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”.