In the posts made by the American students, it became clear to me that from their experience in school systems they noticed a need for an overarching preventive network for dealing with bullying. It was interesting to have read these texts before starting to do research about what institutions and organizations exist in Belgium to tackle this problem.
So where can a bullied student go to when she or he wants to seek help if parents, friends and the school aren’t sufficient? The two main support systems are the CLB (Centrum voor Leerling Begeleiding; which can be translated to the Center for Student Guidance) and the Kinder- en Jongerentelefoon (a phone line that young children and students can call for almost everything).
The CLB’s have been around since the beginning of the 20th century, but only in 2000 it became what it is today. The centers were founded to support pupils and increase their well-being. It tries to help in various areas, bullying being one of them. Every school has a designated CLB and in the bigger school they are even found in the school itself. You can go there after classes or during the lunch break. They offer someone to talk to and the people are connected to your principal and your teachers. They may be more approachable and together you can find a way to deal with the situation. This is an intern way to tackle bullying problems. An external way is the Kinder- en Jongerentelefoon. You can call them anonymously from Monday to Friday for free after school hours. In 2014 they had almost 30.000 contacts with children. One of their main topics is bullying, but you can also call for questions about sex, family problems, … On their website you can also look at different topics within bullying. There are forums where you can talk with other pupils who have had the same problems or have gotten through the same things and find information that has to do with bullying.
As you can see these are example of reactive institutions. There are policies in Belgium, but they aren’t well implemented and most of them are short-term. The Flemish Education Council (Vlor) has demanded the development of a long-term policy against bullying. They want schools to work together with other partners, such as youth groups, the police and welfare organizations. It is clear that in Belgium there is the same need for a general, overarching preventive plan in tackling bullying instead of temporary actions and divers institutions where pupils can turn to.