Latvian bullying awareness project comes under criticism

The goal of the “Neklusē” (“Don't be Silent”) social media anti-bullying campaign is admirable, but the execution has been heavily criticized, with the Ministry of Health pulling out as an official supporter, according to Latvian Television's “Panorāma” news broadcast on February 6.

“Bullying is like natural selection. Everything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” were some of the opinions expressed on the “Neklusē” website.

The project wanted to decrease instances of bullying in Latvian schools by sharing celebrity and regular people's experience stories, and the organizers are volunteers. The Welfare Ministry, the State Inspectorate For Protection Of Children's Rights, police and Health Ministry were announced as project supporters on the website. Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča (KPV LV) said she wasn't familiar with the project content.

"No, the Health Ministry doesn't give any money to this campaign. We also have to say we're not really cooperation partners, it's a communication misunderstanding. We've asked them to remove our logo," said Health Ministry Advisor Marta Krivade.

The Health Ministry logo and a lot of the other criticized content has been removed from the project's social media accounts. The organizers have apologised and say that the controversial content, which included stories where the bully was portrayed as a leader, was published due to carelessness.

“Those are people's stories, and we just shared them from our accounts, we didn't promote them. They're just people's opinions, and we published them because they're speaking about their experiences,” said project representative Laura Noor.

The ant-childhood abuse center “Dardedze” is also critical of the execution. “It's not good practice to think that no child has grown up without bullying and that no school can be free of bullying. I don't want to think that way, because that's the thinking that's landed us in 1st place in the European Union for school bullying,” said Dardedze Board Chair Laila Balode.

As previously reported, Latvia fares reasonably well in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) education rankings produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and released December 3, though there is definite room for improvement, and bullying appears to be a serious area of concern.

In Latvia, 35% of students reported being bullied at least a few times a month, compared to 23% on average across OECD countries," the report noted.

Indeed this year Latvia has the unpleasant distinction of being the leader in terms of bullying in the school environment among OECD member countries. For comparison purposes, 23% of Lithuanian students reported being bullied a few times each month and 25% of Estonian students. The lowest figure was reported in Korea (9%).

More than one in ten (11%) of 15-year-olds in the Latvian school system said they were frequently bullied, 10% said they were regularly threatened by other students and 12% said they were physically assaulted "at least a few times each month". 
 

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