The unchecked menace of bullying

Bullying in schools has reared its ugly head again. Recently, a Std V student of a prominent school in Kolkata was so badly harassed by her seniors for money, beaten and locked up in the toilet for hours that she went into a stupor. A week later, when her parents took her to a psychiatrist, she was allegedly given an overdose of medicines, following which she died.

Though a number of parents then stormed the school, vandalised its property and forced the principal to resign, the fact remains that a young girl had to undergo such trauma and nothing could be done to save her in time.

Delhi is not unfamiliar with such cases either. Last year, a Std X student of a school in central Delhi stabbed his classmate with a paper-cutter for posting an ‘offensive’ picture of him on FB. In May 2011, a student of a south Delhi school slashed his own face after facing constant harassment for not ‘submitting’ his lunch to his seniors; a 15-year-old was stabbed for not showing his answer sheet during exam the same year, and two boys of a Gurgaon school, in fact, killed their senior after being bullied for several years, in 2007.

School principals plead helplessness to curbing this menace called ‘bullying.’ Ashok Pandey, principal, Ahlcon International, says, “There is a fine line of distinction between ‘ragging’ as we see it in colleges and ‘bullying’ in schools. Ragging is inspired by the practice of ‘hazing’ in US military schools which is thought to ‘build character’ and familiarise a fresher with the ‘pecking order’ of the institution. It generally ends after the first few weeks.”

“Bullying, instead, is done by an individual or group that thinks it is ‘stronger’ or ‘better placed’ to dominate other students. It could take place at any time of the year and anywhere. College students can still be threatened with the fear of law but school students, being minors, simply have to be counselled and monitored all the time.
Ultimately the responsibility lies with schools to prevent such incidents.”

Ameeta Wattal, principal, Springdales, Pusa Road adds to that, “Bullying is also not limited to traditional methods like taunting and snatching pencil and lunch boxes anymore. Nasty pictures and comments are uploaded on social networking sites which offer the luxury of anonymity. Of late, students are not just relying on packs of goons to settle scores but also bring over firearms to settle scores, if they have access to them at home.”

In fact, the source of the problem, many a times, is found to be at home. Dr Ekta Soni, clinical psychologist, Indraprastha Apollo hospital, says, “It has been observed that children who act as bullies are often imitating someone at home. They come to believe that controlling others is equal to being brave and successful. Unfortunately, our popular culture, which is full of violence these days, only encourages students in the wrong direction.”

Nevertheless, however menacing school bullying may be, school administrations and parents have to take steps to curb such behaviour. Anti-ragging activist Ajay Govind says, “Parents have to teach their wards to respect ‘diversity.’ Just because a student is ‘less good looking,’ ‘poor’ or ‘unsmart,’ does not mean they start bullying them.”

“School councils must be set up to watch out for such behaviour and announcements must be made in this regard at assemblies regularly. Such tendencies must be nipped at the school stage itself. When they reach college, it may be too late already.”

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