For the next few weeks, the Principals’ Office will feature a middle-level blog series, focusing on issues that especially impact students at the middle level, but that are also significant to all K-8 leaders. The first issue is bullying.
When Is It Teasing and When Is It Bullying?
If you lead a middle school that is similar to the one in which I am principal, you may often hear a student in your office say, “I was only teasing/kidding/playing!” Sometimes the statement may be true, but more often than not the student really has been participating in the age-old activity of bullying.
Parents defend their bullying child by saying that he or she could never bully, that the other child may be jealous, or they may say, “boys will be boys.” Some of these parents were bullies as children.
But, what exactly is bullying? Is it a one-time event? Is it only physical? Or can it include verbal and social actions?
At our school, we continue to deal with kids who are bullies and we are taking a schoolwide approach to attacking the problem. First, we advertise our “no tolerance of bullying” policy to our kids and parents. Second, our character education program (Schools of FISH!) is taught each day with emphasis on treatment of others. Third, we have initiated a video-vignette program called Stories of Us that graphically records a long-term bullying scenario. Our counselor shows clips of the progressively intense bully episode and then follows with classroom discussions. Finally, we come down aggressively on violators.
Despite our best intentions, we continue to have problems with bullies because some parents cannot tell us who is bullying their child, other parents will do anything to deflect the blame toward their child, and bullying works for bullies!
What are you doing with your students? I’d love to know.
Mark Terry is principal of Eubanks Intermediate School in Southlake, Texas, and is the Middle-Level Foundation Member on NAESP’s Board of Directors.