Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bullying is Everywhere

Bullying is everywhere. I think we have to face that. In order to combat this terrible epidemic, we have to face just how insidious it really is. I believe one of the things that makes bullying so difficult to combat is that we are not discussing that bullying works. And if it works, bullies grow up to be bullies. There are bullies in the workplace, in the home and in government.

Ontario has Bill 168 to help make schools safe. Some US states have similar laws outlawing it. There is no similar law in the UK. But let's be clear, all of these target child bullies acting in schoolyards. Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. Which means, that these laws should target any bully in society.

It is only with the terrible acts of bullying that have resulted in murder or suicide, in the last 10 years or so,  that have brought "lower-level forms of violence"  such as bullying to media attention. In turn, researchers, parents and guardians, and authority figures are beginning to address the problem.


  1. There are several problems with taking on bullying.

    I think most people would agree that, as long as things stay within certain bounds, kids should work things out between themselves with minimal interference from adults. This leads too easily to a refusal by adults to become involved even after things pass reasonable bounds.

    (Then again, sometimes it's the adults who are the worst bullies of kids. One of the most extreme examples would be Wanda Holloway, who hired a hit man to kill her daughter's rival for a cheerleading position, but there are lots of less extreme examples.)

    A huge problem is how bullying is defined. Depending on whom you ask, bullying may include any of the following: actual physical violence, threatened physical violence, second-person verbal attacks (in front of the victim), third-person verbal attacks (behind the victim's back), or shunning. At what point should "adults" intervene?

    If we say that NONE of this is permitted EVER to ANY degree, we risk becoming the smile police -- who are, coincidentally, among the biggest bullies of all.

    My guess is that some acts should not be tolerated ever, at all, and in some other cases depends on intensity, duration, etc. If one child calls another a bad name once, it should be punished, but it's not really bullying; if it happens every day, it clearly is.

  2. You're right. While every case is different, there is an element of "smile police" as you call it, as work in schools. "Bullying" has become the word that gives the "namer" power. It stops everything and brings it to a higher authority. I don't allow students or parents to make that call (in my class) because I believe one or two incidents doesn't make a bully. Bullying is a long-term overview of a situation. Besides, often when we take the time to sort the incident out, it turns out that the namer was as aggressive as the one named.

    I once heard bullying defined as "repeated, unwanted and by one with power over you". Again, what that power is, is arguable as well.

  3. Kids are told to report everything because they are not the best judge of circumstances. Teachers are the ones who are suppose to stop the process, if it isn't bullying.

  4. Okay, but teachers are suppose to pass on to the principal all information regarding bullying. Of course, teachers can add that it seems to be trumped up allegations, etc.,



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