by Latoya Burnham
One secondary school principal says that bullying is not as widespread as is being portrayed in the media.
In fact, says head of Garrison Secondary Matthew Farley, issues of illegal drugs, violence and poor attitudes to education are far bigger challenges in schools than bullying.
Farley made his comments while speaking during a panel discussion last night on the topic, Bullying! Is it being taken seriously as it should?
He provided a few cases from his school including a 2007 situation where a first form male reported being asked repeatedly for money by a group of boys, with threats if he did not comply, adding that that student brought to school a knife for “his own protection”. He also cited another case in which a girl reported being bullied by a boy for money, with allegations of a knife being used in the process.
There was also a case of a girl being threatened that another would “bust ya head before I lef de GSS”, as an extension to cases of bullying involving the students, and where the police had to be called in.
“I am not denying that bullying is a problem in our schools but I think … that modern media has exposed it more than it was exposed before. So every now and then you see a story about bullying and you get the impression that is all that happens in schools. Personally if I had to list the top five problems that I had to deal with in this school. The top four would not include bullying. The top five, bullying would be number five.
“I have a greater concern about the use and abuse of illegal drugs, violence and disruptive behaviour at the classroom level that stop teachers from teaching, poor attitude toward the massive investment that we put in education each year – $500 million and children come to school and don’t give two straws about learning. Bullying would be number five on my list,” said the outspoken principal.
However, Farley noted that under his watch bullying had always been kept in check because once he found the perpetrators it was acted upon, and swiftly.
“A strong message is sent that we have zero tolerance for that type of behaviour and as I said, when you are 16 you are out of here and if you are not 16, depending on the extent of the circumstances, you either go to Edna Nicholls, you get your tail cut or we recommend counselling where that is necessary,” he said.
Nevertheless, the principal maintained that while bullying had surfaced as a challenge in recent times, it was not widespread.
“I want to say though… research by Supreme Counselling and Shawn Clarke has suggested that it is not as bad as it is felt to be. I think everybody now treats every act that happens in school as an act of bullying. That is not the case. There are some incidents of conflict that has nothing to do with bullying and as principals and teachers and guidance counsellors we have to make that distinction,” he stated.
There were some incidents that began in the community, he argued and spilled over into the schools.
“I also want to say that bullying is as old as schools themselves. Bullying has always been a part of the culture of schools… We must not encourage it but it is part of the challenge we face with not just schools locally, but schools around the world.”