I don't want to be teased': Why bullied children are reluctant to seek help from teachers
In Australia, approximately one student in five is bullied at school every few weeks or more often.
Many of these students suffer serious emotional and psychological harm, such as persistent anxiety, depression and suicidal thinking, and are unable to concentrate on their school work. It is clear they need help.
Teachers routinely inform students that if they are being bullied at school they should seek help from a trusted adult, such as a teacher or school counsellor.
A new two-part ABC documentary, Bullied, addresses the question of how victimised students can receive help from their school.
Part one of the documentary describes the intense suffering of an adolescent victim and the frustration and anguish of his family in finding that the school is not taking any effective action to deal with the case.
They do however allow the documentary makers to gather help and support for the unfortunate student through a group meeting with his peers.
This approach proves to be successful. But why did the school fail to provide such help?
One possibility is that students are reluctant to go to teachers for help. Another is that teachers lack the skill to stop the bullying from going on.
Students seek help from peers over teachers
Some new research, based on an online survey of 1,688 students in Years 5 to 10, provides data on how many bullied students actually do seek help — and from whom.>
Of the 631 students who reported that they had been bullied at one time or another at school, over half (53 per cent) said they sought help from other students in the first instance.
Slightly fewer (51 per cent) went to their parents.
But what is revealing is that only 38 per cent said they would go to teachers or counsellors for help.
Students appear far more reluctant to seek help from teachers than from other people.
Given that school authorities are strategically placed to observe what happens between their students, and to work with students who are being bullied — including perpetrators, victims, bystanders and others — it is surprising that they are not the first port of call for distressed students.
According to students, telling a parent or a friend has fewer potential drawbacks.
These findings point to the inadequacy of pre-service and in-service training provided to teachers to counter bullying.
Research shows that teachers often rely too heavily on:• anti-bullying policies that are not adequately implemented • the teaching of social and emotional skills to all students, a desirable initiative but hardly the solution for what to do when bullying actually occurs • the use of discredited methods of intervention, such as the use of punishment, sometimes repackaged as "consequences"
As revealed by the Australia study, teachers are generally unacquainted with more effective problem-solving approaches to bullying which involve working closely with perpetrators, victims and other students.