"I Am Not Scared" Project
Bullying on the School Bus
The event started on the journey to and from school on the school bus. A Year 7 boy was targeted by a group of students from Year 7, 8 & 9. The boy has some learning difficulties and has a pronounced stutter. The bullying took the form of pushing, not allowing the Year 7 student to sit on a seat and name calling, making fun of his stutter. The bullying took place over a period of a week before it came to the notice of school and after a lull started again 2 weeks later. The majority of bullying was perpetrated by a Year 7 girl.
The bullying incidents came to the attention of the school courtesy of two Year 11 girls who brought the distressed Year7 student to the Pastoral Support Worker at the start of morning school.
The student was reassured and witness statements were taken from the Year 11 girls and a number of Year 10 students on the bus. He remained in the Nurture Room as a safe place to compose himself His parents were informed and reassured that school was dealing with the problem, and that they were welcome to come into school at the end of the day to discuss actions, which they did. They were told that their son was happy to stop in school and for us to deal with the situation.
The Anti bullying form kept and recorded by school was completed(copied to student files) and the Head of Year 7 was informed. The Year 7 girl who had started and encouraged others to bully the boy was given a formal warning and her parents were informed. Other students were seen by their respective Year Heads and a formal warning given.
The following week assemblies were given to all students about being a good citizen and not being a bystander if bullying occurred. Year 7 form tutors went through the school’s anti bullying leaflet with their forms during form time.
The student council put Year 11 Bus Buddies on the 3 school buses and they were given the responsibility to intervene and report incidents. After a lull of 2 weeks, the year 7 girl started the bullying of the boy again. The Bus Buddy intervened and immediately brought the Year 7 boy to the Pastoral Support Worker. Again witness statements confirmed that the year 7 girl was again responsible. She was then internally excluded for a day having been told that this would be the result if she continued to bully. Her parents were informed and invited to attend a meeting, which they did.
There are infrequent bullying incidents in school time, but the school had been concerned about the number of incidents occurring on the buses especially involving Lower School students. Despite assemblies delivered by the Anti Bullying Coordinator it did continue. The Emotional Health & Wellbeing sub committee of the Student Council became extremely motivated in action to combat this. They identified that most of the problems came from the new Year 7 students, who encouraged other students to join in. They approached the member of staff responsible for Primary Liaison and asked to accompany her into feeder primaries to discuss expectations and student responsibilities to each other when they came to us.
They redesigned the Year 7 Anti bullying leaflet and made it more user friendly. The post of Bus Buddy became key. Students in these posts were introduced to the school in assemblies given by the Student Council sub group.
During Anti bullying week anti bullying wrist bands were sold and an Anti bullying wall was created for students to sign up to, the Student Council facilitated this. The whole school community was involved in assisting restoration of our ethos
Many students were possibly more affected because they felt it was really wrong to target the boy because of his stutter.
The boy became more confident and was reassured by the presence of the Year 11 Bus Buddy. Bystanders were more likely to intervene and the kudos of the Year 11 Bus Buddies became high, others were now more likely to stop actions which they knew to be bullying.
The Head recognized the achievements of the Bus Buddies with a special Head Teachers award, especially valued by Year11 for their Record Of Achievement leaving document and their own self esteem.
When peer mentor training by Derbyshire’s Health School group was offered the demand to be considered for this training was high.
The bully continued to bully, she was the victim of a bullying incident herself, her mum came into school to report this. She has been responsible for more reported bullying incidents in school than any other student. She has been punished in the eyes of the injured parties by being placed in internal isolation as a result of not abiding by her formal warning.
She was invited to make amends to the Year 7 boy. A meeting was set up for her to acknowledge the harm she had caused and she was asked to try to see how the boy felt and also realize behaviour that she displayed did not make her feel good.
Work with this student concerning social skills and learned behaviours is still ongoing. She spends time with the Pastoral Support Worker engaging in self esteem activities.
The Student Mentors from Y 10 continue to work with specific forms in Years 7 & 8.
Student bullying forms are left for students to fill in and kept in their form bases.
The whole school council continues to promote the ethos of our school that it is down to us all working together to keep this school a safe place for everyone.
Students put themselves in the position of the victim and felt that the bullying event may have been caused by the fact that the boy was ‘different’ and that he may have been perceived to have been vulnerable whilst travelling on the school bus.
Also they felt that to begin with there appeared to be minimal supervision of students on buses.
