Poor mental health and suicide rates are climbing for young people as a result of bullying! Self-esteem is at an all time low and not enough is being done about it. As a therapist I see so much emotional pain and long term damage as a result of bullying and I also have personal experience of picking up the pieces as a parent.

The term NO means NO is often used when we talk about sexual violence but I don’t hear it widely used when it comes to bullying. How often do you hear the terms “but they were just playing around” or “she will have to toughen up”. I still believe that the culture of bullying in schools asks us to focus on the victim rather than the bully . Questions like;

Maybe he/she needs counselling to talk about their feelings? No amount of counselling will help if the bullying is ongoing!

Lets do another class bullying exercise. Or you could individually tackle the actual person responsible.

Lets call her/his parents and offer some support at home. That’s not going to help because the bullying isn’t happening at home!

Why is the focus not more on the bully? Why don’t we not have a NO means NO policy within schools? Can this statement really only apply to sexual violence?

If a child in school hates having their hair touched and they say “no” but other children consistently touch his hair, this is bullying. You’ve not respected his boundaries. Its a repetitive action which causes someone emotional pain and upset. If someone does not like to have other people tackle him on the playground because he doesn’t like people putting him in that physical position and he says “no”, then why is the general reply “I think he needs to get used to boy behaviours”. Why do we not teach boundaries and respecting diversity within the school environment? This would definitely not be accepted as an adult.

What one person feels ok with, another child might hate! The message should always be that NO MEANS NO! We can’t blur these lines and complicate this simple statement!

Our children have the right to be kept emotionally and physically safe at school. The attention and the emphasis should be on the bully.


If someone who is identified as carrying out bullying behaviours in school then focus on them. Show the survivor that when they speak out, they are heard and action is taken. If a bully is part of a gang or group within school who carry out these behaviours together, then separate the group. Dilute the balance of power. Remove their stage! Bring a counsellor in for the bully. Deal with that first. Do not allow the bullying behaviour to take place or continue by executing a clear zero tolerance policy. Lay out in your policy exactly what bullying behaviours are and step by step how you plan to tackle them. The first point of call would always be to dilute the balance of power and monitor the situation with extra staffing and eyes on the ground. Implement a playground volunteer program and have parent volunteers trained on the playground to be on call if needed. If bullying behaviour is identified then remove the bully from the playground or the space which allows him/her the attention. Get your local police involved if need be. Harassment is a serious issue and young people need to know that they don’t have the right or the power to act in this way. I would never judge a school for taking bullying seriously and involving the police. I would however judge a school as failing if a child was experiencing bullying and they were unable to put an immediate stop to it!

There is never an excuse to have a child in school have to suffer at the hands of another child.

Place the emphasis and the attention where it should be, on the bully!

When my child goes into a school environment and comes home to share that someone is taunting them at school, I want to know that this will never happen again. That’s my child’s basic right.

This does not mean that we don’t work with and help those who are at risk of carrying out bullying behaviours. In fact, its the total opposite! It means that this is where the attention for the support should be. We should be making it clear that it is not tolerated by the swift action we take to disarm the behaviours and the work that we do with the young person to make sense of what they do and why!


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