Bullying, discrimination and harassment exist and have always existed at all schools. This is a fact few people ignore in 2015 but, at the same time, we often hear in society that “you have to be able to take a few knocks” at school.
The level of tolerance is sometimes so high that there’s barely a reaction when someone shouts “slut” or “fucking faggot” in the corridor. Pushes and shoves are everyday occurrences, not to mention how “easy” it is to openly isolate someone. Pupils harass other pupils, teachers harass pupils, pupils harass teachers.
Nobody should have to put up with this in their work environment! Schools are workplaces for both teachers and pupils, and everyone has the right to feel comfortable and thrive in their workplace. The fact that pupils don’t have a choice but to attend school due to Swedish law makes this even more important! Another problem with the increased level of tolerance of these behaviors and “everyday harassment” is that it also makes it even harder to really know when someone is victimized.
Thankfully, a lot has happened in schools since Friends was started 14 years ago. Society is placing more demands on schools, existing legislation has been improved, and new legislation created to secure children’s wellbeing. All schools are now required to develop a prevention plan dealing with acts of intimidation, as well as a fair and equal treatment plan that deals with issues to do with discrimination. On top of this, schools are thinking more and more about preventative measures they can take, and most are aware of the value of involving the pupils/students in this process.
But there is still much work to do. Our work to prevent bullying must never be reduced to “an annual theme week”, but rather become an integrated and natural part of our daily work. Achieving this will require knowledge and experience. The problem is seldom unwilling staff, but rather a lack of resource in terms of time and money.
Through Friends’ knowledge and experience, we have learnt that it is vital that the principal/school leader is willing to work with these issues in order to create successful preventative work with bullying and discrimination. When they take the issue seriously, think long-term and allocate resources, it sends a clear message to the rest of the staff. But it’s also important that local municipality and private agencies support the school leaders so they have the ability to live up to the expectations of society.
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