“Would you please, please help me? I have a line out the door.” The question was posed to me by a frazzled, wide-eyed principal. I was in the early stages of fashioning my anti-bullying presentation, reACT to Bullying. I responded, “I’ll do my best!”
How to Identify Bullying
His issue was that “bullying” and every conceivable version of the word was dominating his day. At the bus stop, on the bus, walking from the bus, looking at the bus, hearing the bus go by – you get the idea. In fact, he said, the word was being thrown about just as much by parents as students. “If everything is bullying, then I’m afraid nothing will be treated as bullying,” he exhaled.
So, I decided to work to synthesize and clarify the research. I needed to communicate to 5-year old to 50-year olds what bullying is and what bullying isn’t in a concise and memorable way. So here it goes:
What Bullying Is…
- THE ACTIONS TAKEN AREN’T JUST RUDE, THEY ARE MEAN. Intent to do harm, whether physical or psychological, is the key here. We will all run into rude. No one should have to deal with mean.
- THE ACTIONS OCCUR MORE THAN JUST ONCE. It’s the same person taking harmful actions in a repetitive way. An insult blurted once doesn’t rise to the level of bullying.
- POWER IMBALANCE. The person taking those harmful actions over an extended period is older, bigger, part of a group, or in some other way is in a dominant position.
How to Identify Bullying is a very complicated issue. I understand that every situation is unique. If you think you’re being bullied, examine the events through the lens of these three criteria. Sometimes, the answer will be clear. Other times, you might have to ask for help in clarifying the situation. Either way, separating bullying from garden-variety bad behavior will help you to address it.
When I identified these three points, my goal was to help clear a path on how to identify bullying – a path directly to that principal’s door. It is my hope that in my doing so, he was able to focus on the very real instances of bullying and put a stop to them. No student should have to cope with being bullied!
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