Redefining Bullying


"This is a different kind of strategy. It means changing an understanding of a fundamental concept in the classroom and school. The way bullying is typically conceptualized, there is a bully and a victim, and sometimes a bystander. This implies that there are "good guys" and "bad guys" which erodes the community that is essential for creating an inclusive environment in which everyone belongs and everyone is valued. Schools and classrooms that have zero-tolerance and no-questions-asked policies toward bullying and standardized punishments for bullies are failing to support the needs of all students. There is nothing cut or dry or easily defined about bullying. When one students is aggressive in some way toward another, all of the students have needs that should be met and skills to be learned. Bullying should be redefined as conflicts that need to be collaboratively solved. The focus on the classroom should be redefined toward recognizing everyone's strengths while supporting everyone's weaknesses. If we do this, we stop sending the message that there are good guys and bad guys, and we start sending the message that we are all in it together to help each other solve problems.

Redefining bullying does not mean that aggressive behaviour is okay or will be tolerated. It still means that behaviour must stop immediately. Redefining bullying means that the student who engages in aggressive behaviour will not be labeled a bully or punished and condemned as a bad person in the community. That student will be valued and supported in learning new skills. Everyone will be expected to work with everyone, not just the ones who are easiest to work with."

Source: Universal Design for Learning in Action: 100 Ways to Teach ALL Learners by Whitney H. Rapp (2014)

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