n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Educator recognition of and intervention in school bullying situations : the perspectives and experiences of Free State educators and learners

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The aim of this article is to report, against the background of a literature review, on an investigation into Free State learners' observations of bullying incidents, as well as their interaction with adults after being bullied. A follow-up study on Free State educators' observations of bullying incidents, and their reactions to incidents of verbal and physical bullying, will also be addressed.

From the study it appears that the majority of educator and learner respondents agree that bullying was a problem in their respective schools. However, it seems as if the educators perceive the problem to be more acute. The aforesaid differentiating perception is confirmed by respondents' answers to questions on what they have seen and/or heard with regard to various types of bullying. It appears that most learner respondents were witnesses of direct bullying, and the second largest group witnessed indirect verbal bullying. Only 11.21 percent and 16.81 percent of the learner respondents have never witnessed incidents of direct and indirect verbal bullying, respectively. While direct physical aggression was the fourth most common form of bullying which the learner respondents witnessed, it was the most common type of bullying that the educators witnessed.
The data also reveals that a larger number of learners who were being bullied at school told someone about their experiences than victims who did not confide in anyone. Learners overall were more inclined to speak to a co-learner or a parent than to educators about the bullying that had taken place. Despite the fact that the majority of victims of bullying were unwilling to tell their educators about their trauma, it appears that the majority of educator respondents were prepared to help victims of verbal and physical bullying.
Against the background of the aforementioned findings, this article emphasises that educators are legally and morally bound to maintain discipline and to protect the safety of their learners. If victims of bullying are faced with school inaction, the criminal justice system may be a last resort. The results of this study, reflecting as they do the lack of confidence among many learners in their educators' capacity and/or willingness to assist them in addressing bullying at school, have significant implications for educator training establishments.


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