There is always going to be conflict between children, but how do we tell if it is bullying or just rudeness? MDR recently published an article on this very subject. Of course we want to teach students to be kind to each other, but it’s still a good idea for school staff to have a clear understanding of the difference between meanness and bullying. As the article mentions, this knowledge assists staff members in stopping bullying in its tracks. It also helps to guide students to appropriate solutions when there is conflict.

So what exactly is the difference between meanness and bullying? In her article, Elizabeth Mulvahill, defines bullying as when someone repeatedly and purposefully says or does mean or hurtful things to a person who has a hard time defending themselves. Different than ordinary conflict, bullying has three distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Bullying is an intentional, negative act.
  2. Usually bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
  3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

Sadly, a nationwide study of 15,000 sixth through tenth graders showed that 17% of students reported having been bullied “sometimes” or more often during the school term, and 8% had been bullied at least once a week. Unfortunately, bullying has become a significant problem and one that affects numerous students. It takes a huge toll on those being bullying- emotionally and sometimes also physically.

Mulvahill’s article lists nine types of bullying:

  • Verbal bullying
  • Physical bullying
  • Being socially excluded or isolated
  • Being bullied through lies and false rumors
  • Having money or other things taken or damaged
  • Being threatened or forced to do things
  • Racial bullying
  • Sexual bullying
  • Cyberbullying

Four anti-bullying rules that you’ll want to make part of your school’s culture are:

  1. At our school, we will not bully others.
  2. We will try to help students who are bullied.
  3. And we will try to include students who are left out.
  4. If we know that somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.

Mulvahill goes on to list 6 steps staff members should take when they see bullying:

  • Step 1: Stop the bullying.
  • Step 2: Support the student who has been bullied.
  • Step 3: Address the student who was bullying.
  • Step 4: Empower bystanders.
  • Step 5: Impose consequences for the student who bullied.
  • Step 6: Check back in with the bullied student.

She elaborates on each of the above steps and concludes her article with scenarios to test your knowledge. To read Elizabeth Mulvahill’s article in full, click here.