Mean vs. Rude vs. Conflict vs. Bullying
As I read articles about the Livingston boy who recently committed suicide, my heart ached. Since the story broke, I have been asked by numerous people what GFPS does to prevent and address bullying. I talked about our commitment to the Olweus program which is best practice in prevention. I talked about our Respect for All initiative that I believe encourages a kinder and gentler environment. I talked about the collective and individual work that is done by our staff members to address the issue. I also told them that this should not be and cannot be just a school responsibility. It is a community issue and one that each man, woman and child in our community has a responsibility to address.
These conversations got me to thinking about why it’s so hard to address. They also made me think of an article I had read recently that pointed out, “…if kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying …we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency as quickly as it rose to prominence.” (Whitson)
The article defines what it means to be mean versus what it means to be rude and what it means to be a true bully. As it is written by a school counselor, there are very real kid examples of each included. I would also add that sometimes it is just plain old conflict in which two or more people argue or quarrel which is also very different from bullying.
The author notes, “It is important to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene. As we have heard too often in the news, a child's future may depend on a non-jaded adult's ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying.” (Whitson)
I would add that by having meaningful relationships with our students and parents, we can ask the right questions to determine what really happened and then act accordingly and appropriately. I encourage you to read this excellent article for more information: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/bullying_b_2188819.html. What we call things matters. Thank you for listening carefully to our students.
Take care. Be safe. Stay well.