Thursday, March 4, 2010

K-Rudd: it's ok for parents to get involved

and so we come to K-Rudd's Statement Of The Week: let parents handle school bullying by contacting the bully's parents if the school won't handle it themselves.

Kevin Rudd slammed for saying it is 'the right thing' for parents of bullied child to contact parent of bully

by Phillip Hudson

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd is at the centre of a fierce debate over whether parents of bullying victims should confront the mums and dads of their child's tormentor.

Experts yesterday slammed as simplistic Mr Rudd's suggestion that parents take direct action if a school could not deal with the bullying and warned it could lead to vigilantism.
Mr Rudd said yesterday he believes it is "exactly the right thing" for the parent of a bullied child to contact the parent of the bully.

"I would not object to any parent doing that one bit. These things have to be sorted out," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Rudd said contact should be by telephone and in a calm and respectful way. He urged parents to first seek to talk to their child's teacher or the school principal.

But teen psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a nationally renowned bullying expert who is a founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying, described Mr Rudd's comments as "the worst piece of advice".

Rather than go to other parents directly, Dr Carr-Gregg said people concerned that a school was not properly protecting their children should "kick it up the chain" and go to the Education Department.

Dr Carr-Gregg said the Mr Rudd should stick to politics and not try to be a psychologist.
"It really is disappointing that the Prime Minister would give out simplistic bits of advice without consulting experts," he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said the strategy of contacting a bully's parents directly could lead to the problem escalating.

"The message he sends out could cause even further problems to young people who are victims of bullying," Dr Carr-Gregg said.

"If you go to the parents of the bully, they will be defensive and the problem will escalate. You make it even more difficult for your child when they go to the school the next day," he said.

Psychologist and bullying researcher Dr Helen McGrath, who has been involved in the formation of the National Safe Schools Framework, described Mr Rudd's advice as well-intentioned but wrong.

"It usually isn't a good idea to contact the other child's parents because, although sometimes there might be some co-operation, things often become hostile and can get out of hand and make the situation even worse," she said.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said he agreed with most of Mr Rudd's comments but urged parents to be sure they had the full story before contacting another student's family.

Mr Hart said some children claimed to be victims of bullying to get out of school, or claimed to be the victim when they were the bully.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Margaret Black said she disagreed with Mr Rudd's approach because she was concerned how some parents would deal with it.

"Probably 90 per cent of the time calling the parent would work, but I would be concerned about the other 10 per cent," she said.

Queensland Secondary Principals Association president Norm Fuller said he understood what Mr Rudd was saying, but he also held concerns some parents may react violently to the intensely emotional issue.

"I would not support anything that is vigilante or a violent approach upon the other family," he said.

The Queensland-raised PM said when he was at school he found seeing bullying "really uncomfortable". But the problem was far worse today, because "it follows them home through cyber bullying", he said.

"It's 24-hours-a-day bullying, and that's what, I think, is the new cancer out there facing the young people of Australia," he said.

He warned parents of bullies not to condone their children's actions: "Any parent out there who faintly gives a nod and a wink to one of their kids, saying it's OK to use physical violence or threats against another kid, I'd just say to those parents: don't. Just don't."
He said it would be ideal to solve the problem at school: "If it doesn't work there, then parents have to, you know, exercise their responsibilities as the carer of their kids ... that means if things are going wrong, things are going bad, and your kid is terrified about going to school, that is unacceptable.

"And you've got to do something about it. If it comes to it and you've got to actually pick up the phone and talk to the parent of another kid, I would say there's nothing wrong with that at all," he said.

But the Victorian Education Department's policy on bullying advises parents of victims not to confront bullies or their families, saying it usually doesn't work and makes the situation much worse.

The Government has given child safety charity the Alannah and Madeline Foundation $3 million to run an anti-bullying trial, including in 48 schools in Victoria. Mr Rudd said he hoped it would be extended to every school.

"We should have a national policy of zero tolerance towards any form of bullying towards a kid," he said.

Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike's spokesman said: "Victorian schools have a strong set of anti-bullying guidelines and we encourage parents to discuss any concerns with the principal."

what do you think? are you a victim of bullying whose parents took matters into their own hands? if so, did the bullying stop or get worse? are you a teacher who knows of parents doing this? are you a parent who got sick of their child coming home miserable and decided to do something about it?

tell us what you think.

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