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Episode 27: October 26


Bullying, many people think it's "just a part of growing up" but it's this sort of attitude that has allowed an insidious, serious problem to thrive in NZ schools and communities affecting the mental and physical health and self-esteem of thousands of children and adults bullying has a long-term effect that keeps on having an effect into adulthood.

There are lots of well-meaning people out there putting effective programmes into place, but to stop bullying wholesale in our society we need a concerted societal attitude change and for everyone to pitch in take responsibility and say enough is enough.

1. Extent of the problem and historical indifference.
From an article in the Weekend Herald June 22-23 2002.
"In colonial countries, bullying has always been something of a tradition, even a rite of passage". A 1999 Uni of Auckland study of north Island secondary school students found that 58% of pupils, according to their own definition, had been bullied. Shown a list of 17 bullying behaviours (physical, verbal and emotional) that figure rose to 72% who agreed they had experienced at least one of those at school, that year. The study confirmed that 11% of pupils are bullied at least once a week, figures which are consistent with international and national research since the 1970s. (Tells us what we've been doing for the past 20 years isn't working. One in 10 of our children are still spending their school days trying to be invisible). Bullying has no respect for gender, class, ethnicity or geography. It happens in every school. Although you might think the extent of the problem would make it easy to win support for reform, that very prevalence works against change: many of us are desensitized to bullying.

Some even see it as a virtue - part of the toughening up process. Research actually says the opposite: that fathers who are warm and caring towards their children actually increase the masculine traits in boys (i.e. they're acting at the best level of manhood), the feminine traits in girls (i.e. acting at the best level of womanhood); particularly important in adolescence. NZ has a high level of bullying and that it is thought due in part, and significantly, to NZ society's general acceptance of violence in the home, on TV etc

2. Research has started to break down the indifference.
In the 90s the issue's complexity - and its social and economic cost - became clear. Finnish studies show that bullies are often bullies themselves. Links between bullying and alcohol misuse, vandalism, crime and violence in adulthood were established. It was found victims' schoolwork deteriorated and they often played truant.

Both bullies and their victims shared one thing - misery. In the US bullying was given as a contributing cause behind high-school shootings. In Japan bully-provoked suicides became a huge public issue. In Scotland, a woman with mental health problems blamed bullying for her depression and sued her old school.

Nervous governments started to take the issue more seriously. New Zealand schools were forced to at least consider bullying in the early 1990s (Tomorrow's Schools) when new national guidelines held them legally responsible for providing "a safe physical and emotional environment for all students". This is a positive step; an admission that something is wrong, something needs to be done, gets it out in the open. Also in the last 10 years the definition of bullying has been broadened to include verbal, intimidation, exclusion as well as physical bullying. The problem is that schools are largely left to wrestle with bullying on their own and the few resources there are - are under funded. Anti-bullying programmes have been established by several agencies - the Peace Foundation's Kool Schools; the Police's Kia Kaha and Group Special Education's Eliminating Violence (e.g. it's a good start but only funded to go to 40 schools a year. With 2170 schools nationwide, it'll be 68 years before it has covered the country).

3. Effects of bullying on bullies and victims
 A Norwegian long-term study (over 30 years) followed bullies which found bullies were four times as likely to end up in the criminal justice system, four times as likely to have defunct marital relationships, four times as likely to need psychiatric intervention. They have high level of depression (and a high number end up as CEOs of large companies!) From Bullying in Secondary Schools: Physical bullying often causes visible hurt in the form of cuts and bruises.

All bullying causes invisible hurt in the form of internal psychological or emotional damage. Victims of bullying may feel alone, angry, depressed, disempowered, hated, hurt, sad, scared, subhuman, trampled on, useless or vengeful. At the extreme end of the spectrum or physical bullying is behaviour that moves into the realm of criminality and involves the use of weapons - a growing phenomenon internationally and a major cause of concern in American high schools in particular. (Columbine and Santee shootings).

In a recent study, students identified as bullies and victims were described as "particularly high risk", having higher rates of problem behaviour and depressive symptoms, and lower self-control, social competence and poorer school functioning. They were at greater risk of deviant peer group involvement, less able to form positive peer friendships and had a greater chance of adult antisocial behaviour& victims of bullying tend to have lower levels of self-esteem, can be depressed, insecure, anxious, oversensitive, cautious, withdrawn, worried, less happy, more lonely etc.

