Bullying is a form of repeated aggression that is directed by one or more people towards another person. It tends to occur in places from which escape is difficult, including the workplace, prisons and in the family between siblings.
Physical bullying, where a student uses physical force to hurt another student by hitting, pushing, shoving, kicking, pinching or holding them down. Physical bullying also includes taking or breaking a student’s belongings or stealing or extorting money.
Verbal bullying is when a student uses words to hurt another student. This includes threatening, taunting, intimidating, insulting, sarcasm, name-calling, teasing, slurs, graffiti, put-downs and ridicule. It also includes hostile gestures such as making faces, staring, giving the evil eye, eye rolling and spitting.
Relational bullying occurs when students disrupt another student’s peer relationships through leaving them out, gossiping, whispering and spreading rumors. It includes when students turn their back on another student, giving them the silent treatment, ostracizing or scape-goating.
Cyberbullying refers to the use of cell-phones, text messages, e-mails, instant messaging, chats, blogs and social networking sites to bully another student in any of the ways described above. Examples of cyberbullying are sending threatening or insulting texts, posting untrue information or personal pictures about another student on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, using another student’s email or IM name to send messages that make the student look bad, creating a web page devoted to putting down another student, forwarding a text or e-mail that was meant for your eyes only. Cyberbullying is on the rise and is as serious a problem in many schools as verbal and relational bullying.
When bullying is also harassment. Bullying is part of a continuum of aggression and violence, and at times may amount to harassment. Harassment occurs when a student is the target of threatening, disturbing or unwelcome behaviors because of a legally protected characteristic, such as disability, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender or race. Sexual Harassment occurs when a student is asked for sexual favors or is the target of unwelcome sexual behavior which makes a student feel uncomfortable, scared or confused and which interferes with their schoolwork or ability to participate in school activities or attend classes.
Students are often bullied for reasons beyond those prohibited by anti-harassment laws. Particularly at risk are students who are perceived as gay or lesbian, or who do not conform to stereotypical gender expectations. Students are also targeted for not belonging to the majority race or class, because they have learning or other challenges, for being overweight or obese, less (or more) intelligent, athletic, attractive, confident or simply because they dare to be different. If we allow harassment and bullying to continue at our schools, we fail to protect the diversity of our children and ultimately our whole culture.