Bullying - A Biblical Perspective
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF A 16 YEAR OLD, Grade 11 pupil, has highlighted the problem of bullying and violence in schools.
High School student, Shane McCarroll, died tragically in hospital after a fight at a friend’s 18th birthday party in Amanzintoti. Shane’s jaw was broken in two places and his right cheek bone was fractured. An artery in his neck ruptured, and a clot formed starving his brain of oxygen. He suffered a major stroke and was declared brain dead. According to a report in the Sunday Times (23/07/06), some of the youngsters had drunk alcohol before arriving at the party.
In Randburg, a group of teenagers tortured a mouse with burning cigarettes, doused it with a flammable aerosol spray and set it alight. Giggling hysterically, they filmed the death throws of the mouse on a cell phone camera. Now they face criminal charges and up to 4 months imprisonment, or a fine of R20,000 if convicted. The SPCA reports that incidents of children treating animals with alarming cruelty are on the increase.
In Kwa-Zulu Natal, two teenage girls, aged 13 and 16, were arrested in Cato Manor on charges of assault. They had attacked a Grade 10 pupil with a school belt, slapped and kicked her and allegedly tried to kill her. The victim later attempted suicide by slashing her wrists.
In Rustenburg, a 17 year old boy ended up in ICU with a fractured skull after being beaten up in the school toilets.
Last year, Chadah Rowley, a 15 year old pupil at Bosmansdam High School in Bothasig died after a fight in which he was savagely beaten. Days before his death he had told his mother: “I am scared mom, you don’t know how bad it is at school.” Members of a gang had told him that they were going to kill him.
According to a study published by the Free State University, more than 32% of learners said that another pupil had hit them in the past. Most people said they were targeted by bullies in buses or taxis on the way to school, or in toilets and showers at school. Others were bullied by teachers. According to the study, 50% of teachers admitted to physically bullying their students. 6% of teachers confessed that they were guilty of acts of “sexual bullying” at least once a month. Only 5% of teachers and 16% of pupils interviewed at secondary schools believed that bullying was “not a problem”.
Educationists are reporting that violence amongst school children is increasing. Many teachers are complaining about the violent character and destructive habits of so many of the children they are assigned to work with. As one put it: “They come saturated with the popular culture, foul-mouthed language, resentful attitudes toward anyone in authority and arrogant disdain for learning. Their parents give them no support…”
As Norman Cona, the headmaster of Thembalethu High School in George said: “Not a day goes by when a fight doesn’t break out. Children no longer respect their parents, teachers, one another or even animals.”
Reports have defined bullying as: “Repeated and systematic harassment and attacks on others. Bullying can be perpetrated by individuals or groups… and can include: physical violence and attacks, verbal taunts, name calling and put downs, threats and intimidation, extortion or stealing money and possessions, and exclusion from the peer group.”
Studies show that while boys are more likely to be the perpetrators of direct physical attacks, girls are more likely to use: “indirect, subtle, social means to harass other girls…social exclusion, manipulation of friendship relationships, spreading rumours, etc.”
THE MEDIA PLAYS A KEY ROLE
Dr. Harriet Klopper, a criminologist in Pretoria, has concluded that the media is playing a key role: “It is estimated that children see more than 8,000 murders and 100,000 violent acts on TV before they reach high school.” Up to 80% of computer games aimed at youngsters between the ages of 8 and 14 realistically portray blood, beheadings, mutilation and death in graphic colour, with all of the associated sound effects. “And heroes who die in these games come to life again, which teaches children that violence has no consequences.”
Do you approve of adultery and fornication? Would you enjoy watching criminals beat their victims senseless? Could you regard graphic violence or brutal murders entertaining? Would you want your children to learn from immoral or occultic teachers?
Of course not! We would be indignant at any such suggestion.
Yet, how often do we spend time unthinkingly watching such evils on TV? And how often do our children sit in front of the TV and watch such vile and violent programmes? Have you noticed how many of the children’s cartoons depict graphic violence, immorality and occultism?
Which of us would allow a stranger to come into our home and rearrange the furniture? Yet, daily we allow strangers on the television, or through magazines and music, to reorganise our thoughts. Strangers have become the greatest influence on the mental and emotional development of our children – through TV And superficial, sensational and immoral material predominates in the modern entertainment industry. It is producing an increasingly selfish, superficial, mindless and immoral society. All of this is most valid and needs to be faced up to and dealt with, along with the violent videos, computer games and angry, rebellious, aggressive rap, rock, and hip hop ‘music’. One also needs to look at the role of the state schools themselves.
“A tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). By the time the average child completes high school, they will have spent 15,000 hours in school, watched between 15,000 to 30,000 hours of television and listened to over 10,000 hours of music.
The influence of parents and churches in the upbringing of most children today is declining at an alarming rate. The disintegration of many families, absentee parents and a general absence of discipline, have created a vacuum. Violent and immoral films and videos, throbbing pulsating noise masquerading as ‘music’ and pornographic magazines, websites and SMS sites are filling the void in the aimless and meaningless lives of all too many young people.
