Bullying is a form of aggression that occurs when a person is exposed repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more people. It can be physical (hitting, spitting, kicking); verbal (teasing that becomes taunting, name-calling, insults, racist statements); relational (gossip, extortion, ostracism, the ‘evil-eye’); or reactive (any of the above that elicit retaliation). This is a social issue that mostly occurs in children and therefore in schools. It is a community issue that occurs whenever people congregate on a regular basis (schools, buses, shopping centres, community and recreation centres etc.).
Bullying is a relationship issue about a power differential; resolution of bullying problems comes by restoring power neutrality back into the relationship. While more boys than girls are obvious bullies, using physical, verbal and reactive behaviours, girls’ bullying is often harder to detect. They tend to resort to relational bullying or what can be called alternative aggression (Rachel Simmons: Odd Girl Out; Harcourt, 2002).
Direct physical bullying tends to decrease with age (peaks by grade 6-8). Verbal abuse seems to last longer. In many social settings involving youth, verbal sparring is viewed as normal, joking, teen behaviour. Much of the repeated, directed, relational bullying goes undetected; what is referred to as below-the-radar activity. Younger children tend to react or act out so their bullying behaviours are often directly addressed by teachers, parents, other adults and older youth. However, pre-teens and teens are more conscious of punitive responses from adults (teachers, bus drivers, security people, police). They have more to lose so they are more careful and subtle with their relational bullying behaviours.
Some bullying at school is done by groups ganging up on someone they perceive to be different. Some bullying is done by individuals who seek power to compensate for other frustrations in their lives (academic failure, poor social skills, weak relationships). These types of bullying activities tend to dissipate with maturity and can be lessened through effective awareness education in the community and through peer intervention programs. There are also some bullies who are more proactive. They exhibit persistant and chronic bullying behaviours, intimidating others and deriving pleasure from their actions. Early detection and intervention is critical for these people.
See the Bullying Behaviour Chart for further information on identifying signs and types of bullying.
Parents should attempt to be aware of the following signs that your child may be a victim of bullying, or may be bullying. Make particular note as well of cyberbullying if you have Internet connections on your home computer. A short and effective article can be retrieved from here
If your child is experiencing bullying, try to determine the nature and depth of the situation. Try to measure the effects on your child. Talk with them about ways to cope if they feel they can manage the situation on their own. Discuss the following with them:
- TAKE A STAND be assertive be confident in yourself talk to the bully; name the behaviour and ask that it stop
- BUILD CONNECTIONS have friends around walk with friends to and from school tell your friends what is happening
- STAY SAFE decide what you need to do to be safe, including talking to someone
- TELL AN ADULT parent, teacher, police name the behaviour and what you have done to stop the problem
If you and/or your child feel that the bullying is a serious threat we suggest you begin by contacting the school. You can speak with one of the Vice Principals or you can ask to speak with your child’s counsellor.
- Mr. C Barnabe Surnames A – H
- Mrs. Saunders Surnames I – P
- Ms. V. Barnabe Surnames Q – Z
There are comprehensive bullying intervention and awareness programs in our feeder elementary schools, with related initiatives coming from The West Ottawa Community Resource Centre. The Earl of March awareness initiatives are a logical extension of the elementary programs and are meant to promote and support youth safety in the community. Grade 9 students are being surveyed about bullying and are being given a chance to discuss how they can participate in detecting, reporting and dealing directly with bullying behaviours both at school and in the community. Awareness support is also coming from specific curriculum areas such as Physical Education, Visual Art, Drama, English, and Peer Leadership and Support. Discussions have occurred with Students’ Council and The Peer Support group, and bullying issues and information is on the agenda for the upcoming Leadership Camps.
It will take cooperation and communication throughout our community to address the issue. We need to expose bullying – name it for what it is and provide ways for people to understand what is happening when they experience or witness bullying. We need to raise awareness, reduce victim isolation and increase the value of reporting.