ROMAN TRAVERS: Bullying - New Zealand’s dark scourge

Opinion 06/12/2017
Credit: File.

By Roman Travers, RadioLIVE broadcaster.

With 2017 racing towards the light at the end of the tunnel; how happy are you with your children returning for another year at the same school where perhaps complaints of bullying are not dealt with adequately?

Try growing up in small town rural New Zealand with a name like Roman. I’m talking the seventies and eighties when All Blacks had names like Colin, Brian, Grant and Graham.

Roman was definitely right out there… and boy did so many children and adults let me know it.

I grew up cringing at the thought of beginning a new year, in a new class, with the new teacher reading out the roll. She’d get to my name; pause; frown and then begin her several attempts at pronouncing Roman, before looking up to see whose hand was raised in recognition of their name. It was me. Roman.

Unlike many parents who survived their indulgences with LSD and Pink Floyd in the late sixties, to go on to give their children names they will spend their lives spelling and explaining; my name has family history on my father’s side. He is half Welsh and half Spanish. Ole!

When you’re a child, often the easiest way to inflict pain is via the words you choose to use against your victim.

I had every variation on offer – and yes – they used to hurt. Now people react less harshly given the comparative acceptance of unusual names. There are even a few All Blacks with some beauties!

What is even harder to put up with is watching your own child being bullied. My youngest daughter began at a preparatory school in Masterton and went on to a girl’s college where she endured several years of bullying from one girl her own age. A girl who, like my daughter, began at the same school before they turned five. This bullying was promulgated by my daughter’s success in sport.

Having grown up as a Catholic in a family of 5 boys and two girls, we were all taught to turn the other cheek. Retaliation either physically or verbally wasn’t the way to deal with bullying. And so my wife and I continued this position with our daughter. It failed miserably.

The other incredibly frustrating aspect to my daughters bullying was the position that the college took on the issue. They were as collectively effective as broken traffic lights at a busy intersection during rush hour. They all made the right noises; but nothing was done.

The bullying was subtle and subversive. We met several times with the college’s principal, who coincidently, had taught me at intermediate.

He told us there was little he could do as he wasn’t seeing the bully in action.

Even when we took in text messages and posts from Facebook, he told us that this occurred out of school hours and therefor he couldn’t act upon these examples.

Subsequently, we learnt that he too was bullied – by the mother of the girl who was bullying our daughter. I have to laugh now at the thought of this horrid little woman, marching into the principal’s office with her voice raised as high as her tacky stiletto’s, spitting wildly her vial and venomous vocabulary while the principal inwardly groaned and wished he’d called in sick.

The college was totally ineffective and we were totally misled with poor advice from the school.

We took our daughter out and moved her to another college. You could almost hear the principal’s internal rejoicing as we walked down the long tree lined driveway, never to return again.

His total inadequacy with this ongoing issue was unforgiveable and completely unprofessional. His hands-off attitude was tantamount to tacit approval of the bullying.

I got in touch with The Ministry of Education and asked them how schools now deal with bullying that extends beyond the boundaries of the school and into social media or phone communication and associated apps.

They gave me a range of links to websites designed to guide boards of trustees, teachers and parents too. I have included these along with one for the victims of bullying.

Who knows what sort of a person that demonstrably demonic little girl turned out to be? But she made it her daily focus to make my daughter’s life complete hell.

Don’t let this happen to your child. Get the right advice and don’t give up until things change for the better.

We are losing too many of our children to alcohol and other forms of drug abuse; not to mention to suicide.

Roman Travers is a broadcaster for RadioLIVE.

 

For help or advice, try the links below:

  • Be The Change NZ
    Be The Change NZ aim to facilitate a movement towards positive culture change and help eliminate bullying, isolation and negativity among New Zealand’s Young People.
  • Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L)
    PB4L School-Wide is a whole school programme that focuses on teaching positive behaviour, communicating clear behaviour expectations and creating a school culture that promotes positive behaviour, wellbeing and reduces behaviours that disrupt learning.
  • Incredible Years Teacher programme
    For teachers of children aged 3-8 years. This programme is based on strengthening teacher classroom management strategies, promoting children’s pro-social behaviour and school readiness, and reducing classroom aggression and non co-operation with peers.
  • Bullying Free
    There are a large number of tools and resources on this website which school leaders are encouraged to use, including a new guide for school trustees.