What we see influences what we think and what we think influences what we become and what we do. Ideas have consequences. Actions flow from thought patterns. What form of education is molding your child’s thought patterns? What entertainment and news media is filling their minds? “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15–16
The selfishness and short sightedness of modern society is seen in litter strewn, graffiti-vandalised communities. The filth, pollution and destruction of the environment in which our children play and grow up is also reflected in the self-mutilation and body-piercing of a growing number of confused young people. Pierced noses and eye brows, tongue studs and belly rings, along with acid rock and rap should be a wake up call to any parent. But, incredibly, all too many parents seem oblivious to the sullen, self-destructive, rebellious attitudes that go along with this kind of body-mutilating, mind-rotting and soul-destroying sub-culture.
BRING GOD BACK INTO SCHOOLS
In the face of these threats to our young people, how have the schools responded? Have they taken the opportunity to shape minds, morals and characters to love their neighbour as themselves, doing unto others as they would want to be done unto? Are our schools teaching respect for God, respect for parents, respect for people and property? Or have our schools been pouring fuel on the fire by teaching that man is a product of evolutionary chance? By replacing Bible education with sex education, removing prayer and tolerating pornography? Teaching that violence is an acceptable solution to the problem of an ‘unwanted pregnancy’ by killing the pre-born baby through abortion?
By promoting situation ethics, values clarification, alternative lifestyles, self-actualization and sexual experimentation? Effectively - to use and abuse others for our own convenience?
In a sense, the violence confronting us in our schools today is an inevitable result of rejecting the truth of Creation, absolute standards of right and wrong, the Ten Commandments, the teachings and golden rule of Christ, and the meaning, purpose and ethical foundations that comes from Christian education.
Evolution, with its “from goo to the zoo to you”, “from mud to monkeys to man”, “a whole of time and a whole lot of nothing made everything” and the science fiction fairy-tale with its “survival of the fittest” breeds bullies. Educationalists today are saying “At school kids should be taught exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, how to treat others with respect and how to insist on their rights without infringing on the rights of others. All schools should have psychologists to help…kids who have become involved in crime or violence often need intensive, long term therapy…emotional intelligence tests…” They are deluding themselves if they think that this can possibly work. It is secular Humanist education with its “you come from nothing, you are going nowhere, life is meaningless. There are no moral absolutes”, philosophy, cannot possibly even understand the problem of bullying, let alone deal with it effectively. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8
ARE YOU RAISING A VICTIM?
Dr. Olweus (in ‘Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do’ Oxford, 1993) describes the typical victim as “children who become repeated victims of aggression and bullying tend to be quiet and shy in temperament, and tend not to retaliate or make any assertive responses to the initial aggression, which is then repeated by the bully. Children who become victims typically lack friends and social support at school, and they are often not confident in their physical abilities and strength…are very unhappy children who suffer from fear, anxiety and low self esteem as a result of the bullying…some victims of bullying are so distressed that they commit, or attempt to commit, suicide.” Dr. Olweus also reported that “most students who are bullied either do not report the bullying to adults or they wait a very long time before doing so. The reasons include feelings of shame, fear of retaliation for reporting, and fear that the adults cannot, or will not, protect the victim in the settings where the bullying usually takes place: the playground, the hallway of the school, or on the way to and from school.”
ARE YOU RAISING A BULLY?
Studies have also confirmed that “bullies tend to become aggressive adults who stand a much higher chance than average of obtaining multiple criminal convictions.”
ARE YOU RAISING A BYSTANDER?
Another important, but often over looked aspect of bullying, are those bystanders who are neither the perpetrators nor the victims, but who “follow a bully’s lead and help to harass or victimize a particular child in their class or school…the bullying may cause anxiety or fear in bystanders. The learning environment is poisoned by bullying…”
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
- Look for signs such as: fear of going to school, lack of friends, missing belongings, torn clothing and increasing fearfulness and anxiety.
- Ask your child directly if he or she has been a victim of bullying.
- Work with the school to ensure that they are providing good supervision for the children, particularly in the playground, and providing effective consequences to bullies.
- If the bullying is happening on the way to and from school, arrange for your child to get to school by alternative transport or with older, supportive children who can protect them.
- Help develop your child’s social and defensive skills.
- Work with the Parent Teachers’ Association to ensure that the school implements a comprehensive anti-bullying programme and restores discipline at all levels.
- This must include restoring the ethical and spiritual foundations to education, bringing back Bible Education and prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing at school assemblies.
- Supporting and developing the Scripture Union or Students Christian Fellowship group at the schools and bringing in Christian guest speakers to deal with the spiritual and moral character development of students.
- Recognise the danger of violent video games and aggressive, angry rock, hip hop and rap ‘music’ in providing fuel for the fire of aggressive bullying behaviour.
- If you become aware of incidents of bullying behaviour intervene immediately.
- Pray regularly with your children.
- Teach your children God’s commandments and the Scriptures.