A few years back, there was a shocking case of a defenseless Whanganui school student being punched, kicked and stomped by what can only be described as an out-of-control student. I warned then, and I continue to warn now that parents of school children may wish to challenge the wisdom of the various anti-bullying programmes available in our schools. I say this because the research evidence to date is quite clear – these programmes, so championed by the Ministry of Education and various academic and professional “experts”, don’t actually work.
Numerous reports have revealed that anti-bullying programmes failed in around 85% of their applications. One study which cited an 80% failure rate in reducing bullying, found that restorative justice programmes - long championed by the Ministry of Education - actually increased the occurrences of students being bullied.
Other harmful effects of anti-bullying programmes have been identified as the emerging of a victim mentality in students (further empowering bullies), wrongful punishment for victims, diverting class time to deal with bullying issues, turning students against each other, and creating family feuds.
As parents, the State charges us with the responsibility of being the guardians of our children. Part of this role involves parents teaching our children how to stand up for themselves, and (while it may sound unpalatable to some) this includes physical self-defence. The State cannot reasonably expect parents to teach children how to look after themselves in every other area of their life (e.g. self-care, sexual health, alcohol use, and social media) whilst ignoring the very real need to also teach our children how to fight and fend for themselves in the world.
Of the 24 punches, two knees to the head, and one head stomping in the assault on the Whanganui student, each and every one of these blows made by the perpetrator went unanswered by the victim. The resource the victim most desperately needed - the ability in that moment to fight back for her potential survival - was dangerously absent.
In my professional and personal opinion, any programme, philosophy, or law that undermines or chastises a person for legitimate self-defence, is itself, an abusive bully.
To this end, I am a strong supporter of children (and adults for that matter) learning effective self-defence strategies, my own personal preference being Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defence system which is very, very effective in real-world contexts.
School anti-bullying programmes are ineffective across the board – just ask your children. And then enrol them in a local self-defence programme.
If the time ever comes when they are faced with the decision to defend themselves, at least they will have more resources at their disposal then blood-soaked clothing and a pending restorative justice conference.
Steve is the Director of Relationship Matters Ltd. He holds two applied Bachelor's degrees (Counselling & Addiction) and a P.G. Dip. in Applied Social Practice. Steve is married with two children and lives in West Auckland.