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The serious actions of harassment and violence that have recently taken place in schools have again revived an important discussion on bullying and violence at school. Every child and young person has the right to integrity and a safe learning environment. We all have a role in achieving this, even though it is in particular the responsibility of those working with children to prevent bullying.

Fortunately, bullying has decreased throughout the 2000s. This shows that schools have succeeded in their efforts to combat bullying. Nevertheless, bullying has not totally stopped. Seven percent of the fourth and fifth graders, six percent of the eighth and nineth graders, and scarcely four percent of vocational school students are being bullied at least once a week. 

Boys are more likely to bully and be bullied than girls. There are several types of bullying, the most common is verbal bullying and embarrassment. Physical bullying is most likely to occur in primary schools. Online bullying has increased and is often associated with other types of bullying. One of the most painful forms of bullying is social exclusion, or ostracism. Bullying is often a group phenomenon. Even those who do not themselves participate in bullying may behave in a manner that maintains bullying. 

Preventing bullying requires a long-term and consistent work. It is essential that emotional and interactive skills are already taught in early childhood education. The most effective way is naturally the prevention of bullying. It is important that schools develop a climate of cooperation and address issues and practices related to bullying as a part of education. Every pupil and adult in the school has to be able to recognise bullying, be aware of its different forms and know how to intervene. Adults both in schools and at home must seriously intervene in bullying so that pupils get a clear message that bullying is not allowed and bullying stops. Both those who are being bullied and those who bully need support in the situation.

Last autumn, the Finnish National Board of Education published on its website the first national guidelines for preventing bullying and for dealing with bullying situations in schools and educational institutions. These guidelines also contain instructions for pupils and parents. The Government Programme of Prime Minister Marin includes zero tolerance for bullying and racism. 

In January, a comprehensive action plan against bullying was published, listing 13 concrete measures to tackle bullying behaviour with a broad and determined effort. Bullying, violence and harassment are not limited to schools and educational institutions, but are reflected in all areas of society. We all have our responsibility in creating a society free from bullying. None of us should ever belittle or ignore bullying.

 

Eeva-Johanna Eloranta,

Eeva-Johanna Eloranta is a Finnish politician currently serving in the Parliament of Finland for the Social Democratic Party of Finland at the Finland Proper constituency.


This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times. The column is not fact checked and HT will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.
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