LAST year, four out of 10 secondary school pupils in the Borders told a survey they were concerned about bullying.
The poll also showed nearly one in five pupils felt there was no adult in their school that they could talk to about such intimidation.
In addition, it emerged last December that five secondary students in the Borders had been disciplined for so-called “sexting” – the distribution of sexual images of themselves or others via the internet or mobile phones – a practice often associated with blackmailing and bullying.
In March, Councillor George Turnbull, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for education, announced that he was to chair an advisory board comprising representatives from the police, NHS Borders and anti-bullying charities.
It’s role is to “make recommendations on approaches to the prevention and management of bullying behavaviour”.
A key to that aspiration is the appointment of a commission of young people, drawn from across the region, to research bullying and offer their suggestions, in a final report, on how to eradicate the problem.
And that group of 13 youngsters, aged 14-23, was unveiled this week as schools resumed after the summer break.
The were chosen following a lively and rigorous selection day held last month and hosted in Galashiels by Borders College. They have since undertaken two full days of training and induction and have met advisory board members.
“They have developed an understanding of equalities and diversity issues, gained knowledge of the national perspective on bullying behaviour and were introduced to social research methods,” explained the commission’s facilitator, youth worker Susan Robb.
“The energy, enthusiasm and experience of each youth commisioner will make this a great volunteer team. The possibility for change as a result of their ideas is very exciting for the council and this dynamic approach to policy making is the first adopted by a Scottish local authority.”
Councillor Turnbull told us: “I am very impressed with the young commissioners and I’m confident they will settle well into our new structure.
“Over the next year, the commissioners will cover a huge range of activities, culimating in a final report and presentation to the council.
“They will be given a blank page to come up with evidence, informed and innovatiove recommentations for us, as policy makers to consider.”
The commissioners are: Alan Wise (Hawick), Angus Miller (Denholm), Amy Shek (Innerleithen), Candida Menezes (Galashiels), Chris Haynes (Berwickshire), Claire Law (Ancrum), Emily Imray (Hawick), Emily Lerpiniere (Duns), Kay Pugh (Galashiels), Liam Turnbull (Hawick), Melanie Miller (Coldstream), Robynn Gray (Selkirk) and Shannon (Kelso).
Amy Shek explained why she had applied for the commission.
“I am eager to have the chance to help SBC tackle bullying behaviour from a student’s point of view,” she said.
Alan Wise, concurred, telling TheSouthern: “Young people are normally left out of decision-making on this scale ... this motivated me to apply.”
The commission will meet fortnightly to develop research methods, gather evidence from their peers and organise events and activities.