Studies have linked bullying to psychosomatic symptoms, depression and psychiatric referral and has found that those involved in bullying showed the highest risk for suicide ideation, that is thinking about suicide, and suicide. An English study states that in part because of bullying, several young people in England commit suicide every year. BISS again: Bullying in adolescence stunts growth towards individuation and is like a disease that distorts the development of the self and the formation of healthy relationships (the key goal really of adolescence).

Bystanders are affected as well as victims and bullies. Bullying has a ripple effect right out to the wider community. A NZ study found that children consider the death of someone close to them as the only experience worse than bullying gives you some idea of what impact it has on children and how vulnerable they are.

4. Who bullies and what can parents do to help?
Those kids who witness parental violence, violence generally, have dysfunctional parents are most likely to become bullies. It's best for children, "no doubt about it" if there is a good relationship between their two biological parents. Even if divorced, try to ensure there is no antagonism, although this is hard for some couples to achieve. Children need to feel secure, valued, loved; schools need to have the same qualities, ensure children feel secure, valued, loved, know that teachers care about them, set high expectations and clear rules that are negotiable (at secondary school level) Bullying in Secondary Schools (BISS) identifies three types of bullies:

The clever bully who often masks his or her bullying behaviour; may be popular, do well academically and socially, egotistical and confident. The main characteristic that makes them bullies is that they fail to put themselves in the place of those they victimize; they do not feel empathy or just don't care how the victim is feeling. Hard to identify, but can change through support, peer mentoring, leadership programmes etc.

The not-so-clever bully attracts others because of their antisocial and at-risk behaviour and at the same time intimidate and frighten their peers; life experiences may cause them to act in socially dysfunctional ways, mean-minded with a negative view of the world, frequently failures at school, direct their anger at those they see as weak, anger and bullying behaviour is often a displacement of their own lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, lost souls, their experience has been of failure, rejection and lack of ability, enjoy being given a role and status in the peer group through their bullying behaviour; they tend to drop out (which is good for rest of the school) and not mature unlike clever bullies.

The bully victim is a bully in some situations and a victim in others, often victimize those younger or smaller than them and often victimized by their peers or those older than them, sometimes bullies at school and victims at home, research shows that a lot of bullies fall into this category, they are the hardest type to deal with because they exhibit behaviour that is aggressive and unacceptable as bullies, but they are also vulnerable and easy to undermine as victims, often difficult to empathise with them when they are bullied because they bully mercilessly.

5. WHO is bullied and the positive role parents can play
Studies show no-one is immune; anyone can be once a bullying culture is operation, but those who are somehow different or stand out in some way are more likely to be singled out e.g. minority groups, those with special needs, sexual bullying e.g. adolescent girls denigrating particularly pretty girls who they see as threats, those with actual or perceived sexual orientation (homophobic bullying), poor children, those physically unattractive or overweight.

They are more vulnerable if they have little or no support from others, are less likely to have support once singled out, so a vicious and cruel cycle. Parents can help children by loving them unconditionally, by giving them time when the child wants it, offering consistent discipline when they're young, as they're older making clear to them the rules for the family& this will all contribute to them feeling secure in their relationship. It is absolutely clear that whether or not a young person can form good relationships affects if they'll become a bully and to a lesser degree a target.

Kids are born with different temperaments. The ones who are anxious, find it difficult to adjust to new situations, often very intelligent but view life as dangerous/difficult are more likely to be targets. You need to concentrate as a parent on teaching this kind of child good social skills, helping them interact. It is trickier for teachers to detect bullying in secondary school, as children are no longer in one class, with the same peers, and the one teacher. Easier for it to go un-checked.

6. How children bully: the gender difference between boys and girls.
Adolescent boys are striving to gain status, to become the top dog. Position is maintained through using strength, more physical, a bit verbal. For girls it isn't so much to do with gaining status but about controlling relationships/ manipulating relationships through gossip, exclusion etc. Verbal bullying more so than physical.

Starts very early on in primary school and continues& stressful for girls as they don't know if they're in or out, don't know if you're a friend or a victim. Among boys it's much more clear-cut; you're either in or you're out. A study was done recently to find out what kind of schools has the highest level of bullying. Atypical response might be that it would be highest in male, single sex, low decile schools. Found that yes, single-sex schools had the highest level of violence, but decile rating didn't come into it or sex& boys and girls' single sex had higher levels of bullying.

