As you read this week’s newsletters, you will find commentary on the activities that the School participated in this week as part of the National Day of Action (NDA) against Bullying and Violence. 16 March is the NDA for schools across the country and it has been pleasing to see how various school communities have engaged with this important national initiative. Our Prime Minister has personally endorsed this program and expressed his desire for schools to participate.
As a school, it has been important for us to engage with this day and continue conversations about bullying and how best to manage it. Our approach to issues such as these is clearly outlined in our policy ‘Building Respectful Relationships.’ We take a restorative approach towards disrespectful behaviour and aim to develop positive outcomes for all students involved. This effective and powerful approach has had much success in our School and the many schools with a similar philosophy. A punitive approach would only be taken in extreme cases where a student’s safety is the priority. I encourage you to familiarise yourselves with our policy and speak to the School if you seek further clarification or understanding.
Although all schools and most organisations have policies and procedures in place to manage bullying and harassment, and we are always promoting and reinforcing positive and anti-bullying behaviour, it still goes on. To understand why, we need to look at our broader society to understand why we have a culture of aggression, conflict and harassment within our communities. During the week, I have channel surfed the TV to take a snapshot of some of the most popular shows; shows that are popular with families and many of the students in our school. I have also paid more attention to news media.
What is obvious is that there is a constant stream of adversarial, negative and aggressive dialogue occurring every day on the most popular programs and news channels. In particular, ‘reality TV’ thrives on conflict and constantly highlights disrespectful behaviour as entertainment. Even if you are not a consumer of reality TV, we need only reference the leaders of our society and the examples they set for all Australians: politicians, sporting heroes and other celebrities regularly display disrespectful behaviour, which is then highlighted repeatedly in the media.
We are surrounded – bombarded even – by disrespectful and aggressive behaviour. If you doubt that this is the case, then post a controversial or emotive comment on social media and see what happens. Social media ‘haters’ are now accepted as the norm; we often have to support students who wish to engage with a cause as they brace for a negative backlash. It can be difficult to reinforce positive messages about respect when our students and society in general are constantly exposed to negativity and disrespect.
As we recognise this National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, we will reinforce the behaviours we expect and encourage with our students. We will affirm our policies and procedures that are there to protect them; and we will continue to build a positive, responsible and resilient culture in our school. However, we must also be cognisant of the broader societal behaviours that exist and support our children – and each other – to speak up against aggression, while retaining a positive and optimistic view of the world.