How to put bullies in their place

ALMOST every teacher in the country has done their bit to combat the problem of bullying. But according to a recent report by MPs, it is the children themselves who should be setting the punishments. Pupils at Sacred Heart Primary School in Hartlepool all backed the idea and even came up with some punishments of their own.

BULLIES could be in line for the ultimate humiliation – a telling-off by their fellow classmates.

The Commons Education Select Committee believes that schoolchildren should be setting their own punishments if anti-bullying policies are to carry any clout.

Pupils at Sacred Heart Primary School all liked the idea – but they stressed that it would have to be done fairly and sensibly.

Bethany Grimwood likes the fact that it gives the victim some power.

Bethany, 10, said: "It's a good idea because if you're a victim yourself, then you can stand up to the bullies and not be afraid any more.

"First of all, I think the bullies should be made to say sorry and they should also stay in on a break time and write about why they bully and how it makes them feel."

Bethany would have no qualms about standing up to a bully. She would tell them that there is no need for their behaviour.

Anthony Thompson believes that the scheme would only work if the punishment fitted the crime.

Anthony, 11, said: "If it's only been going on for a day and they get a punishment like picking up dog dirt – that's a bit harsh.

"I agree with the idea of the children getting to choose a punishment, but they would have to be sensible about it."

If Anthony was setting the punishments for Sacred Heart, he would consider making bullies stay inside on a break time or pick up litter in the playground.

Rhiannon Jarvis, 10, suggested that pupils could write a list of punishments that vary in strength. They could then choose the punishment most appropriate to each individual case of bullying.

She said: "If it's only been going on for a day, you could make the bully stay in at break time.

"But if it's been going on for a long time, the victim could choose a harsher punishment.

"They could be banned from the football team for two to three weeks or they could stay inside during every break time and write lines saying 'I will not bully'."

Demi Coombs is concerned that the victims might enforce punishments that are too harsh.

Demi, 11, said: "The victim might take advantage of coming up with a punishment.

"But it might make the bullies re-think their behaviour because they wouldn't want to be punished by a classmate."

Demi would make bullies stay in the classroom during break time where they would have to do extra work.

"I would ask them why they do what they do," said Demi. "And I would tell them to imagine how they would feel if they were getting bullied."

Luke Elsdon also thinks that a list of set punishments would be vital if the scheme was going to work.

Luke, 11, said: "I think it's a good idea to have children choose the punishment,

"But it's a bad idea because if the victim is really angry and stressed they might over-use the punishment.

"So there should be a set list of punishments for how bad the bullying is and the victim could maybe choose one."

Luke's chosen punishment would involve the bully having to spend break times with their teacher.

"They would be allowed to go outside," he said. "But they would be under supervision by a teacher who was watching over them.

"Even if they didn't bully someone, they would probably get into trouble for something else."

Michael Gallagher is not sure whether the scheme would work in his school.

Michael, 10, said: "It's a good idea because the victim, who has been really hurt, can give out their chosen punishment.

"But I would worry that they would over do the punishment.

"They might set out to get the bully excluded even though they didn't do it dead big or hurt them very much."

Michael's choice of punishments would be to ban bullies from the sports teams or make them write letters of apology to the victims.