What is bullying?
In Polk County Schools, student behavior must meet three criteria to be considered bullying:
- The behavior must be repeated. If a behavior occurs only once, it may constitute harassment, but it is not bullying.
- The behavior must be unwanted, offensive, threatening, insulting, humiliating, or causes the target to feel so stressed, injured or threatened that it interferes with his/her educational performance.
- There must be an imbalance of power between the victim and the aggressor.
“Bullying” is systematically or chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. Bullying may involve but is not limited to:
- unwanted teasing
- threatening/intimidating behavior
- stalking or cyberstalking
- physical violence
- theft or destruction of school or personal property
- sexual, religious, or racial harassment
- public humiliation
- social exclusion, including incitement and or coercion
- rumor or spreading of falsehoods
How do I file a report of bullying?
There are several methods for reporting suspected bullying incidents:
- You can contact a school by phone and report it to school personnel
- You can make a report in person
- You can complete the Bullying and/or Harassment Form
- This form can be downloaded, printed and returned to the school.
- The schools also have copies of this form available for you to complete
What happens next?
- Administrators will acknowledge receipt of your report in three school days
- A preliminary review of the incident may be conducted to determine need for the investigation
- If warranted, an investigation will be conducted and completed within 10 days
- Parents of the victim and bully will be notified of the results and the school will take appropriate action
Brief information about bullying:
A leading Norwegian researcher, Dr. Dan Olweus identifies three critical aspects of bullying:
- Power: The power relationship is inherently unequal. Frequently the bully gains more power and influence among others from his behavior.
- Frequency: Bullies target children for a number of reasons, often because they can. However, they generally do not stop this behavior with particular children unless adults intervene. It is a recurring, often constant problem for the victim.
- Intent: Bullies mean to do what they do; generally, they intend to harm, embarrass, or victimize.
Bullying can take many forms; boys and girls tend to bully differently, for example, and generally their methods target whatever the bully’s group values the most. Boys are often physical and threatening; girls will attempt to alienate the victim from their social groups. Harassment is any action that can be reasonably interpreted to make a person fearful. It can be a one-time incident.
In general, bullies are using behavior that they have determined will gain them status and feelings of control. They usually seek out victims they can successfully bully. Victims do not “ask for it” but there is a group of victims who are not socially successful, and may annoy others, perhaps in an attempt to gain attention from their peers. Bullies use this annoying behavior to justify their own actions. To many bullies, their victims were “asking for it.”
There are five major levels of a school’s response to this problem:
- School Wide: the school establishes a policy about bullying, and an overall response that lets everyone know that bullying is not accepted. The school also sets up a team, or perhaps uses an already existing or established team such as a PBS team that is already addressing management issues, to develop, implement, and monitor programs intended to reduce bullying. If the school has a good behavior management program in
place, then the efforts to eliminate bullying will be easily incorporated.
- Teaching strategies and classroom climate: the teachers can identify and teach skills to cope with bullying. The teachers can also develop and implement activities that promote caring, sharing, cooperation, respect and acceptance, to name a few of
the aspects of positive classroom climate.
- Involving the Parents: Parents can help develop the school wide program and the school’s management plan. They also need to know the school’s policies. The parents of both the victims and the bullies need to be involved (and may need guidance) in teaching their children more helpful behaviors.
- Response hierarchy: the school develops a set of responses to handle each incident of bullying. These may include more supervision and loss of privileges for the bully and increased support for the victim. More difficult problems may require an individualized plan.
- Intensive individual interventions: these provide bullies and victims with individual support through meetings with students and parents, counseling, and sustained child and family supports. The goal is to create a culture in which adults stop all bullying immediately, all students learn positive behaviors and become a part of the anti-bullying solution.