Bullying is hereby defined as a single significant incident or a pattern of incidents involving a written, verbal, or electronic communication, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another pupil which:
- Physically harms a pupil or damages the pupil’s property,
- Causes emotional distress to a pupil,
- Interferes with a pupil’s educational opportunities,
- Creates a hostile educational environment, or
- Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school.
Bullying shall also include actions motivated by an imbalance of power based on a pupil’s actual or perceived personal characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs, or motivated by the pupil’s association with another person and based on the other person’s characteristics, behaviors, or beliefs.
The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s Understanding Bullying (https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource001364_Rep1823.pdf) provides us with very helpful information and suggestions on addressing bullying among our children.
According to this report, 30% of school-age children report having been victims of bullying, and 30% of school-age children report that they have bullied another person. (These figures closely mirror Pittsfield’s data, according to our most recent Health Risk Behavior Survey in 2017.) It has been reported that more than seven million cases of bullying are reported in public schools nationwide each year.
The federal Stop Bullying website (https://www.stopbullying.gov/) provides four actions that we adults can take to prevent bullying:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
Bullying is often underreported. Despite the fact that about 30% of our students have confidentially reported that they have been bullied, our schools receive only a handful of reports each year. Students, parents, and families are encouraged to report suspected incidents of bullying, either by using the district’s reporting form (https://www.sau51.org/sau/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/JICK-R.Pupil_.Safety.and_.Violence.Prevention.Bullying.Reporting.Form_1.pdf) or by speaking directly to an advisor, teacher, administrator, or any trusted adult.
Do’s when addressing bullying from this source include:
- Do intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Do separate the kids involved.
- Do make sure everyone is safe.
- Do meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Do stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
- Do model respectful behavior when you intervene.
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
While we may or may not agree with the African proverb it takes a village to raise a child, I believe that it takes a community to eliminate bullying among our children and youth. If we all do our parts, we can support our children and eradicate bullying from our community.