The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Last Friday was designated as the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. Within our own context the importance of this day can be summarised very simply, that is, Scotch College should be a safe place for every boy to study and play.

In his reflections entitled 'Make Your Bed' Admiral McRaven (p72) had this to say about bullies 'Bullies are all the same; whether they are in the school yard, in the workplace, or ruling a country through terror. They thrive on fear and intimidation. Bullies gain their strength through timid and faint of heart. They will circle to see if their prey is struggling. They will probe to see if their victim is weak. If you don't find the courage to stand your ground, they will strike.'

When I think of a Scotch boy at school, I see them with a smile on their face, talking to their mates, with their biggest worry being their upcoming test or assignment. That is how it is for many boys and for what we strive. However, if just one boy feels unsafe, scared or threatened at school then we need to do more. At Scotch we have a zero tolerance policy of violence and bullying, with various ways of reporting incidents as well as providing many avenues for boys to speak to someone in a safe environment.

It is my firm belief that every boy should come to school feeling safe. That is non-negotiable. The safety of our boys is of paramount importance and we strive to create a culture of safety, inclusiveness and tolerance, where every boy, no matter who they are, can thrive. Often boys believe that they can deal with things themselves and that it is not masculine to make a complaint about how someone is making them feel. Young men should be open, honest and not afraid to speak out against people who are hurting or threatening others. Bullying cannot just be dismissed as being 'just a part of school', it should not be tolerated and at Scotch College we will continue to do everything we can to make our College a safe place for every boy.

One of the challenges in dealing with bullying is the fact that everyone has a different definition of what bullying constitutes. In our policy we define what bullying is and is not.

Bullying is the repeated and intentional behaviour of causing fear, distress or harm towards another person that involves an imbalance of power. It can involve humiliation, domination, intimidation, victimisation and harassment. In any bullying incident there are likely to be three parties involved: the bully, the person being bullied and bystanders.

Bullying can take many forms including:

  • Physical bullying which involves physical actions such as hitting, pushing, obstructing or being used to hurt or intimidate someone. Damaging, stealing or hiding personal belongings is also a form of physical bullying.
  • Psychological bullying is when words or actions are used to cause psychological harm. Examples of psychological bullying include name calling, teasing or making fun of someone because of their actions, appearance, physical characteristics or cultural background.
  • Indirect bullying is when deliberate acts of exclusion or spreading of untrue stories are used to hurt or intimidate someone.
  • Cyber bullying is the ongoing abuse of power to threaten or harm another person using technology. Cyber bullying can occur in chat rooms, on social networking sites, through emails or on mobile phones.

What Bullying is Not
There are many negative situations which, whilst being potentially distressing for students, are not bullying. These include:

  • Mutual Conflict Situations which arise where there is disagreement between students but not an imbalance of power. Mutual conflict situations need to be closely monitored as they may evolve into a bullying situation; or
  • One Off Acts (of aggression or meanness) including single incidents of loss of temper, shouting or swearing do not normally constitute bullying.

Notwithstanding these definitions, it is important that we ensure all boys know they can come and find someone within their respective sub school if they feel they are being treated unfairly.

The conclusion of this fortnight will see the end of the Lenten season as we celebrate the four days of Easter. At this time of the Christian calendar it is important that we stop and reflect upon the meaning of Easter. For Christians, Easter Sunday celebrates one of the greatest days in history when Jesus, the Son of God, defeated death and rose from the grave. Let me share a simple Easter prayer.

May God bless you at Easter

And keep you all year through

May God give you all the faith it takes

To make your dreams come true

May His love and wisdom always help,

To guide you on your way

May His light shine down upon you now

To bless your Easter Day

As we reflect on this special time, let us use it as another opportunity to give thanks for our own families and all that we have within the Scotch community.

I hope to see you tonight for Paul Collard and Paul Gorman parent's forum: How can we help our children do well in school? Memorial Hall, 6.30 - 7.30pm.

Have a great fortnight

Dr A J O'Connell