Groups of students on the bus gave the main perpetrator the courage to pick on the boy. The student would have felt scared, humiliated and embarrassed.
Students felt that having read the information they would have informed their parents and or the Pastoral Support Worker. They also felt that something should have been reported to the Bus driver either by the victim themselves or by other students who had witnessed this on the bus.
Students then stated that they would like the victim to have stood up for themselves more using strategies that would have been covered in safety assemblies/talks at school
The bullying student/s may have been bulled themselves previously and in bullying others this would make them feel stronger and bigger than anyone else.
As a bully they may have been unhappy inside and therefore feel they have to upset someone else. Bullying in front of so many other students would have made them feel superior.
The victim may have been bullied as he was seen as an easy target due to his speech impediment and learning difficulties. The bully would feel superior to him and that bullying him would give her power.
The bully may also have believed that the boy would not understand what was happening and because of his difficulties would not have been able to report it accurately; therefore there was more chance of the bullies getting away with it.
The students when asked to take on the role of the bully felt that they would have had regrets about their actions.
The fact that she/they carried out their bullying in front of so many other students.
They would also have regretted the fact that the boy had to go to the Nurture room and could not be in the main body of the school with other students.
The bully not only made the boys life a misery at the time but it was made worse because others were encouraged to bully.
The bully finally would have ended up with a ‘record’ of bullying and this may have affected his/her chances of a good reference/future employment etc
Students felt that those who were direct witnesses to the bullying would have been well aware of what was going on. They would have felt sympathy for the victim and uncomfortable and sad for him.
Any students on the same bus who were not in the immediate vicinity would have probably heard about it from others and would have found out from others as word would have spread around school about how the incident was being handled.
Other students would have realized why the boy was being picked on because of his learning difficulties and difficulties with speech and language. Students would have perceived the Year 7 girl to be unpleasant and a bully.
The other students felt that they would have intervened and said something to the girl who was bullying. They would also have told a teacher or whoever they could have found to tell on the bus.
They felt that in intervening the boy would have developed more confidence and not have been so scared. This would have been done on instinct.
The students felt that they would have wanted to give advice to the victim by may have been too scared to do this.
As a teacher I would only have been aware that this was happening if I had been informed by:
- The victim
- The other students who had witnessed this
- Any comments made by the bus driver
- The parents of the victim if he had have told them
- ‘Hearsay’ from other students who had been on the bus but who were reluctant to say anything directly.
I would have used the support network in school to enable the victim to have a ‘voice’. Find out which member of staff supported the student in school on a day to day basis in whom he would have full confidence.
Enable the student to give a full account of the details and find out the names of other witnesses who may be able to give an accurate account of what had happened.
Find out from the bus company whether the driver had witnessed anything.
Ask the victims parents to come into school to report their account of what they perceive to have happened and how long prior to this anything else had happened.
I would then have made sure that the Anti Bullying coordinator/head of year/Headteacher was informed about the event and discuss this in terms of outcomes for the bully/bullies.
We would have followed the school anti bullying policy from then on I would have expected to receive full cooperation from the other teacher/s and from the Headteacher.
As Headteacher I would have been informed about this situation by the relevant Director of Learning/pastoral manager or by the peer mentors themselves who had witnessed the incidents on the bus. I would also have expected the anti bullying coordinator to come and discuss this matter with me.
Following receipt of this information I would have also spoken to the victim with his parents and found out the exact details of how the situation first began, whether the student had previously reported any difficulties either in or out of lessons.
I would also have addressed the bully and bystanders about their actions.
The bully would have received a sanction but the rest of the student body would also have been spoken to in relation to this bullying incident and the lessons that had been learned from it.
Bullying is always addressed in our school and the matter would have been brought to the attention of all students.
The bully’s parents would have been brought into school to explain the gravity of the situation and further consequences if the matter was not resolved.
The bully would also have been asked to meet with the victim and his parents so that restorative justice could have been carried out.
The outcome for the victim would have been that he would have felt supported and confident to continue in his education at our school and confident that if another matter did arise it would be dealt with in accordance with school policy.
The outcome for the bully would have been a sanction and an important lesson learned that this type of behaviour was unacceptable at our school. The restorative practice carried out would have enabled the bully to understand the impact of her behaviour on the young boy
Bully’s’ Parents – hadn’t noticed anything unusual as daughter was often late wandering from the bus with her friends. Did notice however that she was concerned about school contacting home and kept asking this when she returned home from school.
