BULLY VICTIMS: MUM SAYS NO
By Will Jackson
BALLINA mother of two bullied children Renee Walker has backed Prime Minister John Howard's initiatives to crack down on bullying in schools.
After seeing what has happened to her 16-year-old son Matthew and six-year-old daughter Samantha, Renee believes more must be done to stamp out schoolyard harassment and intimidation.
Mr Howard last night outlined his education agenda which included giving teachers and principals more power to address schoolyard bullying, and providing parents with more information about discipline, bullying and poor behaviour.
Bullying is the intentional tormenting of others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation.
Ms Walker said her son Matthew had been harassed by his peers for years.
"They used to give him a really hard time about not having a dad," she said.
In one incident two years ago he had been attacked after getting off a school bus and beaten so badly he had to be taken to hospital.
He has since left school, Ms Walker said.
Her daughter Samantha seems set on a similar path. Last year Samantha started kindergarten and suffered constant teasing and ridicule for the whole year.
"They would call her 'fatty' and 'smelly'," Ms Walker said. In a particularly disturbing incident, Samantha's classmates pulled her pants down in the middle of the school yard.
The bullying was already affecting her self-esteem, Ms Walker said.
"Every afternoon she's been in tears," she said. "I'm having trouble getting her to eat now because she's been called fat so many times." Samantha is six years old.
Since bringing up the issue with the school, Ms Walker said Samantha had received better treatment from her classmates but the bullying had not completely ended.
Ms Walker is worried that if the harassment doesn't stop, her daughter could eventually become a bully herself.
"She's bigger than her classmates and she could easily just turn around and push them down," she said.
"She doesn't because it's not in her nature but I'm worried what could happen if she keeps getting hassled."
The school involved could not be contacted for comment yesterday.