Despatch High School this week became the latest school to be rocked by allegations of bullying after a video of a vicious fight between two pupils briefly appeared on social media.
In June, school fights at both Pearson and Framesby high schools emerged through cellphone footage, prompting an investigation by the Eastern Cape Department of Education.
In the latest video, which was posted on YouTube on Thursday but removed hours later, a group of schoolgirls used a cellphone to film two boys dressed in Despatch High School uniforms who were fighting outside the school.
The group of girls appear to be walking down a street and then stop to focus on the two boys fighting on the grass.
One of the boys in the video holds the other in a choke hold and wrestles him to the ground before leaning over and kicking him in the head.
Another schoolboy then approaches the group of girls who are filming the fight and puts his hand out, also gesturing to them to stop filming, after which the video abruptly ends.
Despatch High School principal Colin Bartle declined to comment yesterday.
He did, however, confirm that the school was aware of the video and that the school governing body was investigating the incident.
A clinical psychologist and expert in bullying and emotional safety, Judith Ancer, said it was difficult to determine whether the introduction of technology and social media had led to an increase in bullying.
“Bullying has always been around, and extremely violent bullying as well,” she said.
“I do not know if filming the fights has increased it because now every pupil has access to a smartphone.
“I do think that technology has changed it in terms of bystander participation because now we have people filming and getting vicarious enjoyment through the filming.”
Ancer said it was worrying that the girls who filmed the video had made no attempt to stop the fight.
“It is also concerning that the other boy in the video came to stop the filming instead of trying to stop the fight.
“Children today are aware that these videos can assist in identifying the perpetrators and can be used as evidence.”
Ancer said footage of fights was only helpful when handed in to the relevant authorities immediately.
She said schools needed to introduce policies where there were consequences for pupils who filmed fights but did not hand them in.
“The dissemination of these fighting and bullying videos leads to further humiliation of the victim. It could also encourage the pupil bullying to continue because now they have a bigger audience.
“Bullying is a multifaceted issue and happens in all areas and at all levels of society. It is not unique to South Africa and is not just a child or teenage problem either – even adults can be bullies in the workplace or at home.”
Ancer said bullying was extremely difficult to monitor at schools and widely under-reported.