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Bully-free School? Yes, it’s Possible

By Kim FerrerDecember 10, 2017

Beyond home, a child’s formation happens at school: here one learns not only the basic literacy skills like counting, reading and speaking but also the most elementary social skills like defining friendships, recognizing ‘authority’ (teachers as secondary parents/ guardians) and taking responsibilities and tasks.

At the Ateneo De Manila Grade School (AGS), students are taught to treat each other as equals, and to respect all individuals that are part of the institution – schoolmates, teachers, librarians, administrators and utility workers.

“The AGS recognizes that a school should physically and emotionally safeguard and secure all students,” said Jervy Robles, Assistant Headmaster for Student Affairs. “Aside from AGS, the whole university itself prohibits all acts of bullying, harassment and other forms of aggression and violence.”

 

Bound by principle

Even before the passage of the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, Robles pointed out that AGS has been a strong advocate of anti-bullying. During the school year of 2010-2011, two years before the passage of the law, AGS came up with “I Am For Peace Project”, a campaign to make students aware that the journey towards peace starts ultimately with the self.

“For several years, the school’s campaign against bullying has revolved around the idea of peace and how the school strives to be not only a school with a heart but also a zone for peace,” he explained. 

Since the launch of “I Am For Peace Project”, AGS strengthened its advocacy by also involving school staff and volunteers. Robles added that the school regularly invites resource speakers to talk about bullying.

“Through these collegial discussions, the community had a better understanding of what bullying is all about. We also learned appropriate interventions the school needed to make, whether legal or otherwise,” he said.

For AGS, it’s also important to provide training to its staff in order to make its anti-bullying campaign more effective as students look to their elders for guidance.

With the school’s efforts in promoting a bully-free environment, they are arriving at a ‘common language’ on bullying.

“Before, bullying has been used quite loosely by students and parents, even teachers. Now we tend to be careful at immediately labeling any situation as bullying,” Robles explained. “We educated members of the community so they can distinguish the differences between rude acts, mean acts and bullying acts. We also let them know that there are three players in a bullying scenario – the bullied, the bully and the bystander. The AGS community has learned how to effectively respond to these cases. All members work towards maintaining an atmosphere that encourages everyone to grow and to respect the rights of others.”

 

Safer space

AGS provides guidelines and rules to keep their campaign effective. Students are encouraged to report those who violate the anti-bullying policy. At the same time, they are prohibited from falsely accusing someone of bullying. Once an issue is reported, a prompt and impartial investigation ensues.

“We strongly discourage retaliation against any person who reports an act of bullying or cooperates in an investigation. In addition, we also constantly remind students to stop spreading rumors or derogatory remarks,” said Robles.

For students caught violating the rules, AGS has a program in place to help the student such as personal counselling, character-formation building and retraining.

 

Keeping the harmony

Currently, AGS is actively promoting “Positive Discipline and Restorative Discipline” within its classrooms following a “To Connect Before We Connect” principle which helps build the bond of interaction between students and teachers and vice-versa.

“So far, what we have done to promote peace in the campus has resulted in a school that is more inclusive and restorative in its approach to discipline,” Robles said.

“We have sent a strong message to everyone that bullying is not to be tolerated anywhere, anytime. It’s also important that these students, who will be future leaders of this country, learn these important lessons in school while they are still young.”