Understanding why is quite complex but has to do with condonement/acceptance. In a single sex boys school all the boys understand the hierarchical system, same in an all-girls school, they understand who the Queen Bee is and how she maintains her position. In a co-ed school, the boys can't understand or appreciate so don't kow-tow to the girls' hierarchical system, and same the other way around. So king pins don't have as much power, the power is dissipated. She says the most powerful students in a school are those who aren't involved i.e. not victims or bullies, they're the strong and confident ones, great people to get on board, get to change things, bring bulling out in the open.

Ask them who is being bullied, who are the bullies& studies have shown peers know who is bullying/ who is being bullied a lot more than the teachers do. Especially difficult with girl bullies who can often be the teacher's pet, very socially and verbally skilled& boy bullies more obvious - bigger physically, more aggressive etc.

7. What's the best way to tackle the problem?
You need a 'whole school approach'. Two overseas studies showed that schools that adopted a whole school approach noted a 50% improvement in 2 years, and this improvement was sustained.

Those who took other approaches (adopted piecemeal programmes) noted an improvement rate of 20% or less and it wasn't sustained. Within one year they had to re-implement the programme. The school needs to take a stance: say they won't tolerate bullying and change their whole culture, won't tolerate even low-level name calling, teachers model behaviour. A lot of the programmes focus on the victim and changing the victim, but it is the bully who needs to change not the victim.

Most bullies can change; a small group who can't due to neurological problems may need professional help. The No Blame approach is very effective, role-playing and problem-solving. Ask kids what can they do to intervene/ to stop bullying. If they don't feel strong enough doing it by themselves go in as a group and break the cycle.


2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
a generous pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp lemon rind
3/4 cup Tararua buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup diced fruit (canned peaches work well)
A mixture of cinnamon and sugar for topping

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and then the fruit. Mix very gently. Do not over-mix. Bake at 180degC until a skewer comes out cleanly. Allow 15 mins for a mini muffin and 20 mins for a regular muffin. Baking times do vary according to the size of muffin. If you have a fan bake on your stove - use it for this recipe.

*We have tried and retested and developed this great fruit muffin. This recipe can be doubled, even quadrupled if desired. Freeze some for later use or simply halve the recipe if you prefer - it works just as well!


11/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup Tararua buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
21/2 cups flour
2 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar

Combine the brown sugar and oil in a bowl. Stir well until smooth. Stir in egg, buttermilk, salt, baking soda, vanilla and flour. Blend until moist. Fold in rhubarb and nuts. Turn batter into greased loaf pan.
Combine butter and sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter.
Bake 180degC until a skewer inserted in centre comes out dry, 50-60 mins. Turn out onto rack. Cool before slicing.

*Do not use fan-bake with this loaf - use regular bake and good news, it is so cake like it does not require buttering or any additional treatment - enjoy with a cup of coffee. Buttermilk makes the lightest and moistest loaf imaginable. It keeps well and freezes perfectly- even if you are not a rhubarb fan - you will change your mind after a slice of this!

Go more info

Did you know that:

Infants should travel rear facing until they are one.
Reason - An infant's head is very heavy relative to their body. In a crash it keeps going forward while their body stops - stretching their neck and causing potentially fatal spinal cord damage.

Children up to the age of four should be in car seats with a 5 point restraint.
Reason - Children of that age have softer chest walls and tummies than adults, which can easily be squashed. Restraining their bodies in 5 places (shoulders, hips and between their legs) spreads the forces of deceleration. Adult seat belts focus forces over a small area risking internal injury to chest and abdominal organs.

Children should be in booster seats until, on average, ten years of age.
Reason - Children don't fit adult sized seats and seat belts anymore than they do their parents clothes! Seat belts don't sit properly risking neck, chest and abdominal injury. They also don't hold children in place very well because they don't fit them. More mobility in a crash means more head injury.

Children under 13 should not travel in the front seat with a functional airbag.
Reason - Air bags deploy at chest height for an adult, which is head height for a child. The force of deployment is enough to cause severe head injury and broken necks.

Lap belts used alone in a crash can cause spinal and abdominal injuries.
Harnesses used with a lap belt stop this. A harness with a lap belt and especially when used with a booster seat is a really effective restraint. They restrain the shoulders as well as the hips and have the added benefit that kids don't fall out of them when they fall asleep.

