x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Schools urged to adopt anti-bullying policies

Education psychologist says policies dictating how to handle bullying are lacking in the education system.

School policies dictating how to handle bullying are lacking in the education system, experts say.

"What I've seen so far indicates that schools don't have these in place," said Suzanne McLean, an education psychologist based in Dubai. "These should be official policies specific to bullying on the school's website that say, 'this is what we look for and this is how we handle it'."

Educating children about accountability from the grassroots level is key to preventing a playground fight from escalating into a violent attack, said Mrs McLean. "For children in elementary school, it could be as simple as apologising to the other party. Students need to recognise what they did was wrong and how they made the other person feel."

Other methods include tracking the number of incidents and taking disciplinary action when it is needed, said Dr Muhammad Tahir, the head of psychiatry at Health Call Clinic in Dubai. "For example, after being involved in a certain number of major fights, a student can be expelled," he said. "But what is preferable is for the teacher and counsellor to pick up on the friction and resolve it.

"Sometimes parents can get defensive and deny their child's behaviour. These parents also need to be counselled."

Signs to look out for in potential bullying victims include withdrawal, dropping grades and avoiding school, experts said. Those who are physically weak and with low self-confidence are also "easy targets".

"These children should be identified and trained how to protect themselves from bullying," he said. "Teachers should observe kids and monitor their behaviour. Any complaint should be taken seriously and the school should follow through with it."

* Manal Ismail