GEORGE TOWN: Bullies at school may have learnt from parents who are aggressive or violent, says Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sneham Malaysia founder and director Datuk Dr Florence Sinniah.
“When a bully is discovered, efforts should be made to find out if such a bully has, in fact, copied a parent’s aggressive nature.
“This behaviour sometimes can come from domestic violence. The child may have violent parents, which may be the reason for his bullying behaviour,” she said.
She said the value of respecting others should be taught at home so that children would not hurt others.
“Bullying will stop when the children are taught to respect others and see that bullying is bad because it hurts another person.”
Florence stressed that teachers, too, must be vigilant in watching out for bullying in any degree.
“Schools must continuously organise awareness programmes about bullying and not take action only after an incident,” she said.
She said an empathetic rejection of bullying should be part of the school curriculum, and all children must be taught love and compassion for each other.
“Schools, first and foremost, have to be a safe environment for all and children must know that hurting someone will bring harmful repercussions,” she said.
She also called for a proper whistleblower channel in schools for the children to safely report on bullies.
Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Associate Professor Dr P. Sundramoorthy said bullying was not a new phenomenon.
As there were many contributing factors, he said it might not be possible to eliminate bullying entirely but it could be kept under control.
“School bullies should be dealt with according to the law. Punishment should also come with treatment and rehabilitation.
“We can put a full stop to their behaviour (bullying) but not a full stop to their lives,” he stressed.
He noted that on the whole, bullying cases in Malaysia were well under control compared to other countries such as the United States and South Korea, where victims could end up being suicidal or dead.
In Johor, mental health advocates said bullying cases of all forms in schools should be taken seriously.
Befrienders Johor Baru president Danny Loo said verbal bullying that caused psychological and emotional distress should also be addressed.
“Sometimes, students may not be physically bullied but are attacked verbally, which also causes trauma.
“In some cases, the victims end up bullying others when they become adults.
“We need to look at bullying cases in schools holistically and address every form of it to break the cycle of abuse,” he said.
Loo said Befrienders Johor Baru had received calls from parents for the counsellors to talk to their children who were bullied in school.
“Schools also need to take proactive measures and report such cases to the authorities. They should not hide such cases to protect the name of their institution,” he added.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia counselling centre director Dr Zulfikar Ahmad said bullying was defined as an aggressive act that intentionally inflicts injuries on others and is done repeatedly.
“Injuries are not only physical. They can also be psychological or emotional.
“Unfortunately, we normally only consider an act as bullying when it involves physical aggression. This is wrong and can cause the problem to go on for a long time in silence,” he added.