STAND: Xavier High’s Ivy O’Halloran, Kylan Duffy, Jazmynne Lewis, Ben Huckel, Olivia Allwood and Vineeth Prasanna.
LAST Friday, schools and students across the Border and around the country came together to take a stand against bullying.
The National Day Against Bullying and Violence was hoped to have brought attention to the issue – but Xavier High School assistant principal Lorraine Willis believes much more needs to be done.
The nature of the issue has changed so much, and she believes it is now the students who need to lead the way in anti-bullying education.
“Days like Friday are absolutely vital, but it also needs to be a starting point to continue those conversations,” Mrs Willis said.
“All too often there’s a single focus on an issue, then it’s forgotten.”
Students at Xavier High School have been involved in writing the school’s anti-bullying policies – but they’re far from naive about the complex nature of the issue.
In tackling the issue, they say it’s often not as simple as simply saying ‘Bullying – No Way’.
“It’s better that we’re able to write those policies, we can relate to the bullying aspects of it more,” year eight student Ben Huckel said.
“It’s changed a lot – you hear about it a lot, you’re not always a part of it but you see it on social media, chatting with friends.
“You don’t have to be the bully or the victim, you can be the bystander.
“Sometimes trying to stop it or going to teachers is hard as well – you might get bagged out if they find out who’s gone to teachers.
“It’s a bit off-putting, some of the kids don’t want to do that and let it slide, which shouldn’t be happening.”
Cyber-bullying has been a hot-button issue in recent years, and Mrs Willis said it wasn’t getting any easier for teachers to tackle.
She said it would be naive not to listen to young people about the challenges presented by social media, to not help them understand the full consequences of certain behaviours online.
“What our kids deal with today is the inability to escape – you can’t close the door on it,” Mrs Willis said.
“We try really hard to educate students, engage with expert providers, yet as soon as you send them home you can’t protect them – it’s really tough to know that’s the world they’re living in.
“I’d like to think the message is getting through, but I think the biggest mistake we can make is to put a message on the oval and think it’s going to change things.”
Change would have to be driven by the students Mrs Willis and her colleagues in every school seek to protect.
“It’s the students’ voices that need to be heard, they need to tell us what our approach looks like,” she said.
“Part of that is realising what it means to be bullied – I’m hoping (Friday) will kick-start that.
“We’re being naive if we don’t listen to them.”