Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation A Guide for Educators Working in the Queen Anne s County School System

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1 Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation A Guide for Educators Working in the Queen Anne s County School System 1

2 It is the policy of QACPS to prohibit bullying, harassment and intimidation of any person on school property, at school sponsored functions or by the use of electronic technology at a public school. It is also the policy of QACPS to prohibit reprisal or retaliation against individuals who report acts of bullying, harassment and intimidation or who are victims, witnesses, bystanders, or others with reliable information about an act of bullying, harassment and intimidation. This is a guide for the teachers and staff working in the Queen Anne s County Public School System. We hope that this manual is helpful and provides you with some answers and information about the very serious issue of bullying, harassment and intimidation of students in schools. Educators choose their profession because they care about children and about the future and the well- being of our young people. We know how hard you work every day to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the students in your classroom and in your school. As educators we have the very large responsibility of making sure all our students are both physically and emotionally safe each and every day. What is bullying? Bullying.I am sure you have heard the term before. It is a word with many perceptions. You may have been bullied as a kid or you may remember seeing one of your childhood friends be 2

3 bullied. Now that you are adults you may have had to deal with bullying in your classroom. But what is it exactly? Bullying is behavior that is meant to hurt or make someone feel uncomfortable. It is often described as an imbalance of power. In other words the bully usually has more power of some kind than the victim. They may be bigger and or physically stronger; they may be more popular than the victim and will use that social currency in a damaging way. A student who bullies others tends to target sensitive and or awkward students because they are easy targets who rarely retaliate. The bullying student may appear to have more emotional strength than their victim and enjoy picking on an emotionally weaker student. There are three types of bullying: _ Physical, This is when a student hurts or harms another student or breaks, destroys or takes another students property. If a student puts their hands on another student in an attempt to harm or intimidate that would fall into this category. If a student takes another student s possession and destroys it, this also fits into this category. _ Verbal, This type of bullying can be the most hurtful. This would occur when a student who uses words to harm or hurt another student emotionally. They make remarks about their appearance or clothes or the way they talk or how they walk etc. Name calling is a common form of verbal bullying. If the name calling occurs because of race, ethnicity, religious preference, physical appearance or sexual orientation than it is harassment and we will talk about that later. Social, This type of bullying occurs when a person is excluded from a group or event. This can be very subtle and harder for adults to detect. Some kids might be told not to play in a certain area by other kids, or told they don t belong at a particular lunch table. Many kids don t realize that this is actually a form of bullying. Direct vs. Indirect Strategies Direct -This is when a bullying student is face to face with the victim. They are verbally taunting them or physically attacking them. They yell out obscene names on the bus or physically put their hands on the victim at their locker for example. This is the kind of bullying that is most easily noticeable by adults. But it is not always easy to catch because the bullying students usually wait until there are no adults around before striking. 3

4 Indirect - This can occur without the victim present. Spreading rumors with the intent of hurting another student s reputation or urging others not to include a particular student are both examples of indirect bullying. This may include written derogatory comments about the person online or on the bathroom wall. The victim is at an even greater disadvantage because this kind of bullying is often anonymous and they don t always know who the aggressor is, creating a very uncomfortable atmosphere for the victim. Cyber-bullying can also fall into this category and can have devastating effects on the victim because of the wide audience created by the Internet. Do boys bully differently than girls? It has been thought for years that boys engaged more frequently in the direct approach while girls bullied more indirectly. But in recent years there has been a rise in female violence in our schools and more and more girls are engaged in direct bullying and there are many boys who bully other student with indirect bullying. What is the difference between bullying and harassment? Bullying and harassment do not always mean the same thing. Harassment means that you are bullying the student because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, physical appearance etc. For example if a student yells out anti-semitic comments to a Jewish student as they walk down the hall that is harassment. It is also bullying. However if someone threatens to beat you up because they are bigger than you then that is most likely bullying most but not harassment. So harassment is also considered bullying, but bullying is not always considered harassment. Bullying is a relationship issue, while harassment is a human rights issue. Bullying is an appropriate term when the issue is about an imbalance of power between students. It may be a group of students against one, or a physically stronger student against another It may also be someone who is emotionally stronger against someone who is weaker or someone with more social currency In other words a more popular student against an unpopular student You may be surprised to find out that it is often the popular students who are the worst bullies in the school Harassment is an appropriate term when the intimidation occurs because of race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, 4

