There are few more ill-defined words in the English language at the moment than the word "bullying". Let me try to clarify the three elements that differentiate “bullying” from: “a random act of unkindness”, “immaturity”, "two strong personalities vying for dominion” and "roadblocks or difficulties in the field of human relationships".
The three elements of bullying:
1) Imbalance of power: the bully has more power than the victim. This may be physical in terms of actual size and strength or numbers of supporters. It may be social power in terms of being perceived as “in” rather than “out” or having the capacity to manipulate social situations with greater dexterity than another. It can be emotional exertion of power, where the stubborn and persistent take advantage.
2) Causing pain: again this can be actual overt physical acts. Pain can also be psychological or emotional - making someone feel isolated, inadequate, or put down in any manner of ways. In this way, bullying can be incredibly subtle: just raising your eyes as someone talks, ignoring suggestions, not being inclusive (often the allegation of bullying is defended by, “I was just joking”, to which my stock-standard reply is, “It’s not a joke unless everyone is laughing”)
3) Takes place over time: this is an important element. Random acts of unkindness, difficulties in relating to one another that reoccur once in a while, immature or bad tempered reactions are not bullying. It is the element of time that reveals intention in bullying, and that is so potentially damaging. One drip from a tap is negligible, being exposed to continual dripping can be a form of torture.
Understanding bullying clearly is essential to being able to resolve the situation. Think about the power issue, this means that the situation is impossible to overcome without some form of intervention, the victim has no way of stopping bullying solely through their reaction. A central part of the parenting process is advising your child when they come home and want to talk about relational issues. These can be valuable teaching moments, but if you begin to think this may be bullying, you need to involve the school. Let me indicate why: we’re best placed to gather accurate information and deal with the problem more objectively. Sometimes parent to parent intervention in bullying cases can just blow up badly, believe me.
Often there can be reluctance from a person being bullied to get outside help. This is very understandable. The exposure to bullying tends to make you feel demeaned or diminished, this saps the energy or confidence from getting help. Students can feel that any intervention will further disempower them. Let me assure you that I see the heart of dealing with bullying, involves not acting without the understanding and consent of the person who has been hurt. Dealing with this issue needs to be intentional, involve all parties and bring the wrong actions of students not only to light, but give a clear understanding that it is not acceptable and must stop.
There is so much that can be written and this is not meant to be an extensive treatise on our policy or practice. On a positive note, the best way to defeat bullying is for a College to have a spirit and culture where students see no purpose or meaning in trying to elevate their own sense of self by putting down others. It takes constant attention, but I am proud of our students, their development and growth and our culture of mutual respect. At the very heart of good schooling is students feeling safe and nurtured. It is important that we don’t take the great culture of our College for granted and keep working supportively together.
Rod McNeill - Principal