With all the current happenings surrounding bullying, all hands must be on deck to help tackle bullying in schools and this framework can help. But first, let’s define who a bully is. It’s defined as a person who is intentionally physically or emotionally cruel to others, especially to those whom they perceive as being vulnerable or of less power or privilege.
The issue of bullying is not new, even our grandparents were bullied in school. Bullies are everywhere. They’re in offices, public institutions, or in power. But humanity stands a better chance at curbing this social ill when we tackle it early on in children’s lives. Here’s how the PLISM framework can help tackle this issue.
We are going to use the example of a school throughout this article. When a school has got a strong purpose, certain actions will not be difficult to take. You noticed I used “strong”, that is, as the institution is being created, it is built on an unwavering purpose, not just a beautifully crafted phrase created by consultants or masters of the English language, but a unifying theme that makes them unique and valuable. But if the major reason a school exists is to make money, tackling issues like bullying will not be front burner. What’s on everybody’s mind is the bottom-line, and so what gets the attention is revenue-generating avenues at the detriment of putting in place structures and processes that mitigate to a minimal level anti-social behaviour, while creating a haven for children that have come to the institution to learn, socialize and build good character.
If the school for example claims that its purpose is an unwavering focus on their students and producing balanced global leaders, then an issue of bullying which tragically led to the death of one of its pupils would be meticulously investigated and assurance given to the parents of the child and public about steps taken to ensure justice prevails, not a lacklustre effort to just move on and cover up the incidence in the name of protecting a brand.
It all rises and falls on leadership. Are you tired of hearing this? Don’t be. It’s what people see the leadership do, that becomes the culture. When the head of the school’s body language suggests that teachers need not bring him student problems, but only issues concerning the bottom-line like the percentage of pupils that have subscribed to a particular add-on service the school have recently introduced, the writing is on the wall without a need for interpretation. To tackle an issue like bullying in schools, it’s a collective effort and it starts from the home, not the school. Society and school should then complement the good character parents should have been building in their children or wards, not the other way around.
These days, some parents just delegate all responsibilities of molding their children’s character to the school to figure out. All that concerns them is the paying of tuition fees and other school-related provisions. And then, there’s the role of the government that should set the tone for rules of engagement. When schools know, that regardless of their owner or board’s clout and status, any evidence of negligence on the part of the school will be decisively addressed with punitive actions, schools will sit up. This framework will help tackle bullying in schools if all is given adequate attention.
Raising children can be very tricky and parents must find the time first, to become friends with their children before being parents or strike a balance between both. And children have different personalities. Some are comfortable talking while others would rather keep to themselves. Parents must find innovative ways to connect with their children. Do not be dismissive, judgmental, or compare notes. I have erroneously done the latter a few times but thankfully, my wife called my attention to it, and I’ve been very deliberate since then. Most children would rather suffer in silence than receive a bashing from their parents for being the only child in the school that is being bullied. Some are not even comfortable enough to talk about what they’re going through with their parents.
Sadly, so many parents today, will never know that their children at some point in their lives have been abused which has only enabled the perpetrators to prey on more victims. Our children should be encouraged to S.N.I.T.C.H. (to inform on nefarious activities) for the general good because the idea of not snitching was probably propounded by despicable humans that wanted to continue to get away with their actions. I would create a phrase that encourages it like “a S.N.I.T.C.H. in time saves lives.” The idea is to find innovative ways to connect with our children and encourage them to speak up and timely too while we listen to them. And this is why innovation forms one of the pillars of this framework that can help tackle bullying.
While being innovative, a strategy should be built around the end customer experience. In this instance, the students. And the strategy for fulfilling the purpose must be broken down into easily achievable tasks and those tasked with the responsibility to implement it, know their roles and are empowered. Boarding school graduates for instance have unpleasant stories to share for days on their experience with bullying. Some students knew these kinds of things were going on but were not reporting it to the teachers or escalating it beyond them. They were not aware that it was an issue that the management cared about.
There were failures of communication up to and down the hierarchy in these schools and there seemed to be a culture that subtly endorsed bullying. You would hear some quote a teacher saying… paraphrasing, “Not to worry, your time will come to bully others.” Moreover, they were afraid that if they reported negative issues their relationships with the cool kids (believe it or not, being a cool kid could be synonymous with being notorious and it came with perks like popularity and fame) would be significantly affected. Some teachers were aware but discounted them. Schools need to implement a grievance management system that speaks to issues such as bullying, away from academics. A hotline, or person, or department students could report to and escalation policies in place which protects the identity of the complainant. And these have to be proactive, not reactive. And finally, there must be clarity from the onset, for any pupil joining the school, up to even signing a document committing to abstaining from bullying or other specific nefarious activities or facing the consequences.
A focus on the jobs to be done. Why would a parent from another region enroll their children into a boarding school in another region? Because they are trusting that school will do the needful, teach, instruct, discipline and protect their children while they focus on life and work balance. It’s a job they are trying to get done and they have hired the school to assist them in doing a bit of that job. Most schools must begin to think along this line. Why did they choose my school over another competitor? Whatever the reason, ensure you get that job done well. By the way, referrals are still the most cost-effective and reliable way to grow a business.
The role of the parents/family, society like Churches, and the state government is essential. We can’t expect schools alone, to solve all problems emanating from bullying or anti-social behaviour. Collective action has become imperative.
States have to do what they’re legally obligated to do, to ensure compliance and keep schools on their toes.
But at the same time, students need to respect the schools in which they are enrolled, whether boarding or day school. And a large chunk of it rests on the shoulders of parents. A child that witnesses his dad bully employees, his mum physically assault domestic staff will think it’s normal to take advantage of vulnerable people. An apple doesn’t fall far from the apple tree they say.
And thirdly, those who are adversely impacted have a right to remedy. And both states and schools can contribute. For example, by setting up grievance mechanisms to deal with local issues that occur on their school grounds and meting out punitive actions to guilty parties regardless of their parent’s social status.
This framework can help tackle bullying but a compelling purpose, empowered team buzzing with innovative ideas, a strategy put in place to fulfil realising that purpose will come to naught without the right leadership at the helm. Again, it all rises and falls on committed leadership.