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Academic Views - Bullies can become a solution to bullying

14 April 2010

Prof Ken Rigby of the University of South Australia, author of the Enhancing Responses to Bullying in Queensland Schools report for the Queensland Government, has undertaken an evaluation of an anti-bullying strategy finding worldwide acceptance.

Bullies can become a solution to bullying.

There are at least six ways in which cases of bullying can be handled, depending on the nature of the cases and the expertise available in a school. These include the traditional disciplinary approach, strengthening the victim, mediation, restorative practices, the support group method and the 'Method of Shared Concern'.

The last approach has excited considerable interest recently with the release of a Federal Government report written by myself and fellow National Centre Against Bullying member Coosje Griffiths.

Our report evaluated this approach as it has been employed in schools in Australia.

The report indicates that motivating and engaging bullies and their victims to take part in a negotiation process can be an effective method of preventing bullying from continuing in Australian schools.

Research undertaken in a small sample of schools in evaluating the Method of Shared Concern showed a 90 per cent success rate can be achieved.

This "shared concern" approach to non-violent bullying adopts a non-punitive use of punishment.

The Method of Shared Concern does not allow bullies to escape from the issues they have created; it makes them part of the solution. The suspected perpetrators have to confront the issue and work with the victims under the supervision of trained practitioners to resolve the matter.

The Method of Shared Concern is seen as an alternative to the use of punishment as a first response to non-violent forms of bullying.

Punishment often results in bullying going underground. This shared concern method works to change students' behaviour and stop the bullying altogether.

One of the biggest challenges for any teacher is to decide what strategies to use to prevent and resolve bullying at school.

The shared concern approach, originating in the work of Swedish psychologist Prof Anatol Pikas, extends the options available to teachers and counsellors in dealing with cases of bullying, especially non-criminal forms of bullying undertaken by groups of individuals.

The research empowers teachers with confidence and skills to take on the issue. It gives them options and strategies when confronted with cases of bullying involving repeated verbal abuse, isolation, malicious rumour spreading and cyberbullying.

The success of the method has been demonstrated in 17 cases undertaken in Australian schools with a 90 per cent successful outcome.

This approach to bullying has become an important part of anti-bullying programs in schools throughout the world. In the light of this research, it is hoped it will be part of more anti-bullying programs in Australian schools.

The Method of Shared Concern was evaluated by Prof Rigby and fellow National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) member Coosje Griffiths under the auspices of the University of South Australia. The Method of Shared Concern is examined in a new book to be released shortly by Prof Rigby entitled Bullying Intervention in Schools: Six Basic Approaches. Other intervention approaches are also examined in the book.