of dealing with victims and perpetrators of bullying. He stated that there needs to be involvement of all parties including parents. The process of mediation/conflict resolution
involves speaking to each student separately first with the aim of working towards a group session with all parties involved. This intervention is aimed at supporting the victim and encouraging the perpetrator to understand their actions from the victim's perspective. The purpose of this type of mediation is aimed at working towards a satisfactory agreement from all parties. Victims along with the perpetrators are offered techniques and strategies on how to manage their behaviours. In the event it has been identified that a victim has presented with serious emotional/psychological distress the BSU would recommend to the parents that they be referred to a specialist therapist. The BSU also has access to programs such as the 'Straight Talk Manual (2009), which is a self-esteem and life skill workbook for young people'. The manual includes a chapter on bullying and provides the student with information on bullying for both victims and perpetrators. This program could be used as an additional resource.
USHS utilises the Responsible Behaviour Plan which is based on the Code of School Behaviour (Ruth Dillon, personal communication, November 26, 2009). USHS has polices and philosophies specifically aimed at bullying, USHS has a Bullying Management Policy, the Behaviour Management Philosophy and programs such as the Sticks and Stones drama group ( Ruth Dillon, personal communication, November 26, 2009). According to Ruth Dillon, a student presenting with anxiety from bullying would be seen by either the Guidance Officer, Chaplain, School based Nurse or Police officer. In the event that intensive support is required the student would be referred to a specialist therapist or agency or the Behaviour Support Unit. Col Baumann from the BSU stated that he has
successfully used mediation and conflict resolution with students and their parents for the issue of bullying at USHS (personal communication, January 19, 2010).
It would appear that USHS has a lack of resources to deal with the escalating problem of bullying, including up to date and adequate staff training, and the writer had on several occasions witnessed a failure to identify and intervene during episodes of bullying in early stages, and failure to follow up with students which the writer of this paper feels contributes to this escalating problem within this school. Research indicates that programs such as the 'No-Blame Approach' and the 'Method of Shared Concern' are considered best practice. The writer believes that unless there are changes to policies within Education Queensland to meet current best practices regarding bullying, the harmful psychological consequences such as anxiety, it will become more prevalent.
In conclusion, it is the opinion of the writer that USHS is currently limited in effectively supporting their students who are victims of bullying, however USHS are dealing with most victim issues as they arise using the resources available to them.