Parents of the bully were informed by the Director of Learning that daughter had allegedly been involved in a bullying incident on the school bus and were required to attend a meeting at school to discuss further and to review evidence.
Parents were then given the chance to discuss the matter with staff at school together with their daughter. They also went home to talk it through before attending a further meeting so that the daughter was able to be supported in the restorative justice meeting with the other student and his parents.
Victims’’ parents – had noticed that their son had started to communicate less at home, not wanting to discuss what his day at school had been like and had become withdrawn and lacking in confidence. When the boy asked refused to say that anything was wrong but was clearly upset about something. He had started to make up excuses about why he should not attend school on a number of occasions.
Parents were informed by the relevant Director of Learning at school and by the anti bullying coordinator that their son had been the victim of alleged bullying on the school bus on more than one occasion.
Invited into school to discuss this further at which point the young man described what had been happening for sometime
As parents they were given the opportunity to discuss the situation with their son and to find out what sanction the school would impose on the bully/s.
A separate meeting was then held where the parents were able to support their son during the restorative justice meeting. The son was given the opportunity to describe how the bullying incident had made him feel.
As parents they felt confident that if any further incidents arose that they would be dealt with robustly according to school policies and with consistency.
Once it came to the school’s attention they responded very positivly and appropriately. The school took it seriously and there was a campaign within the school to raise awareness. The family were involved from an early point and have confidence in the school.
The school could have a more proactive approach and establish “buddies” on the buses at the beginning of every year since this issue is likely to occur most years. Raising awareness in the feeder schools and ensuring right from the beginning that there is a zero policy on bullying and how this can be reported/managed ensures that children and their families start with a strong helpful message about their new school.
Counselling did not seem to be offered on this occasion.
If I had been the counsellor and the pupil had brought it to my attention I would have explored this more with him. Reassuring him he was not to blame. My concern would be his vulnerability, and what would be helpful to him. School had informed parents and it was stated that the young person was “Happy to stay in school.” that day. I am sure he benefitted from the chance to talk to them and share what he was thinking and feeling. I would certainly have helped him to talk through the situation with his parents.
For the young woman that was bullying I would have liked to have thought that she could also have been given some help and the opportunity to explore therapeutically the reasons for her actions as well as thinking about alternative ways of communicating.
There is mention in the report about the victim being ‘different’ and how this could be a reason for the bullying. Could differences be an issue for the school to focus on in the future, eg. Through PSHE or other group sessions that could encourage tolerance of difference?
There was a positive response from training offered by Derbyshire Healthy Schools for peer mentor training. I have worked in schools where peer mentoring works well and as a counsellor have been able to support these young people in their role. By bringing their work as mentors to weekly meetings they can discuss ways of communicating as well as identifying young people who maybe struggling.
It is very positive that the students came to the support of the Year 7 student and knew who to approach on the school staff for advice.
A nurture room, or a designated safe place, has its advantages in these situations.
Contact with the parents, both to inform and reassure them that the matter will be dealt with very quickly, is a positive move.
The use of pastoral time to highlight bullying issues and appeal to the wider school population to become involved and stop such anti social behaviour clearly indicates the determination of the school to address the issues.
As exciting, is the involvement of the student council, and the use of ‘bus buddies’. Involving the student representatives and recognising the value of their involvement is a positive move. This is further evidenced by the support of the student council with the anti bullying wall.
The use of restorative justice, mentioned by the headteacher, is a further positive strategy and it is pleasing that this might have been used at the school to assist both parties. The bully, as mentioned by students, may need counselling as well to address her personal issues. This is mentioned by the counsellor.
The Local Authority would endeavour to offer support to individual schools and leadership teams that request advice.
It is good to come across an example of students taking initial responsibility for getting something done. It indicates that the ethos of the school regarding bullying is good and that the older students had the maturity and moral standing to appreciate that what they were witnessing was wrong.
The school has then responded extremely positively. It takes time to investigate and take statements but this was done and then there was a response through assemblies and the creation of Bus Buddies. This is something the school is likely to continue with as many problems occur on school transport. It was particularly impressive that it was recognized as a transition issue and a pro-active response was required in the feeder schools.
The school’s action clearly had a positive impact on the boy who was subjected to the abuse. It will be important for the school to keep an eye on him in the future and look for ways of improving his self-esteem.
The school was also wise to make use of student voice and rumour as students who hear about positive outcomes for victims of bullying are less likely to try it on themselves. Much better to have the issue out in the open and discussed widely.
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I Am Not Scared Project
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