Noti-Directiva Noviembre 2018
Bullying and School Conflict: Actions We Need to Take as a Community
One of the themes that is talked about unremittingly in education today is bullying. There is no doubt that this is an important topic as protecting our children from physical and emotional harm is of great importance. The problem is that “bullying” isn’t always bullying. The term bullying is extremely overused in today’s school lexicon, and more often than not, we see student conflicts instead of classic bullying. The problem with student conflict is when these conflicts are not managed properly, with effective follow-up and reparation, these conflicts can lead to long-term battles between students or groups of students.
Fortunately, at Colegio Granadino we have very few cases of what would be defined as classic bullying. More than anything, we see a lot of inappropriate behavior using social media, which often times becomes a form of cyberbullying. Do we have student conflicts? Yes, absolutely, and this is an area that concerns me greatly. These conflicts must be addressed in an appropriate way and include detailed follow-up as not to see this conflict linger for months or even years. Do we have cases of classic bullying? The answer is also yes, and although there are very few cases reported, these are the situations that concern me the most.
When it comes to these conflicts, or any case of bullying, we must have a zero tolerance policy. If even one student goes home at the end of the day feeling like they do not want to return to school the next day, then we have a problem. Every single student must feel safe at school and as a valuable member of our community.
I am confident we are making progress in helping students make better decisions, stronger connections with their classmates, and strengthening the bonds in our community. But the truth is we still have a lot of work we need to do. The school cannot be isolated in this problem as we absolutely need the support from parents and students in order to create a better community.
The facts are very clear. When kids are victimized, they can suffer from significant consequences including feeling alone, isolated, and humiliated. And yet many victims choose not to tell a single person what is happening to them. The reasons for remaining silent are diverse and vary from person to person. But in general, bullying is scary and confusing when it first happens. This fact leaves most children unsure how to handle the situation. As a result, they keep these incidents to themselves while they try to figure it out.
To make matters worse, some students choose to tell their parents they are being bullied or in a conflict, yet the parents refuse to report the cases to the school until it is too late. I have worked in schools for more than 20 years, and I have heard countless stories of parents informing the school of the issues after months or years of being victimized. This should never happen, and my question is why does this happen?
These are some of the reasons psychologists report that victims or their parents may be hesitant to report the cases of bullying.
Feeling Ashamed and Embarrassed—Bullying is about power and control. As a result, it causes victims to feel powerless or weak.
Fear the Bully May Retaliate—Many students fear that reporting will only escalate the problem.
Rite of Passage—Many adults believe that bullying is something that just happens in schools, and this is a part of growing up. This is a myth.
The Victim is also a Bully—Many times, the victim of bullying has also been a bully. Students who fit into this category fear they will not receive support because they also have had poor relations with other students.
Concern that Nobody Will Believe Them—Often times, the victims are students who don’t hold a strong social standing and therefore their credibility may not be as strong.
Worried About Being Labeled a Snitch—As with many of our current social issues, there is often this unspoken code of secrecy. Victims of bullying are often more afraid of being called a tattletale, a baby, a rat, or a snitch for reporting the bullying than they are about enduring more abuse.
Feel Like They Deserve It—Children are painstakingly aware of their own faults, and they may actually feel that because they are different, they deserve to be treated differently. This is also a myth: Nobody deserves to be treated poorly.
Fail to Recognize Subtle Forms of Bullying—Sometimes bullying starts as being passive or subtle, and from one moment to the next it becomes intolerable. Students feel they didn’t say no from the beginning, so how can they report it later?
Assume Adults Expect Them to Deal With It—Much like the rite of passage, some students believe adults want them to be tough and handle situations themselves.
Fear Adults Will Restrict Digital Access—This happens all the time. Children know if they report cyberbullying, there is a good chance their parents will restrict their use of social media. In the student’s eyes, this is a social nightmare to be disconnected from their devices.
Actions We Need To Take
If your children confess to being a bullying victim, tell them you are proud of them for having the courage to talk about it. This reinforces that you value having an open dialogue about issues in their life. It’s also important that you believe what your kids tell you and that you make a commitment to work with them to find solutions.
Also, keep your emotions in check and do not be a silent supporter of the bully. These cases must be reported to the school with all the details of the situation. The school is required to support their students in cases of bullying. Not only are we legally required to intervene, we are morally and ethically required to protect all of our students.
Getting upset, angry or emotional will only stress out your child. Parents should never try to handle these situations by themselves or between families. This almost always ends in disaster. We need to demonstrate to the students that they have options, and by working as a team, we can make things better.
Another thing that is important for parents is to be careful when placing blame for the bullying of your child. Conflict or situations of bullying are usually scenarios where the facts and evidence are very complex. Many parents choose to blame the school because “Where were the adults when this bullying happened?” While that is a valid question, it is important to understand that most situations of conflict and bullying happen when adults are not around. The students are smart enough to know if they act inappropriately in front of an adult, there will be consequences. And sometimes, isolated incidents in the classroom may happen, but in context it may not be perceived as bullying. The bottom line is that parents, students and the school need to work together in solving situations of conflict and bullying—placing blame is unproductive and will not solve the problem.
At Colegio Granadino, we have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Parents and students must feel empowered to report such incidents. These incidents should be reported to any of the following people or groups:
1. The Teacher
2. The Counselor
3. The Principal
4. Comite Escolar de Convivencia (email@example.com)
Every case of reported bullying must be reviewed by the Comité Escolar de Convivencia to assure that due process is followed and to ratify the decisions of the school for consequences, follow-up and reparation activities. The school has a very clear protocol for cases of bullying and conflict which is tied directly to the law. And although we cannot publicly announce the results in these kinds of cases, rest assured that the school is taking appropriate action based on the law.
As always, thank you for your support in making our school better each day.