From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

Later this month is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. At Trinity, I am pleased to say, every day is a day of action against bullying and violence. As an institution we reject both explicitly and implicitly that there is ever an excuse for bullying or the use of violence as a means of resolving conflict. The reason for the School’s position stems from the fundamental respect that we have for human beings who are, each and every one, created in the image of God, a point Mrs Leanne Heanly, the Housemaster-Middle School of Weeks House, made in Assembly this week. A precis of her remarks follows.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (an organisation set up to protect the basic Human rights of all people in Australia) defines bullying as repeatedly and intentionally using words or actions against a person or group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.

Bullying occurs when there is an imbalance of power and is usually perpetrated by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else feel less powerful.

Sometimes children and young people argue with each other or make bad choices in their behaviour, but this is not bullying. Bullying is not an argument between two people or a one-off nasty comment.

Mrs Heanly explained that the first step in the prevention of bullying is talking about it and this in turn gives less power to those who are trying to silence their victims through words, intimidation, or physical violence.

Recently we have talked a lot about culture, values, and traditions at Trinity. Over the past few weeks Mr Allen and Mr Galluzzo have spoken to you about tone, manners, respect and tradition and the privilege of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. These ideas have been reinforced in our Life Skills sessions, and last week, Mr Gray gave you a wonderful insight into life at Trinity and what it means to be a Trinitarian through his personal experience. The example of the great Trinitarians he spoke of are powerful. They help shape our understanding of the character and qualities that form the Trinity student – respect, manners, kindness, pride in your appearance and your School, humility, integrity, and loyalty. These are positive traits that unite us as a community and bring life and harmony. They are qualities we value and want to safeguard.

In contrast, bullying is negative, creates division and is not life giving. It creates a culture of fear and intimidation and destroys relationships and self-worth. Bullying is not something we value and, as a community we must speak up, respond and support, and take action against bullying.

So, what is bullying?

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).

And what can we do about it?

As parents, teachers and carers we can continue to speak with young people about why bullying and violence are unacceptable, and continue to teach our sons and daughters that, regardless of personal feelings, every person is entitled to have their humanity respected. This is fundamental to any conversation around bullying and violence. At Trinity, this is again a reflection of the School’s desire for its boys to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and Man.

Are there any practical strategies if you feel you are being bullied or harassed?

1. Tell the person to stop. This gives a clear indication that you do not want the behaviour to continue, that you don’t see it as a joke or harmless.

2. State clearly that if the behaviour is repeated, you will inform an adult. This takes the power away from the person who is engaging in the bullying or threatening behaviour.

3. If they do not stop, avoid a confrontation, and inform an adult. This is not dobbing. You have told the person what you are going to do if the behaviour continues, so do it.

We cannot opt out of our collective responsibility. We must work together to stamp out aggressive and anti-social behaviour and empower our boys and young men (girls and young women too) to stand up against bullying and violence in all its forms.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

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