Bullying is a pervasive, relationship issue in our society. At the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) our administrators choose from a range of options to address bullying behaviour and help students learn from their choices. Progressive discipline helps to prevent bullying behaviours from escalating by promoting positive student behaviour and preventing inappropriate and unsafe behaviours at school and school related activities.
A variety of bullying intervention strategies are being used in our schools, including:
- Imagine a School Without Bullying
- Good Kid Syd
Restorative Justice Circles have been used, since 2005, to resolve bullying interactions in a positive way.
Bullying is a form of abuse at the hands of peers that takes many different forms at different ages. According to PREVNet, the types of bullying can be defined as:
Physical bullying includes behaviours such as: spitting, shoving, hitting, kicking, beating up, stealing, or damaging property.
Verbal bullying includes behaviours such as: name-calling, hurtful teasing, humiliating or threatening someone, mocking, racist comments, or sexual harassment.
Social bullying includes behaviours such as: excluding others from the group, rolling your eyes or turning away from someone, spreading rumours and gossip, setting others up to look foolish, and damaging friendships.
Electronic or Cyber bullying includes the use of email, text messages, and internet social networking sites to threaten, harass, embarrass, socially exclude, or damage reputations and friendships.
Racial bullying includes behaviours such as: treating people badly because of their racial or ethic background, saying bad things about a cultural background, calling someone racist names, or telling racist jokes.
Religious bullying treating people badly because of their religious background or beliefs, saying bad things about a religious background or belief, calling someone names or telling jokes based on his or her religious beliefs.
Sexual bullying includes behaviours such as: leaving someone out or treating them badly because they are a boy or a girl, making someone feel uncomfortable because of their sex, making sexist comments or jokes touching, pinching or grabbing someone in a sexual way, making crude comments about someone’s sexual behaviour, spreading a sexual rumour about someone, or calling someone inappropriate names.
Disability bullying includes behaviours such as: leaving someone out or treating them badly because of a disability, making someone feel uncomfortable because of a disability, or making comments or jokes to hurt someone with a disability.
A 2009 survey of Grade 7 to 12 students by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that almost one in three students has been bullied in school. In 2011, a survey by Egale Canada found that 64% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer students felt unsafe school. Four suicides by bullied students in 2011 has caused Ontario’s provincial government to look at legislative changes to address this issue.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has determined the new definition of bullying to be:
“Bullying” means aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a pupil where,
(a) the behaviour is intended by the pupil to have the effect of, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,
(i) causing harm, fear or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property, or
(ii) creating a negative environment at a school for another individual, and
(b) the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as:
- peer group power
- economic status
- social status
- ethnic origin
- sexual orientation
- family circumstances
- gender identity
- gender expression
- disability; or
- the receipt of special education (intimidation)
For the purposes of the definition of “bullying” in subsection (1), behaviour includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written or other means.
For the purposes of the definition, bullying includes bullying by electronic means (commonly known as cyber-bullying), including,
(a) creating a web page or a blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
(b) impersonating another person as the author of content or messages posted on the internet; and
(c) communicating material electronically to more than one individual or posting material on a website that may be accessed by one or more individuals.
Effects on Student Who are Victims of Bullying
Bullying has long-term, effects on a person. Children who are victimized are at risk for a range of behavioural, emotional and relationship problems, including:
- low self-esteem
- stress-related health issues
- social anxiety and loneliness
- higher rates of absenteeism from school
- social withdrawal and isolation
- self-harming behaviours
- suicidal thoughts
- suicide (in the most extreme cases)
Effects on Students who Bully
Students who bully their peers, are not only having relationship issues, but they are at risk of setting the stage for life long related behaviour and relationship problems. Students who bully often exhibit:
- substance abuse
- gang involvement
- dating aggression
- sexual harassment
How can we all help?
By being diligent and watching for signs. There are usually three components to bullying situations – the bully(ies), the victim(s) and the bystander(s). According to PREVNet:
- lack empathy – show little concern for other’s feelings
- do not recognize the impact of their behaviour on others
- hold a positive attitude about aggression
- aggressive with siblings, parents, friends and animals
- manipulative and bossy
- secretive about possessions, activities and whereabouts
- possess unexplained objects and money
- easily frustrated; quick to anger
- may be bullied at home by parents, siblings or other family members
- is friends with other bullies
- few opportunities to show talents and receive recognition at home, school and in the community.
- be anxious, fearful and over-reactive
- have low self-esteem and self worth
- make self – depreciating comments about themselves
- have headaches and stomach aches
- high rate of absenteeism
- deeply anxious about school
- show lowered interest in school work
- decline in performance
- loses things, needs money, reports being hungry after school
- unexplained injuries, bruising, torn clothing, broken items
- trouble sleeping, nightmares and bed wetting
- change in personality – unhappy, sad, irritable, loss of interest in favourite activities
- expresses threats to hurt others or themselves
- lonely and isolated at school
- few friends at school and in neighbourhood
- no desire to go outside to play
Bystanders hold power they are not always aware of having in bullying situations. By choosing to stay and not provide, or seek help, their presence supports the bully and the behaviour. When bullying is allowed to continue, bystanders get the message that bullying is OK. They may even start to imitate or support the bullying to protect themselves from becoming a victim.
Research shows that bystanders are present 88% of the time when bullying occurs, yet they intervene only 19% of the time. When they do intervene, they are successful most of the time.
How do you help?
- Never stand by, watch or encourage bullying.
- Be clear to your friends that you won’t be involved in that kind of behaviour.
- Never forward or respond to social network messages or photos that could be offensive or upsetting to anyone.
- Do not spread gossip, speculate, tease or harass others.
- Help people who are being bullied get help. Either help them get to an adult or give them information, e.g. Kids Help Line where they can get help.
- Report to an adult.