5 ancestry, physical attribute, socioeconomic status, familial status, or physical or mental ability or disability What do I do if I see a student being bullied? The first thing I would recommend to all educators is to do your best to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place. Since most bullying occurs when there is no staff member around, it is important to be visible to students. Stay on your feet and walk around your classroom and your building and let the students see you engaged in their activities. Talk to your students at the beginning of the school year about respecting others and constantly remind them that every student has right to be respected and that no student has the right to demean and humiliate another student. These are lessons that should be taught all year long, even if it is just a quick 30 second reminder before a class starts. The important thing with bullying is to intervene as soon as you spot it. Be careful not to label anybody such as calling an aggressive kid a bully. And try not to make too big of a deal about the victim. Give the victim chance to maintain their dignity in this situation. The next step is to let an administrator know about the incident. You may be asked to write an incident report or provide them with details about what you witnessed. From that point on it is up to the administrator to follow up with the students and their parents. If a student approaches you and says that he or she is being bullied you have to share this information with an administrator. Tell the student that this is something you must do and that the only way to end this bullying is to confront it head on. There is a bullying, harassment and intimidation form from MSDE that is 5

6 commonly called The green form. Fill one out if you have learned that a student has been bullied. Turn it in immediately to an administrator. What does bullying in a school look like? Bullying in school happens when a student or a group of students either verbally or physically harm another student. A child who bullies another student seems to possess more power than their victim. The student who bullies another may be physically stronger or more socially powerful than their victim. It can happen anywhere, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, on the playground, on the bus, and even at home in cyber space. The goal of the bullying student is to either physically or emotionally hurt the other student, and by doing this they elevate their own stature either in their own eyes or the eyes of their peers. But please understand, students that bully do not generally have low-self-esteem. Many students who bully others are quite popular in school and feel very good about themselves. They just lack certain sensitivity towards others. They also believe that if they humiliate the victim and can get a laugh at the victim s expense and that it will entertain his or her peers and which will further strengthen their social status. There are three main components to a bullying incident 1. Bullying student(s)-it all starts with a student or a group of students who are showing insensitivity towards someone else. We know that students who are not showing respect towards others can make bad decisions, but when you get a group of students together who choose not to be kind, their decisions can be disastrous. This is called groupthink. Either way, bullying, harassment, and intimidation involves a mean-spirited decision either by one student or a group of students. 2. Location-There has to be a place in school or on the bus where the bullying can take place. It has to be in a location where adults would normally not notice it. It may take place on the playground, the cafeteria, on the bus, or it may even take place in the classroom while the teacher is working with another student on the other side of the room. In other words, wherever there is an opportunity for the bullying to occur, that becomes most likely location for the bullying to occur. 6

7 3. Victim-There has to be a victim. Someone who the aggressive student chooses to target. A victim is chosen for many reasons. Victims are usually easy targets because they are often socially awkward, shy, timid, and perhaps may not have a lot of friends. Victims are often loners who have trouble establishing peer relationships in the first place. Being a target of bullying makes it all that much harder because he or she becomes stigmatized by theirsocially powerful peersand thenthey feel even more excluded and the cycle of rejection escalates. I did not include bystanders in this dynamic even though they are very important to this discussion. I have seen kids defend a victim and I have seen students just stand back and watch some pretty awful things happen. There have even been some cases where the bullying is videotaped by a bystander and uploaded online. This creates a whole other set of problems for everyone involved. Is Bullying a Big Problem? Anyone who says that their school does not have any bullying issues probably doesn t understand how insidious of a problem bullying is. Bullying takes place in every school. There are statistics that show how often bullying is reported but the truth is most bullying goes unreported and undetected by the school staff. That is why we have to remain visible and let all the students know that we are on the look-out for any kind of bullying behavior. The more our students see that we are watching them, the safer they all will feel. A more visible presence in the hallways, in our classrooms and in all other settings will help reduce the opportunity for bullying to occur. Students who bully other students are very clever with their actions. They know when and where they can strike out against their victim. Whether it is verbal abuse or physical aggression the bullying student waits for the right opportunity to intentionally harm the victim. So when the teacher has his or her back turned to her class, or the staff on duty at lunchtime are not watching what is going on in the cafeteria, the opportune moments for bullying behavior presents itself. How can I help a victim of bullying? It is critical to build a relationship with your all students. You have probably heard this many times. But what does that really mean? It s an easy thing to say you want to build relationships, 7