Locking Clips must be used on all lap/sash belts that are used to secure car seats.
Car seats are designed to be used with a tightly secured lap belt. If a Lap/sash belt is     used, the locking clip will convert it to a lap belt.  
Use of top tether straps significantly reduces head movement in a crash and should be used wherever possible.
These are available for some rear facing and all forward facing car seats and some booster seats. If your car doesn't already have manufacturers bolt holes, information as to how and who can put these in can be obtained by ringing 0800 CHILD SAFETY (244 537).
Kids are statistically safer in the back seat especially in the middle.





Levels of incorrect use ranging from 30%-80% have been reported for other industrialised nations. Correctly used child safety seats are highly effective, reducing fatality risk by an estimated 71% and serious injury by 67% but incorrect use can partially or completely nullify this effect.

You shouldn't be able to move the car seat around. It's a good idea to fit the seat into your car before buying/hiring to see if it fits.


Safe to go is a joint initiative between the LTSA and ACC. They have 800 technicians trained in the correct installation of child restraints. Technicians are available to give advice to caregivers. To locate a safe2Go technician near you, call the child safety foundation on 0800 CHILD SAFETY (244 537).

Inventing Elliot, by Graham Gardner (age 12 )
"Inventing Elliot" is a book about bullying at school. Elliot is bullied, horribly and disturbingly, and meanwhile his home-life is unhappy because of a terrible bullying event that happened to his father.

When they move home and he changes schools, he decides to re-invent himself. He needs to be noticed only in the right way, so he masters the art of disappearing but not becoming a victim.  The book then presents an interesting and dark dilemma - what happens when the bullied boy is given the chance to become the bully? The school bully gang has noticed Elliot, and they want him to join them.

"Inventing Elliot" is fascinating, dark and in many ways terrifying. It's a gripping read with a fitting end, which leaves you sighing with relief. Teenagers really should read this.

Book reviews by The Children's Book Shop.

WEBSITE  (7-14 yrs)

The Auckland Regional Council has put together a great website for kids about environmental issues. Meet Agent Ani whose mission it is to fight pollution and deforestation. Choose a comic to read about her adventures.

Or you can play games with a message like reducing the number of cars on the road. There are also links to other environmental websites with a kid focus like Kiwi Conservation Club, and some great homework features (linking to both local and international conservation sites) like National Geographic. If you don't have time to search the websites, Earth Watch has brief facts on all the big issues.

Websites reviewed by the Children and Teens department of Auckland City Library


Parents everywhere are concerned about bullying. One of the major concerns of parents, according to recent research (and instinctively) is for the safety of their children: they want to be assured that the school of their choice had the values, policies and practices to promote a safe community in which their children could learn without fear and prejudice. St Kentigern School is attracting families for this reason, because they are openly proactive.

In the early 1990s NZ schools were forced to at least consider bullying when new national guidelines held them legally responsible for providing "a safe physical and EMOTIONAL environment for all students". The problem as many see it, is schools are largely left to wrestle with bullying on their own and the few resources that are available are underfunded. There is no Ministry of Education policy specifically on bullying and how to address the problem. They do run an Eliminating Violence programme through Group Special Education (GSE) for schools that wish to take on a comprehensive, whole school approach.


Geoff Burgess joined SKS as Principal in 1994. It was he and the former Deputy Principal, Ngaire Allwood, who decided to tackle bullying at the school - after about a year of him being there. It wasn't that bullying at SKS was any worse than at any other school& it just needed to be done. "We realised it wasn't just our problem, it was societal, but that was no reason to dodge it," he says. "We took the line that a school that says it has no bullying isn't being honest, we put our hand up and said this environment isn't safe enough and we're going to change. That was pretty radical for an independent boys school."

They started by joining the Safe Schools Association with other schools who wanted to make their schools safer places for children to be.

Then they did a 'School Climate' survey in 1996 which looked at how students interacted with students, how teachers interacted with students and each other etc. This showed that 9% of students were bullied several times a week and that only 61% of all bullied students reported their concerns.

They responded by all staff members undertaking training in the Eliminating Violence programme run by the SES (Special Education Service) at that stage, now called Group Special Education (GSE): the foundation stone for their approach to bulling, according to Geoff. Within a couple of months they noticed a huge change in how everyone interacted. Every new teacher at the school has to take this 2-day course within 12 months of starting.

They also developed a comprehensive set of strategies to improve the social environment of the school. A charter of rights and responsibilities, 'The Saint Kentigern Way' was drawn up: the school doesn't have rules, just this charter which is based on values, treating each other fairly. E.g. there's something on inclusion: each individual has the right to be included in play; everyone has a responsibility to invite others to play. This automatically sets an environment where exclusion (a predominant form of bullying) won't be tolerated. Walking around the playground Geoff hears kids saying: "Hey, that's not the Saint Kentigern Way!" Each year each classroom interprets the SKW in their own way and this goes up on the classroom wall.

