Bullying Won’t Stop……Until

“Oh, Mr. Ellis, I was just teasing Tony. We were just having some fun. He knows it.”

When a bully is caught, he/she often knows exactly what to say to get out of trouble. The teacher didn’t really see what happened, so has to rely upon the reports and the denial of the bully. What should be done? Reprimand, once, twice, thrice…..how many times?

In fact, the teacher remembers earlier that day he was making fun of the substitute teacher in much the same way. It wasn’t his fault the substitute is so brain dead, and senile. She should know she looks like the wicked witch of the east in Wizard of Oz, and not get so bent out of shape when someone mentions it. The teacher was only trying to make everyone else laugh. He didn’t think the substitute would go to the bathroom and cry for the entire lunch period before going to the Principal.

Bullying won’t stop……until adults stop bullying. Until adults say “enough is enough” and promptly take action to stop the kids from being bullies and…… stop being bullies themselves, bullying won’t stop.

Teasing is defined as a verb “to make fun of or attempt to provoke in a playful way.” And in the online”Free Dictionary”, the definition includes more: “to taunt annoyingly”, “to say in playful or mocking way”, “to provoke or irritate”.

That is the problem, however we define the word or phrase, we can win the argument.

We teach kids there is a difference between “teasing” and “taunting”. There is fun banter and play between kids. That is a healthy interaction, generally. So how do we really know the difference between teasing and bullying?

Bullying is aggressive conduct intended to intimidate or mistreat a perceived weaker person. There is an intention to cause harm or intimidate. There is aggressive behavior which is behavior that does cause physical or emotional harm to others. Aggressive behavior is a problem because it happens frequently or in a pattern. There is also a power disparity in bullying. One is stronger or appears stronger than the other, either physically or emotionally. Bullying happens because we are not teaching the alternative conduct, and interfering with the offensive conduct.

Adult bullying is called “abusive conduct” in California Government Code Section 12950.1. Adult bullying that is related to discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of one of the named protected classes such as age, race, sex, national origin, etc. is illegal. Common bullying in and of itself is not illegal so employers often did not remedy the conduct. At the time of this blog, only Utah requires similar training. The definition of “abusive conduct” in the Utah legislation includes, “exploits an employee’s known physical or psychological disability.”

It is astounding that we need such laws for adults. Adults are role models for children. Our actions speak louder than our words.

That’s why bullying won’t stop……. until adults stop bullying.

BY Deborah Reisdorph, Founder of BARE Bully Awareness Resistance Education

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