Oslo appoints first ‘daycare bullying ombudsman’

Oslo Municipality has appointed a permanent official to fight bullying in the Norwegian capital’s schools from daycare age upwards – the first appointment of its kind in the country.

Oslo appoints first 'daycare bullying ombudsman'
Kjerstin Owren, Oslo's new bullying ombudsman. Photo: Oslo kommune / Sturlason / NTB scanpix

Kjerstin Owren, previously a vice-principal at one of the city’s schools, was chosen from 116 applicants for the position, reports broadcaster NRK.

The position was created after trials in four different Norwegian municipalities showed that the arrangement resulted in an increased effort to reduce bullying in participating schools, according to the NRK report.

The ombudsman’s independence from the schools was also a positive factor.

Seven percent of students in one of the participating areas, Østfold, reported being bullied at school, according to a recent study carried out by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Utdanningsdirektoratet).

“We came to the conclusion that most of the work carried out by the bullying ombud officials involved ongoing training in the area. But there was a desire to begin preventative work much earlier, as early as daycare. And that it lasts for the entire school career,” researcher Christine Hvitsand, who was involved in the evaluation of the trials, told NRK.

“Good social environments start as early as in daycare, and this is where good environments are established that lead to good learning environments later on,” she said.

Owren’s academic background is also in teaching and education.

“I hope that the reason I got the job is because I am good at communicating, particularly with children and young people. My background is also quite multidisciplinary, I have competencies in both counselling and special education,” Owren, who starts her new job in June, told the broadcaster.

The new bullying ombudsman said that she aimed to be accessible for all school students in Oslo.

“I have to be visible, I think. It must be easy for children and young people to know how they can get in touch with the bullying ombudsman, and what kind of things I can advise them on… I am working first and foremost for a good psychological and social environment,” she said.


Madrid to suspend pupils who don’t report bullying at school

School kids in Spain’s capital who fail to report another pupil being bullied will be expelled for up to six days or face other punishments.

Madrid to suspend pupils who don't report bullying at school
Photo: Deposit Photos

Educational authorities in Madrid want to stamp out bullying from the region’s classrooms, their newest measure aimed at preventing the climate of silence which allows bullies to continue getting away with their behaviour. 

From the next school year onwards, any pupil or teacher who fails to report an incident of bullying will be held accountable as silent witnesses.

For pupils, the punishment for not informing a teacher or any other member of staff about physical or verbal abuse against a classmate or teacher will range from a playground ban to a six-day suspension.

Each educational centre will be responsible for determining the severity of actions, or lack thereof, for those who failed to speak up.

The newly approved school coexistence decree will apply to all schools and high schools in the Madrid region, regardless of whether they’re public or private institutions.

This poster by Madrid authorities reads: “Snitch!”, “Snitch? If you mean I don't keep quiet about abuse, then I'm a snitch. The slogan reads “When it comes to abuse at school, speak up”.

Although the decree is aimed at de-stigmatising the concept of being a school snitch, several associations have expressed doubts about the end result of the measure.

“This isn’t the solution,” Lucía Martínez Martín, head of the Madrid office of Save The Children, told La Vanguardia.

“Once they put the measure into practice, they’ll realise it’s not an efficient measure.

“Children first have to know what abuse is because many of them can’t recognise it when it’s there.

“Some think insulting someone isn’t abuse but hitting someone is.

“We have to work with them to fight these abuses, promote respect and teach them their rights.”

The measure also sets the bar for how bullies themselves should be punished, considering online bullying, any form of discrimination relating to sexual orientation, race or religion, insults and threats made to teachers and numerous other forms of abuse to be serious incidents.

Bullies, depending on the severity of their actions, will have to either take part in reintegration workshops, be banned from certain schooling activities and subjects, be moved to another class or face temporary or permanent suspension.

An October 2018 report by Madrid's public prosecutor's office found that there has been sharp increase in the number of reported bullying cases involving “very young children”.