There are other tools in the tool box eg 'Cool Schools Peer Mediation' training and a fair play award, plus they joined the 'Living Values Programme' (one of 12 schools in NZ) along the way.

Out of the Eliminating Violence programme grew the Values Network Team (originally called the core group), established to monitor and promote the emotional safety of the school community/ be a watchdog on harassment. It started off as more focused on preventing bullying but grew into a very values-focused role. Last year parent reps joined the team for the first time. They will pick a value, eg persistence and help children explore it further. Other values include helpfulness, consideration, caring etc.

Just this year they developed the 'Big Tree Award'. There's a landmark big tree at the school and the 'Big Tree Award' (one for each school - junior, middle and senior) was awarded for the first time last term to boys who embody the Saint Kentigern Way.

These are all preventative measures, which are making a huge difference, but bullying "is a never-ending story" says Geoff. Any school that says it has NO bullying is lying. So what do they do if someone is being bullied?

Since 1998 they have been taking a 'No Blame Approach' to bullying developed by the Lucky Duck publishing company in Bristol. This is proving very effective.

How the No Blame Approach Works

A teacher who is trained in the No Blame method, talks to the victim and asks them to write down how the bullying makes them feel, if too young they can draw a picture or dictate to their parents at home. They always use 'I' speak&Blame is not ascribed to any individual during the whole process.

They then call in a few of the boys' friends, the perpetrators and a few good role models in the school, sit them down and say something like: 'Tim's having a really hard time at the moment, we need to help him, I'm going to read something he's written about how he's feeling&" and read out what the victim has written. It's very powerful.

Sometimes the bullies burst into tears&they go around the group and everyone (including teacher) has to say how they're going to help remedy the situation. The bullies know they know it's them, but the finger is never pointed. Sometimes when it gets to them they admit guilt and say they'll apologise, but they're never told to do that&the bullies often empathise with what the victim has written as often they've been bullied themselves. They're often relieved, open up, will say they'll involve the victim in games, keep an eye on him etc.

The teacher makes a mental note re what they've said they'll do. Over the next few days will sidle up and ask them if they've done what they said they'd do. Always checks in with victim and lets him know how it went/ asks him when they sees him how it's going& when see the victim around school asks them for thumbs up or thumbs down sign.

The process makes a huge difference to the emotional well being of the boy and to his learning. It's impossible for children to learn when they're being bullied. Results often make the teachers 'misty-eyed'.

She says the boys learn good life skills e.g. mediation and that it's really good, especially for boys to have to write down how they're feeling.

If a boys name comes up 2 or 3 times as being a bully they'll call the parents in to find out how he is at home, what's going on.

SKS's initial reaction to the method and the reaction of some parents was that it appeared to be a soft option and that it may place the victim at greater risk. Their fears evaporated as the No Blame rationale proved to be effective in virtually every application.

Geoff estimates they have the buy in of approx 75% of the parents. Any parents whose children have been involved in the programme give it the thumbs up.

They acknowledge that retaliatory sanctions for those identified as bullies often drive the harmful behaviour underground and increase the misery of the victim.

Their anecdotal accounts of initial success were validated by an independent study of students well being at SKS. Dr Vivienne Adair's University of Auckland School of Education research team administered a Life In School Survey to Years 7&8 students in December 2000 and found that the number being bullied several times a week had dropped from 9% in 1996 to 4% in 2000. There are no more recent results but they only have a handful of cases each term.

When they began the campaign against bullying in 1996 there were some who thought the good name of SKS was somehow being eroded by their open and honest approach. Now they find parents seeking their school because of its proactive stand.

Often will ask about the programme at the first interview. It's a point of difference for the school: strong values and zero tolerance to bullying. 

A good NZ website to visit

To find out more about 'No Blame' go

Auckland writer Tim Tipene was bullied at home and at school and then bullied himself so talked to Homegrown about it from 'both sides of the fence'. He is the founder of the children's life-skills programme 'Warrior Kids' and author of Taming The Taniwha, which aims to teach children about dealing with bullies.www.warriorkids.orgHe takes his anti- bullying programme into Auckland schools.


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Closes Wednesday 27 October 2004