8 but it really takes a lot of time and effort. There s an old saying, You spell love T-I-M- E.In other words, to show a student that you care about them, spend some time getting to know them. Once they see that you care about them they will begin to trust you, and then you have the foundation for a positive and nurturing relationship that so many kids need. It s easy to build a relationship with the popular out-going kids. They are usually very bright, funny, and charming. Those kind so kids are easy to like and easy to build relationships with. And you should because they need your time as much as any other student does. But then there are those kids who aren t so friendly. They aren t so charming and they may be difficult to get along with or may be so introverted that you can hardly get a word out of them. Those kids need you too. Try to interact with all your students every day, even if it is just for a quick moment. But pay close attention to those kids who don t seem to fit in well with their peers. Try to cultivate an inclusive classroom where everyone feels accepted. Often it is those kids who don t quite fit in are the ones who become targets. Every act of bullying is different and every victim is different as well. There is no one stereotypical description of a victim. There is no exact profile. A victim often times is a loner, someone who has few friends. This may be because they are socially awkward or lack the social skills most kids have when it comes to making friends and maintaining relationships. Because of this isolation these kids become easy targets for the bullies. They lack a support system from their peers and when they are targeted, they don t have friends that will stick up for them. Students who are physically weaker or who are shy and timid can be easily targeted as well. Victims of bullying who face rejection and physical assaults from their peers may come to fear school. They may lose their ability to concentrate in class because they are worried about being verbally or physically assaulted. Their grades may suffer because of their attendance and lack of focus. They may begin to suffer from depression and anxiety and actually over time may feel like the bullying is their fault. And the sad part about all this is that the traumatic effects of bullying can last a lifetime. Studies of adults who were bullied as children show that the scars though not visible are often permanent. 8

9 What can I do to stop bullying in my school? By asking this question you are already on your way to reducing the bullying problem in your school. By showing a desire to put an end to bullying you are already on your way to helping to make a significant difference in making school much more tolerable for all students. It may be impossible to eliminate bullying at your school but your efforts will help all students to feel safer both physically and emotionally. The first step is to learn all you can about this issue. There has been so much written since April 20 th, 1999(Columbine) and there are many evidenced base approaches that you will be able assimilate into your own approach. There are books, videos, seminars, webinars, and blogs where you will find many great strategies you can use in your classroom and your school. Embrace the concepts of PBIS which is a positive behavior initiative that supports building a positive school culture. PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) is implemented in all schools in Queen Anne s County. Through PBIS we teach kids to be respectful and caring towards one another. One of the main goals of PBIS is to build a culture of respect at each school. It also provides you an opportunity to reward kids for showing respect to one another. When students are recognized for what they do then tend to repeat that behavior. Teach students to respect each other by showing all of your students the highest degree of respect. They are watching and learning from you and your behavior. Embrace Character Counts-Our character education programs in Queen Anne s County supports staff by teaching our students about demonstrating good character. The pillars of Character Counts include respect and caring. Work with the local community partnerships to bring Character Counts into your classroom. 9

10 Final Thoughts The Queen Anne s County Public School System takes bullying very seriously. I m sure you do too. Teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, Para-educators, administrative secretaries and support staff all face the challenge everyday of keeping our children emotionally and physically safe while in school. We know you give your best every day and your dedication to the children of Queen Anne s County has helped to make us a world class school system. Bullying, harassment, intimidation have no place in an educational setting. And no child should ever have to suffer because of the cruelty of another... 10

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