Bullying at school

Bullying?"It's all an exaggeration,"or "That's not happening to my kid." Many parents think so. It is often difficult to distinguish between short-term conflicts, quarrels, aggressive disputes and the systematic exclusion of a single pupil. The word mobbing is derived from "mob", i. e. the group.

Bullying takes place in groups that are welded together over a long period of time, as in a school class. Power structures are developing. These can lead to a group of perpetrators regularly harassing a single inferior victim over a long period of time. In addition to physical violence and damage to property, the perpetrators also use sophisticated methods that parents and teachers often fail to notice. This includes teasing, threats and blackmail, slander or systematic ignoring. It seems to be the case that girls are more likely to mob by marginalizing, blaspheme and - as it is called in juvenile jargon - "dissen", i. e. verbally attacking and producing "distress". Boys are more prone to physical violence. Pedagogues speak of bullying. This is derived from the English word "bully" for brutal guy. It is estimated that the proportion of pupils who are regularly harassed is between five and eleven percent.

The following roles are typical of a school class in which mobbing occurs: There are the immediate perpetrators and the immediate victims. But there are also assistants who help the perpetrators and amplifiers, who - perhaps only with words of approval - continue to cheer for the deeds. Furthermore, there are many spectators who do not participate actively and stay out of everything. And sometimes, fortunately, there are also some children who courageously take sides for the mobbed victim.

Bullying can affect children of all ages. The prerequisite is always that the victim gets into a position of weakness. It is sufficient that it is somehow different from the other children, for example, has a speech defect or looks particularly slight. Students who are anxious or overly adjusted may be affected. A conspicuous or different appearance, clumsiness, particular good faith or helplessness also easily make a child a victim.

Bullying works because the victims play along for a long time by looking for the problem in themselves. It is rarely the case that a pupil informs parents or teachers. So the child affected has a double problem. At home, it tries not to show anything. At school it tries to survive the harassment somehow. The consequences affect the personality: The child loses his or her self-confidence, making him or her even more susceptible to harassment. It feels isolated and lonely. And it's afraid of every day it has to go back to school.

Even at home, the child's behaviour changes. It is important to be aware of the following signs:

Your child doesn't want to go to school anymore.

It wants to be brought and picked up.

School performance is deteriorating.

It is reportedly losing money, clothes, shoes, mobile phone (that could mean blackmail).

The clothing is often torn and dirty.

Your child has injuries, abrasions and bruises that cannot be explained reasonably.

Stuttering, nightmares, insomnia and concentration difficulties are also signs that something is wrong in school. Some victims also retreat extremely, hurt themselves or even attempt to commit suicide in desperation.

If you notice such signs in your child, it needs your help. The torments of a bullied child should not be underestimated. First of all, make it clear to him that you are behind him and that he can rely on you. Do not rashly contact the perpetrators, this could lead to the opposite of what is desired. But talk to the teachers, if necessary also with the school management, the parents' council or a counselling centre.

In general, bullying is a sign of disturbed communication within the classroom: the victims are isolated, the perpetrators receive no feedback on the effects of their harassment, and the passive "spectators" are at a loss or are themselves afraid. In many schools there are now also "arbitrators"to whom children can turn as the first point of contact.

In many cities, therefore, violence prevention programmes are offered to school classes. This is a guided group work in which role plays are conducted under pedagogical supervision. They are supposed to strengthen the "we-feeling" in a group. They should also help to make the other pupils watching and, if possible, the perpetrators aware of the psychological damage suffered by the bullied children. Often the others are not aware of this. It is also a task of teachers to take a clear stand in the classroom and to agree class rules as precautionary measures against bullying. Further addresses and information on help offers can be found on the Internet at www.gewalt-tut-weh.de.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany

Text: Dr. Beatrice Wagner, Editor: Birgit Kahl