SSTUWA - State School Teachers' Union of Western Australia

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Bullying Against Teachers has to stop!

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Hardly a day goes by where one or more of the media outlets have a story on a bullying incident by students to students, out of school, in school.
It seems to be getting more common and more violent and that is because, based on statistics, it is.

According to popular website Bully Blocking (www.bullying.com.au) bullying is anything “...psychological, emotional, cyber, social or physical harassment of one student by another at school or within the school community. This includes at school and within its grounds, in transit between school and home, local shopping and sporting centres, at parties or local parks and in cyberspace. The playground is the most common place for bullying to occur.”

Bullying can be overt or covert:

Covert bullying refers to subtle forms of aggression such as spreading rumours, sending hurtful text messages and personal attacks using social networking applications such as Facebook and MySpace.

Covert bullying is likely to become more prevalent among students due to young people's increasing use of information and communications technology to connect with their peers.

Bullying most often brings to mind school bullying between children, but bullying can involve adults, even teachers, as many well know.

One ECU Academic has embarked on a study to actually study Teachers Being Bullied, and has received a substantial grant to get started.

Background on Professor Donna Cross
Professor Donna Cross, a former Perth teacher, is a leader in promoting positive whole schools approaches to child wellbeing and positive social behaviour both nationally and internationally.

She is a Professor of Child and Adolescent Health at the School of Exercise, Biomedicine and Health Science, Edith Cowan University in WA, and Director of the Child Health Promotion Research Centre (CHPRC). Her key interest is youth-based health intervention research. She has conducted primary prevention and school-based intervention research throughout the USA as well as Canada, Russia, Estonia, Japan and Israel, with organisations such as WHO, UNICEF and the American Health Foundation.

We spoke to Professor Cross about how she started on the path of studying bullying against teachers in our schools, and how she decided to use the SSTUWA as a source: “My involvement with your union came about after my meeting with your President, Anne Gisborne. We discussed conversations I had had with many teachers that had been interviewed in previous studies, and that had come forward and said that they themselves had started using the strategies that we were showing them to give to the young people in their schools.

Bullying had been directed at them from their peers or staff in power positions, as well as parents, and the level of aggression was varied and from all levels. They didn’t know how to deal with it and they were saying to us: ‘What about us? We are being bullied.’

So we have been investigating. While recent data suggest bullying is a fairly common experience among Australian youth (with 27% of school students in Australia reporting being bullied every few weeks or more often, and 9% reporting bullying others on a frequent basis), very little is formally known about the prevalence of bullying of teachers by students, parents and colleagues. Given bullying behaviour is linked with an array of social, emotional, psychological, physical and academic harms in young people, it is reasonable to assume it can have serious effects personally and professionally on school staff who are bullied, or who bully others.

A recent cross-sectional survey in Australian schools found that a very high percentage (99.6%) of school staff had been exposed to bullying during their employment (Riley et al., 2009).

According to this data, Western Australia has among the highest rates of school staff bullying, after New South Wales. School staff experiences of bullying may be as a perpetrator or target of bullying by colleagues or students. Teachers may also be subject to bullying by the school principal (Blase & Blase, 2003), and principals themselves may also be the target of upward bullying.

Parents, school support staff, and school executive staff may also be involved in bullying in the school environment.  School staff also report having difficulty defending themselves from attacks to professional standing, because it is more difficult to objectively prove their job performance. As such, it is clear bullying prevention has relevance for the whole-school community.

Interventions into preventing and managing workplace bullying have been the focus of little research. The majority of research relating to workplace bullying interventions has focused on the theoretical classification of intervention strategies, or individual organisations responses to bullying. (Saam, in press, 2009). Moreover, very few studies have examined school staff experiences of bullying.  This proposed study (which we are doing at ECU) would be among the first to develop and test an evidence-based intervention informed by school staff and expert consultation.

I approached your President to be a co-investigator on this proposal looking at the ways teachers are bullied.”

To be part of Professor Cross’ study, or for more information, contact Deb Olds at the union.

The CHPRC develops practical, evidence-based interventions aimed at the promotion of child health, through family, school and community based programs.

For more information visit http://chprc.ecu.edu.au/.

Authorised by Tony Mullen, General Secretary SSTUWA

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