Anti-bullying week

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WORDS can hurt – that is the message behind this year’s national Anti-Bullying Week, which kicks off on Monday.

Verbal bullying, communication and speech and language are the themes of the week, which runs from November 14 to 18. The theme has been chosen to coincide with, ‘Hello’ 2011, The Year of Speech, Language and Communication.

Norfolk County Council coordinates national Anti-Bullying Week in Norfolk and is planning a range of events and workshops to raise awareness of verbal bullying and the use of derogatory language.

Verbal bullying is believed to be the most common form of bullying and the week will aim to highlight the damage that words can cause and the impact of homophobic, racist, sexist language and offensive language targeted at disabled people.

National research suggests that:

• 37% of young people hear sexual name-calling on a daily basis;

• 86% of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are subject to racist comments;

• 56% of calls to Childline relating to bullying mentioned name calling and teasing – higher than any other type of bullying;

• 65% of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying;

• 77% of children and young people with a learning disability reported being verbally bullied.

Rita Adair, Senior Educational Psychologist and Norfolk County Council’s lead on bullying, said: “Words can and do hurt and it is crucial that we challenge verbal bullying, whether this be persistent teasing, or offensive or discriminatory language.

“Norfolk’s schools are committed to reducing bullying and raising awareness of the impact it can have on students and it is important that we use this week to raise awareness of the role language and communication plays in bullying.

“There are now even more ways to communicate and mobile phones and computers mean young people can be affected by bullying, even when they are away from the perpetrator. We need to do all we can to protect Norfolk’s young people from this form of bullying and raise awareness of the harm that it can cause.”

Norfolk County Council is holding a series of events next week, including a Mind Your Language Day, on Tuesday 15 November, when the public are asked to show their support against verbal bullying by wearing blue, using respectful language and challenging derogatory words. People can highlight the events they are holding or the actions they have taken via Twitter, using the hashtag #NorfolkABW.

On the same day, speech and language therapists from Norfolk Community Health and Care, and educational psychologists and advisory support teachers from Norfolk County Council will be holding an exhibition of artwork from Norfolk’s schoolchildren, on the theme of communication. This will be held at the Forum, in Norwich, from 9am to 5pm. Advice on bullying will also be available and the public will be invited to take part in a bullying survey.

The week will end with a conference on verbal bullying, entitled Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But WORDS Can Really Hurt Me.

Alison Thomas, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Bullying of any form is completely unacceptable and can have a significant impact on a child’s education and well-being. Discrimination of any kind has no place in our schools or wider society and we want to work with our schools to educate Norfolk’s children and young people about the meaning of some of the language they may use or hear and the negative impact it can have on those around them.

“Norfolk’s schools are determined to help tackle bullying and are increasingly using restorative approaches to ensure that perpetrators understand the consequences of their actions and that there is some resolution for the victim.”