Mar 11, 2022

How Can We Stop Bullying in Schools?

Recently, a 15-year-old boy, studying in a popular school in Faridabad, committed suicide. In the suicide note addressed to his mother, he mentioned being mocked by his fellow students because of his sexuality and bullied by his teachers and higher school authorities for being dyslexic.


What is bullying?

In school children, bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour by one child or more towards another, based on an actual or perceived power imbalance. Bullying happens repetitively over a period of time and can cause lasting psychological harm to both the bullied and the one doing the bullying.


Here, the boy was being bullied because of his sexuality, so his heterosexual cis-gender classmates believed they held power over him and could shame him for different sexual preferences. Similarly, for his teachers, his dyslexia made him different from the ‘normal’ for his teachers, which they believed allowed them to treat him in a disparaging manner. 


How does Indian law deal with bullying?

Currently, there is no Indian legislation to prevent bullying at school and no law to punish the juvenile perpetrators of bullying. At best, schools and school examination boards (such as CBSE, ICSE, etc.) can set up anti-bullying committees to look into incidents of bullying and punish students by not promoting them to the next level or rusticating them.  


As for teachers accused of bullying/harassing students, general provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) apply to them. They can be punished accordingly if the offence is made out. In the case mentioned above, they have arrested the principal of the school for abetment of suicide (Section 306 of the IPC) of this boy. 


What can be done to prevent bullying in schools?

In November 2021, the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) released a gender sensitisation booklet to sensitise teachers about their implicit gender-related biases titled ‘Inclusion of Transgender Children in School Education: Concerns and Roadmap’. It received such backlash on social media; that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had condemned the NCERT for issuing a document that traumatised students in the name of gender sensitization. Based on such opposition, NCERT withdrew the booklet. However, this booklet could have been the first step towards creating a more gender-sensitive environment for both students and teachers. It  could have helped them in letting go of their conditioning towards hetero-normative sexuality.


Yet another step is to set up a committee to give recommendations on ways to prevent bullying in schools. A similar committee was set up regarding ragging when a student studying medicine in a college in Himachal Pradesh had been beaten to death by his seniors in the name of ragging. At the directions of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of HRD had appointed the Raghavan committee, which provided several recommendations on how to prevent ragging on college campuses and how to deal with incidents of ragging in colleges. The Ministry of HRD can appoint something similar regarding bullying in schools, focusing especially on gender-sensitisation of students and teachers. 

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