A crackdown on cyber bullies is to form the focus of Liverpool’s new anti-bullying strategy for schools.
The new document – Challenging Bullying is Everyone’s Business – has been developed by the city council in partnership with schools and will run from 2013-1016.
It is being backed by hate crime campaigner Peter Tatchell, and was launched on Thursday 3 October at the Town Hall by Mayor Joe Anderson.
Peter Tatchell said: “The bullying that takes place in many school classrooms and playgrounds would be a serious criminal offence if it was happening outside the school environment.
“If unchallenged, bigoted, ill-informed attitudes fester; often being the gateway to bullying and other hate crimes. We have a responsibility to protect young people against discrimination, harassment, threats and violence.”
The launch follows the success of the previous strategy which was launched in 2006. There has been a 12 percent drop in the number of pupils reporting bullying in the city’s annual survey. The fall – from 30 percent to 18 percent – represents almost 9,500 fewer children being victimised in 2012 compared to 2006.
However, more pupils have been reporting cyber bullying – with 11 percent being abused online in 2012 (up two percent on 2011) and 12 percent being bullied via mobile phone (up three percent).
In order to tackle this, schools will be able to bid for grants for projects which highlight the issue of cyber bullying.
Councillor Jane Corbett, Cabinet member for education, said: “We know that bullying can lead to children missing school, failing exams, dropping out of sport, staying away from extra-curricular activities and limiting their life choices.
“Young people are communicating in so many different ways now that bullying is no longer just taking place on the school yard, but is also happening at home anonymously through computers or on mobile phones.
“It is absolutely vital we provide the right level of support and assistance to our young people who suffer bullying, so they know where to turn for help.”
At the launch, pupils from Hope School in Woolton talked about their work with the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme, run by the charity ‘The Diana Award’ set up in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. A video about their work can be viewed here
Also present were children from Sandfield Park Special School in West Derby, who have made a DVD about the issue.
Successful initiatives supported by the city council over the last few years include:
• The free phone confidential Bullybusters helpline
• The ‘It’s Not OK’ education project aimed at tackling bullying and domestic violence
• Safe Havens, where shopkeepers offer sanctuary to young people who feel in danger
Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy added: “It is vital we tackle the prejudices and behaviour that in a child could be described as bullying, but as an adult would be treated as a hate crime.
“By increasing awareness, changing attitudes and tackling the problem as soon as it takes root, we can all work together to change behaviour while people are still young – ensuring those who are abusive in the classroom through prejudice or intolerance do not later commit serious criminal offences in the community.
“Nobody deserves to feel bullied or abused, whether it is a young person in the classroom or school yard or an adult at work, in the street or in their own home.”