For students across Australia, February is a time of mixed emotions. The excitement of returning to school, friends, and extra-curricular activities is far too often mixed with a sense of dread. For one in four students, according to a survey conducted in 2013 for the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS), returning to school means returning to bullies.
As a young Australian, I am far too familiar with the presence of bullying in our schools. If you have not been a victim of bullying yourself, it is more than likely you have witnessed some form of it in your school or online.
“Bullying includes such actions as threatening behaviour, physical or verbal attacks, spreading rumours, or deliberately excluding someone from a group or activity.” – nobullying.com
Throughout my schooling career I have faced instances of bullying from a variety of different people, on different platforms. However, the thing that never changes is that no matter who is bullying you, or how they are going about it, it never stops being horrible.
If you’re a young LGBT person in Australia, the chances you’ve faced bullying skyrocket, with 50% of LGBT teens admitting they had faced bullying, according to the Bully Zero Australian Foundation. Horrifyingly 70% of homophobic bullying in Australia happens at school.
Harmful slurs are thrown about the classroom more than balls of paper. At my own school I hear this every day, and feel its effects. However it is not insurmountable. Since speaking out about how this hurts myself and other members of the community, I have witnessed a noticeable change in the way my peers talk about LGBT people; speaking out really does make a difference.
If you are among the many who face returning not only to homework this month, but to a feeling of uncertainty and fear, you are not alone. If every time you think of school, you cannot separate education from degradation, one of the most powerful things you can do to reclaim your right to learn in a safe environment is to speak out against bullying. Many people feel that nothing can be done about the situation they are in, yet in 87% of bullying interactions (ACPBS) outside members witness the abuse and do nothing about it. Imagine if everyone spoke up when they saw bullying happening; as a united front of empowered youths, we have the ability to stop bullying in its tracks. Silence is the biggest supporter of isolation, and isolation is the end function of bullying.
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, the best course of action is often to seek outside help. A trusted teacher, parent or friend is the best avenue to finding a solution. Everyone deserves to feel safe and supported in their learning environment, bullying is a crime and never acceptable. Going back to school should be exciting and empowering, education is a wonderful thing; going back to school should not be about going back to bullies. Let us all speak up and seek help this February.
Photo by Amanda Jordan