Schools Minister and Redditch MP Jacqui Smith writes for The Birmingham Post about bullying and what needs to be done to tackle it...
Bullying should never be tolerated in our schools, no matter what its motivation - racism, homophobia, envy, or just simple cruelty.
As we have seen, even in the last few weeks, bullying remains an issue for too many children and can lead to tragic consequences.
This week - our second Anti-Bullying Week - I want children to know that bullying is wrong, that they will be punished if they cross the line, and that the so-called 'no blame' culture should not allow bullies to escape without punishment.
Schools should be prepared to punish bullies by removing them from class, withdrawing break and lunchtime privileges, imposing detention after school, banning them from school trips or sports event, and suspending them.
Where violence takes place, schools should be ready to involve the police and, in the most severe cases, they should exclude bullies permanently.
Children can often be in the best position to tackle bullying, by supporting and standing by their friends.
Anti-Bullying Week this year aims to help children make a stand and to set up their own practical strategies - like anonymous 'bully boxes' to report the bullies - and support programmes for children to help friends who are victimised.
We will also be stepping up the campaign to get every school to adopt our antibullying charter, issuing it to every school in the country.
Together with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, I want every school to join the 4,000 that have already signed up and we will be carefully monitoring their progress.
If schools do not sign up, their pupils and parents will want to know why.
The new Children's Commissioner takes this issue seriously and it will be his first priority. This is the first Government to have made tackling bullying a priority.
In the last few years we have made it compulsory for all schools to have an antibullying policy and given them powers to take on the bullies.
Ofsted now inspects schools' anti-bullying efforts and asks parents and pupils for their views on bullying in their school to make sure schools are taking the issue seriously.
And this year we will be giving schools even more powers, taking forward recommendations from the group of expert head teachers we set up to advise us.
We will give teachers the legal right to discipline pupils, enshrining in law their right to maintain discipline, because I don't want teachers to worry about breaking up fights because a bully says 'you can't touch me or my dad will sue you'.
We will also be giving schools the power to apply for court- imposed parenting orders to compel parents of bullies to attend parenting classes or face £1,000 fines.
The Birmingham Post and its readers have supported us in the fight against the bullies every step of the way.
I know that together we will beat the bullies.