Recommendations for European antibullying policy
7 April 2020 - A review of European policy on antibullying shows that international institutions claim to have little influence on education in general. They could possibly influence the quality of antibullying policy in schools by focusing on the broader concept of combating violence or discrimination. But in practice, combating bullying may have a different focus and requires a consistent school policy, which international institutions cannot influence because influence on the education system is taboo. The ABC-project, which experimented with certification of antibullying in schools, made six recommendations to build a European road map against bullying.
Strengths and shortcomings in Europe
The review of the ABC-project of global and European policies shows how both the Council of Europe and the European Union share a vision in which peace, conflict resolution, democracy and equality are central topics. Both have legal and social strategies to implement these values. In the European union there is a substantial budget for antibullying projects, which will only grow with the expansion of the Erasmus+ program. However, a few shortcomings in the European strategy could be pointed out.
- The Council of Europe and the European Union does not have a competence in the educational area. The principle of subsidiarity limits its scope. This principle is there because the content of education is considered a local competence. However, the safety in schools is also part of the education system even though it has little to do with the content of education. There is a question whether the European Union could not be more pro-active in this area. The EU has numerous safety regulations.
- In the area of funding, the focus is often on sharing of good practices. While this is useful, it does raise the question which good practices are best practices and why. Some projects and initiatives like the NESET-reviews provide a meta-analysis which helps to get an overview. But it seems that such guides to better impact are not yet shared well enough to guide new policies on the national or European level.
- The number of European projects funded for antibullying projects is extensive. It is so high that it falls outside the scope of the ABC-project to review them properly. This raises the question whether there is a development in these projects or whether they repeat each other.
The ABC project proposes the following recommendations.
- The European Union could do a review of funded projects that focus on, or include bullying. The result of such a review should be to help focus future antibullying projects to go beyond sharing of subjective good practices and become part of a more systematic development program to combat bullying in Europe in a more systematic way.
- The European Union could consider if European level guidelines for social safety and inclusion in schools, agreed on by Member States, would be possible and strengthen the strategies to combat early school-leaving, gender-based violence and social inclusion.
- The European Union could consider making it a priority to open a tender for an ongoing European campaign to stimulate awareness of bullying and structural ways to combat it. The choice of a EU-“Day Against Bullying” could be a focal point in such an annual campaign and get more “body” and support.
- Part of such a campaign could be the development of a clearing house of projects and methods. In this effort, the EU and EAN could team up with the Swedish organization “Friends” which already is working on a similar global database in the context of the World Antibullying Forum.
- Another part of such a campaign could be the development of a European “map” of national antibullying policies and related best practices, and the use of country assessments to stimulate national dialogue and cooperation to enhance such policies. In this effort, the EU and EAN could team up with GALE which already is working on this type of mapping.
- The international development to legitimize ideological and political hate speech and systematic social exclusion of social groups should be more recognized as a serious threat to antibullying, violence and general, human rights and democracy. The EU should consider developing a coherent view on how to deal with political hate speech and exclusion and the concrete implementation of antibullying and violence.