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The Many Faces of Bullying

14/11/17

Ray wrote this blog based on his own experience with bullying at schools, where he tries to shine the light on the different forms of bullying.

Some schools choose to focus on Anti-bullying at a given time in the year but that is hardly enough. Students (and staff ) are reminded what constitutes bullying but there are situations outside of the Anti-Bullying posters pasted around the school.

The defined guideline to help identify bullying is best summed up in a poster which reads ‘Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending themselves'. The problem can arise from the dreaded term 'banter'. I know of schools who have outlawed the word. The difficulty with this action is that students will replace it with another word; it is far better to emphasise the difference between friendly banter and malicious 'banter'.

The definition of the word banter is 'the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’. It takes adults a long time, if ever, to be comfortable with being on the receiving end of teasing remarks. Banter is usually only acceptable if it is between individuals where mutual respect has already been established and that there is no malicious intent behind the remarks. In the adult world this can be hard to detect among the myriad of hidden meanings intended to undermine or discredit. For students who are also experiencing everyday teenage anxieties and insecurities this can be traumatic.

Teachers are encouraged to be gender neutral where possible but in general, there is a greater use of banter among males, The Telegraph notes, “It is a way of connecting and a form of a compliment: ‘You care enough to fight with me’. They see challenge as a way of honouring someone's knowledge or position... For men, it is often a form of flattery if they engage you in opposition.”-Dr Audrey Nelson, an expert in gender communication.’

In the classroom this form of confrontational banter can be accompanied with physical interplay. Before I challenge behaviour, I use my prior knowledge of the class dynamics, the parties involved and a brief investigation of events to determine if there is any bullying occurring.

Not everyone is comfortable with Alpha males or Alpha females making their presence felt. Their persistent and unwanted need for dominance can be a form of harassment leading on to bullying. I am always on the lookout for such individuals. Unfortunately, their followers are not always aware that their servitude and loyalty is the result of previous and continued ‘bullying', which is sometimes mixed with the recipient’s craving for acceptance from peers.

I have intervened in many situations where I had been concerned about bullying. I have seen a student being verbally chided by a group of students from their class or a student had became withdrawn and ostracised by their peer group. This particular form of passive aggression can be just as hurtful for the victim and is as much a part of bullying as any other type.

The poster guidelines do not display all situations. In these two examples the victims had behaved correctly and reported an incident to a teacher. The Alpha male / female of the group had initiated a bullying campaign by 'mob rule' as a result.

The usual Anti-Bullying posters help students to identify a persistent, name calling bully. However, they may not be aware of other types of bullying, such as ring leader led peer pressure of forcing their 'collective will' or the more subtle type of ‘sending the victim to Coventry’, isolating or shunning them from the peer group.

I always quickly reassure the victims that they have not done anything wrong, that there is just this one person who is making others be a bully for him/her and that there will be consequences for all of them.

Perhaps, during Anti-Bullying week we should be mindful that bullying can take many forms:

Physical. Aggressive. Mental. Passive Aggressive. Verbal. Written. Digital. Visual.

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