Members of the Lords debated the level of education support and mental health provision available to children who are severely bullied at school, yesterday (Thursday 20 June 2013).
Baroness Brinton (Liberal Democrat) opened the debate, speaking of the serious and severe consequences for victims of bullying: she spoke about some of the children, the youngest aged 9, who have recently committed suicide because of bullying at school. She highlighted the Ayden's law campaign - run by the mother of Ayden Olson who committed suicide because of bullying at school - that is working to make school bullying illegal. She said that schools should be under similar obligations as employers are to employees to provide safe, protected environments for students.
Other members spoke of the factors that set children apart and make them vulnerable: Lord Lexden (Conservative) set out the levels of bullying of gay students and the high rates of suicide, attempted suicide and self-harm among the victims of homophobic bullying at school. In his maiden speech, the Bishop of Truro highlighted the impact of poverty and caring responsibilities on school life and education. They said that specific support should be provided to help students with particular problems.
The domestic and emotional problems of bullies and how to tackle their problems was raised. Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat) spoke about the 'routes of empathy' approach - a classroom programme aimed at reducing levels of aggression through allowing students to witness and monitor a baby's development - to help prevent bullying in schools.
Lord Nash (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government. He supported the assertion made throughout the debate that schools should be held to account for how they handle bullying; he said that the government wanted to allow schools the freedom to decide how to do it. He said the government was wary about making school bullying a criminal offence because it's difficult to define and could criminalise young people.