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|Pain By Any Name Hurts the Same, October 2012|
What is bullying beyond hurtful behavior that we may have all engaged in or been victims of at some times in our lives? The Minnesota Bullying Prevention Initiative is a partnership of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Hazelden and OLWEUS™. They answer that question as follows:
“Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.” According to Dr. Olweus, author of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) this definition includes three important components.
This definition takes us beyond the occasional behaviors that are part of natural social development and experimentation. It takes us beyond insensitivity or bravado among those with similar levels of power. This definition refines the vernacular to help us to focus on causes and consequences and thus on developing the skills that all children need to empathize, be compassionate, resolve conflicts and become capable advocates for themselves in a variety of situations.
- Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
- Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
- Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Another definition comes from The Responsibility Project, based on the work of psychologist Joel Haber. “Bullying is when one or more kids intentionally hurt others to increase their power and status…It crosses the line when it is unwanted behavior and it doesn’t stop.”
Although we hear a lot of painful stories about bullying, bullying is not new. Over the years, people have talked about everything from “bad boys” and “mean girls” to “kids just being kids.” People mistreating others has been around just about as long as has humanity. The questions for schools today are: Why? What can we do about it? And, are our schools as inclusive and physically and emotionally safe as we can make them?
- Relational (what kids do to hurt each other’s relationships; this can often be the most painful outcome of bullying)
Educators have a pivotal role in creating a climate in which negative and hurtful student behaviors are less likely to occur, and authentic student confidence is more likely to grow. One passionate school leader, committed to an environment of empathy and mutual respect, who communicates that passion to school/district employees, volunteers and students can have sustainable and life-changing impacts.
In her book How to Bullyproof Your Classroom, Caltha Crowe describes strategies “to prevent bullying and create a safe, inclusive…classroom where kindness and learning flourish” so that bullying doesn’t become the reality. She says educators must learn to do the following:
It is essential that all students understand that the need to overpower others emotionally, socially, or physically is a treacherous pursuit of false confidence. Students also need to know that being treated badly by someone else is not a reflection of the victim’s value or adequacy and may actually reflect a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the aggressor.
- Recognize and stop gateway behaviors as soon as they start.
- Build a caring classroom community.
- Create rules with children that help prevent bullying.
- Talk candidly with children about bullying.
- Work with parents in anti-bullying efforts.
While schools cannot control the environment in which students spend the majority of their time, they can be leaders in ensuring that the time students spend in school builds character and confidence. Some districts, like Farmington, Minnesota, choose character education “with the idea of being for respect, caring, kindness, fairness, etc. instead of focusing on anti-bullying; but still incorporating those lessons into their programs.” Caltha Crow suggests language that focuses on the action rather than labeling the person and “creating an environment where kindness rather than meanness prevails.”
TeacherVision® suggests zero tolerance, and instant response options such as the following:
Bullying is not only an American thing, or a school-age thing. It happens in person and online. Bullying negatively affects both the offender and the offended. Bullying is not only a painful problem of hearts and spirits, but also one of liability for school systems and practitioners, and communities. Solutions and sensitivity are necessary not only for students and communities but also for the economy of schools and the efficacy of education.
- Listen attentively to the one being teased or bullied.
- Speak privately to the bully (clearly defining the report or observation, and trying to determine the motivation behind the act).
- Speak to both parties and come to an agreement about future interactions.
- Involve the principal and parents, as appropriate.
- Suggest further means of modification, if necessary. Examples include counseling or contracts.
Progress and solutions will require that school leaders lead with passion and empathy and help all stakeholders to do the following:
Leadership has been defined as “the ability to lead: the ability to guide, direct, or influence people.” Leadership is needed to make our schools places of learning, compassion, and civility.
- Put themselves, their siblings, their children or even their parents in the position of the victim. How would they feel? What could they do? How might the experience change their lives?
- Understand that bullying is not a sign of “coolness” or “power” but rather suggests a lack of confidence and a need to gain control.
The best time to end bullying is before it begins.
To download a print-ready copy of the talking points, scroll down.
Also posted are print-ready talking points on the "ABCs of preventing bullying and building understanding at home."
These are talking points
For use by school leaders in presentations about important
issues related to public education.
Public relations materials for use by principals.
public relations materials were developed for MESPA by Shari Prest, Ark
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Contact MESPA at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shari Prest at email@example.com