Concerns have been raised that physical bullying in schools is widespread, with young school students turning to self-defence classes to protect themselves against attacks.
Self-defence instructor Garry May said he was helping students protect themselves while raising awareness of physical attacks, claiming students had also been mentally affected by bullying.
Mr May, who teaches krav maga, said students were learning to defend themselves because they were “deciding to do something about it” and regain their confidence.
He said there had been multiple stories of aggressive threats, violent incidents and sexual harassment and stated, while it was not new, “it’s not being dealt with.”
“I don’t think it’s any worse than it’s ever been, but I don’t think it’s any better,” Mr May said.
“A lot of them (school children) come through our doors.”
Mr May said attacks had been premeditated with children traumatised from attacks.
“We’ve had kids that have gotten up from the water fountain and had somebody attack them,” he said
He said they were simply trying to “bullyproof themselves” with self-defence lessons.
“They’re looking for ways to protect themselves, they’re looking at ways to get stronger, they’re looking for ways to recover,” Mr May said.
An independent study of 692 students by the Make Bullying History Foundation in 2018 revealed 59 percent experienced bullying nationally, with one in five (20 percent) experiencing it weekly.
“This has not changed and it needs to get better,” he said.
Physical attacks the untalked about “elephant in the room”
Mr May said he believed there was little discussion about physical bullying and self-defence.
“It’s like the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to talk about it,” he said.
“If have a look at a lot of policies and procedures on how to deal with this stuff, if you have a close look, you’ll never see this is how to deal with physical violence.”
He said social media was a contributing factor with “a lot of phones around, a lot of cameras.”
However, he said fighting it was “an unpleasant truth.”
“When you’re talking about schools, when you’re talking about workplaces, you don’t always have that option. So sometimes you have to stand up,” he said.
However, he said people did need to know when to avoid fighting.
“Depending on the situation, that is the answer,” Mr May said.
Victims of bullying left unsupported
Garry and Jen May have been trying to raise awareness of the prevalence of physical bullying in the school yard, hoping to communicate an accurate picture of bullying in schools.
They have been concerned that children who were victims of bullying were unprotected and punished with victims given less understanding and support.
Speaking to WAMN News, they told about stories that indicated a widespread issue across students.
Among the stories were students being suspended from school for defending themselves under “zero tolerance” policies, including two of their students.
Other stories have told about two pre-primary children kicked by another student in their grade that left visible evidence of the attack but were not believed and a teenage girl who had to change schools because she was bullied and ostracised.
They also said 80 percent of teen students believing children at their school were bringing knives to school and were being used to intimidate, scare or threaten others.
They are calling for victims to be better supported.
Bullying not new phenomenon: WA Police
WA Police said bullying had been a part of the school yard for a long time, claiming it was currently prominent through social media.
“Bully has been around in schools for a long time,” WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.
“What I think I hear is where school children are being bullied through their phones through cyber bullying.”
Mr Dawson said he had not heard about an increase in weapons in schools.
However, he did not discourage students learning self-defence, stating he would “strongly support that” if they’re “properly conducted.”
“They put structure and discipline around young people and in fact can equip them better to deal with any aggressions,” Mr Dawson said.