Being the victim of bullying at school can demoralise, demotivate and devastate. Proper systems, facilities and management are necessary to save careers. I’m old fashioned I don't like it very much when my wife arrives home from school (not her current school) and tells me that when she asked a Grade 7 student for his homework he told her: “Go f*** yourself!”.
And then at 11pm that night when I asked her why she was still typing like crazy, she told me that the student was in detention and she had to prepare extra material for him to work on while he was in detention.
What! She faces abuse and obscene language – and now she has to do double work so he can be in detention? By now most classroom teachers are smiling and saying to themselves “that happens to me every bloody week!”. Obviously it doesn't concern the Minister for Education or the Director General of Education or they'd be doing more than simply saying how it's the parents’ fault.
Can you think of another job where you face the risk of being bitten, spat on, verbally abused, sworn at, threatened, physically attacked with furniture or have a knife pulled on you while you try to go about your normal work?
So far this year we have had a knife held at the throat of a teacher at Comet Bay, teachers held hostage by a student with a knife at Safety Bay, a teacher attacked with a chair near Armadale, a knife attack near Australind and at Aquinas ... and they are just the incidents that have been reported in newspapers. Dozens of other similar incidents are “hushed up” or “kept in house”.
But in many cases it’s the day-after-day verbal abuse and disrespect that finally wears a teacher down and sends them into early retirement – or another career.
Now, as pressure increases in schools as a direct result on the teacher shortage and increased workload, there has been an increase in the number of allegations of bullying that do not involve students. Complaints are starting to trickle in from teachers facing abusive and threatening language from parents, from staff about the attitude of heads of learning areas – and from heads of learning areas about staff. HOLAs have raised matters involving principals and principals about parents and, under pressure, teachers about teachers.
“If my child doesn’t get this or that, I’m going to see the principal about you!”
The bottom line is this: You don’t have to tolerate it. There has been a significant rise in reports of bullying in Australian workplaces in recent years. This may be due to an increase in bullying behaviours or an increase in awareness and willingness to attempt to do something about it, but regardless it is clearly an unpleasant fact of life for many workers.
A number of landmark cases where victims of bullying have successfully pursued legal action have also brought attention to this ugly, destructive and often hidden behaviour.
Bullying at work puts the victim’s health, safety and welfare at risk as well as hampering productivity by creating dysfunction within workplaces. Bullying leads to stress and then to illness and behavioural problems if prolonged. A very high proportion of people subjected to bullying change their job as a result.
What can you do about it?