Consistent with its policy that schools must be safe and secure and education should advance human rights principles by promoting inclusiveness, EI has joined major anti-bullying campaigners in the US to create awareness in schools and communities about bullying and harassment prevention.
EI invites education organisations and schools to join the Stand 4 Change Day against bullying on 4 May. On that day, all school communities around the world will stand together for five minutes around noon (local time), to commit to create a safe learning environment for all students and education personnel.
“As teachers, it’s our professional duty to speak out against all kind of bullying behaviour, whether physical, verbal or indirect; whether in the community, the classroom, on computer screens or mobile phones, particularly when different studies show that bullying is on the rise, undermining efforts to enhance quality education”, said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, when endorsing the Stand4Change appeal.
Deploring that, according to different studies, bullying and cyber-bullying behaviours are on the rise, he added: “At a time when class compositions are so diverse and complex, and education budgets suffer dramatic cuts, education unions keep on working to implement violence prevention programs in many countries.”
EI member organisations are educating staff and students about how a positive space is a place where human rights are respected: “safe school,” “anti-bullying,” “safe space,” “hate-free,” “tolerance,” “respect differences.” “No Name Calling Day,” “Pink Day” “LGBT History Month” are some of the concrete actions taken by education unions.
In 2004, EI adopted a Declaration on Professional Ethics stating that “education personnel shall safeguard and promote the interests and well-being of students and make every effort to protect students from bullying and from physical or psychological abuse.”
It also highlights that education unions “safeguard and promote the interests and well-being of colleagues and protect them from bullying and from physical, psychological or sexual abuse.”
The EI European Region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education, has developed an Action Plan on Preventing and Tackling Violence in Schools to include the aspect of cyber-harassment.
The education sector indeed appears to be amongst those where the risk of experiencing some forms of violence, bullying or harassment at work is the greatest.
A survey of national teacher unions in the EU/EFTA countries shows that a majority are working to prevent cyber-harassment in schools to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for teachers and school staff. The survey results as well as a poster and practical guidelines for teachers on how to prevent cyber-harassment in education can be found at www.edu-osh.eu.
In North America, the Canadian Teacher Federation (CTF) issued Cybertips for Teachers, and, on 14 May, CTF representatives will be making a presentation on Parliament Hill to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights and testify on cyberbullying in this country.
In the US, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Union have both developed anti-bullying toolkits for their members and parents, available on www.aft.org/bullying and www.nea.org.
In the framework of the Stand 4 Change coalition, both unions have co-sponsored a screening of the movie “Bully” in Washington. The documentary follows five young victims of abuse by other students, with two of the victims dying by suicide. It is a useful awareness raising tool.
To know more about the movie, go to the Bully Project website [http://thebullyproject.com], or to dedicated webpages on www.aft.org [http://www.aft.org/newspubs/news/2012/041112bully.cfm] and www.nea.org [http://www.nea.org/home/NEABullyFreeSchools.html].