November 27, 2017
Dear LoMA Family,
Too many students fail to understand bullying. At one extreme some people think it is any time that someone insults or makes fun of someone, and at the other extreme some think that bully doesn’t count if it is “funny” and the target is laughing. In fact, bullying has a very specific, legal criteria. It always involves some kind of PAIN.
P – It reflects an imbalance of Power- the person engaging in bullying has a real or perceived power over the person being bullied (i.e. age, size, popularity, role, group, etc.)
A – Bullying is Aggressive – (it can take the form of physical, emotional or relational aggression)
I – It must be Intentional – in person or via social media (cyberbullying)
N –It occurs Numerous times (Repetitive)
In other word, bullying is different from “normal” teenage conflict which usually does not involve power differences, repetition and intent. Because it is worse, the target (a better word than victim) can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. These may include:
• Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
• Decreased academic achievement, attendance and school participation. They may also drop out of school.
• A very small but significant number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied. In fact, it is likely that the school stabbing in the Bronx last month was a result of a homophobic bullying.
Bullying usually takes one of the following forms:
• Physical violence
• Threats, taunts and teasing
• Exclusion from peer groups
• Derogatory language, name calling and slurs
Unfortunately, most bullies do not see most of this as bullying. Nearly every bully I have spoken to gives the same lame excuse – “I was just joking around.” Then, he or she may add that the target was laughing, so it couldn’t be bullying. Of course it can. Targets laugh to deflect the pain that they are feeling, and there is nothing funny about making people feel bad.
With the growing popularity of social media has come the virulence of cyberbullying. This form of electronic aggression can be any type of repeated harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through email, social media (including blogs) or text messaging that involves a power differential. Fortunately, we have seen a decrease of cyberbullying as bullies have learned how easy it is to get caught. All the target has to do is print the message and bring it to Kathleen. In fact all bullying needs to be reported to any staff member the target feels comfortable with – Kathleen, Millie, Renae or any staff member. Ninety percent of the time, it does not need to lead to punishment. A quick mediation and discussion can usually clear things up because no one wants to be a bully; we just need to be more aware of how our actions are making other people feel.