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Posted on Jan 17, 2011

Gillispie Faculty and Staff Gather Lessons on Bullying Behavior

January 13, 2011

Mrs. Kerr, Ms. Adams, and I recently had the opportunity to attend an all-day conference titled “Bullying in the Girls’ World” as led by Diane Senn, Ed.S., a school counselor and author from South Carolina. Although the session emphasized some of the dynamics particular to bullying behaviors as they relate to girls, much of the information was broadly applicable to relational aggression by both girls and boys. In February, the two teachers and I will be presenting a workshop to K-6 faculty based on the principles and strategies we learned–approaches that can be used immediately in working with our students. We’d then like to offer a workshop for parents at Gillispie later this spring. In the meantime I wanted to share a few of the takeaway messages from the day:
  • Tell children it’s better to “be respectful” than to “be nice.” The idea of being respectful is more broadly applicable and empowers them to set healthy boundaries (which may seem to conflict with being “nice”).
  • Schools and parents can and should differentiate between “bullies” and “bullying behavior.” There are very few bullies in life, but almost all of us engage in bullying behavior from time to time. The trick is to identify these behaviors and then work toward community-wide change and accountability. (In addition, be cautious when identifying bullying behavior of children Grade 1 and below because children of those ages aren’t typically exploiting an imbalance of power but are more likely impulsively expressing aggression.)
  • Adults must intervene when the bullying behavior is STOP (severe, traumatic, ongoing, and there’s a power imbalance).
  • There’s a difference between a “target” of bullying behavior and a “victim”—children may all be targets from time to time, but can take steps to avoid becoming victims.
  • There’s typically a third party involved—aggressor, target, and bystander. Bystanders are in the majority and can be accessed and empowered to get involved and make a difference. This will be an area of emphasis as we work with Gillispie students in the months to come.
  • There are positive role models in the media. These should be sought out and highlighted by parents for their children.
While certain bullying behaviors are rising to mirror the complexity of modern life (e.g., bullying on Facebook and via texting), our understanding of strategies for managing bullying is evolving with sophistication to match, and there are numerous reasons to be hopeful and to take action. Steve Bunyak Assistant Head of School
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