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International schools fight bullying (2)

By Hannah Leung (Global Times)

11:02, April 22, 2013

Students gather on the field of the Canadian International School on April 2 dressed in pink to commemorate Pink Shirt Day. Pink is the international anti-bullying color. (Photo: Li Hao/GT)


Wilson worked as a guidance counselor for a year in Canada before starting at the Canadian International School in Beijing. One marked difference, Wilson said, is that in smaller cities and towns in Canada, the student body tends to live close together. But at most international schools in Beijing, students' homes sprawl all over the city. This means that to keep in touch when they go home, they head online, Wilson said.

Though bullying may have once happened largely in the classroom and the playground, the Internet is a free-for-all space, without restrictions or supervision from parents, principles and teachers.

Cyberbullying, as the Western Academy of Beijing explains, takes place in the digital sphere and involves both Internet and cell phone communication. Examples of cyberbullying include circulating false rumors about someone on social networking sites, sending threatening or provocative e-mails and texts and publishing mean comments about another person online.

Though the old adage says, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me," online bullying now poses a bigger threat than physical bullying. Physical bullying can be seen, but something that happens virtually can go unrecognized. China particularly has had a short but intense history with youth taking issues to the Internet.

"I think a lot of the more notable cyberbullying among youth in China revolves around using the Internet to broadcast or otherwise maximize the humiliation of a target. Several years ago, there was a string of reports in the media of youths stripping targets naked or viciously beating them up, filming it, and then posting the videos or images online," wrote Kai Pan, a moderator on the popular online forum ChinaSmack, in an e-mail to Metropolitan.

This dangerous type of bullying can be done anonymously. Cyberbullying can find many mediums such as e-mail, text messaging and social networking forums such as Facebook and Sina Weibo that make it easy for a bullies to post incriminating pictures or texts without identifying themselves.

Anti-bullying campaigns

Pink Shirt Day, or Anti-Bullying Day, originated in Canada in 2009 and has since become an international event. The day - commemorated by participants wearing pink, the international anti-bullying color - is meant to show support for students, and involves activities all revolving around anti-bullying.

The Canadian International School of Beijing held its own Pink Shirt Day this month. In order to show a united front for positive relationships, the school dressed in pink and had pink T-shirts for sale. The day culminated in an event which had students standing in the field, collectively creating a heart.

Ironically, on the playground that day, kids could be heard making jests at each other while walking onto the field. Three young girls, for instance, twirled around in similar pink tutus. Two playfully jested the one girl whose dress was a bit longer.

"Leading up that day, we have talent shows, diversity culture shows and plays. … We teach them about conflict resolution. The older students generally help the younger students," said Wilson.

But can bullying really be overcome through these kinds of exercises?

For Celita, who stayed around after the heart-shape dismantled and kids shuffled back to class, the bullying stopped as she assimilated. Her English is now perfect. Upbeat and positive, her rise against bullying may be more a testament to her personality than any policy.

Parental prevention

In the end, especially for middle school-aged students, parents often need to be the ones intervening. If it's possible, parents should let kids know they can stand up for themselves, and that what the bully is doing is wrong.

Michelle Chow-Liu, the high school counselor at the Western Academy of Beijing, said that the school has preventative programming for bullying.

She suggests that parents of bullied kids listen and be supportive, getting the facts of what happened and all the parties involved.

Some telltale signs that a child is being bullied include excessive time spent alone, change of appetite, different signs of stress, lack of sleep or always being tired.

One way for children to feel less isolated is to make more friends. This can be done by getting involved in clubs, sports or drama. It's important to meet different groups of people. Having groups of friends builds a sense of community, and fostering cross-cultural understanding leads to a better school experience.

"If they are really involved in school, they have a higher tendency to have happier school lives. Parents need to take time to communicate, even if they're in another city or country, checking up on Skype, talking to their kids," said Wilson.

Bullying on a local level

One 17-year-old student, who wishes to remain anonymous, at the prestigious Beijing No.8 High School in the Xicheng District, said that in her experience, younger age groups often deal more directly to issues of bullying. They're not yet under the intense pressure of exams she is now experiencing. For her peer group, bullying occurs less on the actual school grounds.

Local schools place a great deal of emphasis on academic performance, with the results from the nationwide examination, the gaokao, often on public display.

"I think the younger students have a more open environment, and they express their emotions more. It's rare at our school for anyone to really physically bully, but verbal forms of bullying, like rumors and online bullying, are common," she said.

The high school senior said that she thinks international schools in Beijing foster more tolerance.

"My school is really famous for its academics. So often, our (academic standing) and how our teacher views us determines what kind of cliques we are in," she said. "Sometimes it can be very isolating."

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:WangLili、Gao Yinan)

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Leave your comment2 comments

  1. Name

PD User at 2013-04-25122.55.16.*
This is a good move because all schools are likely to have some problem with bullying at one time or another. It is important that your child’s school takes steps to reduce and prevent bullying. Parents and families have an important part to play in helping schools deal with bullying. Parents can protect and support their children through such a difficult situation by recognizing the signs of bullying or victimization as soon as possible.
Safety for our children at 2013-04-24120.28.233.*
It"s good to know that schools are giving immediate attention to issues on bullying. As parents, we also have roles in preventing our child to be a victim of bullying, or worse, the bullies themselves. And as a parent the most important thing is my child"s safety.

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