What is Bullying?
As most of you are aware at this point in history: there is a lot of talk about bullying. As the middle school counselor, I feel it is worth taking a few minutes to discuss this issue, as well as how Otsego handles issues of bullying and other situations that are often incorrectly lumped into the bullying category.
As defined by the Olweus bullying prevention program, the program used by Otsego schools, bullying is: "An aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power. Most often, it is repeated over time." The key components of bullying are 1) a difference in power combined with 2) repetition over time. In addition to bullying, many students have conflicts, which is not inherently bullying, due to the absence of a power difference. To help clarify the issue, below are examples of what is bullying and what is not (i.e., conflict):
Bullying (Power Difference & Repeated)
-8th grader shoving 6th grader into locker regularly in halls
-Four 7th graders repeatedly harassing another 7th grader
-A popular student-athlete making fun of a less popular student frequently while everyone sits around and laughs
Conflict (No Power Difference)
-Two 8th grade friends having an argument and insulting one another
-Two 7th graders that don't like one another and call each other names
-Two 6th graders that don't like one another, but have mutual friends and talk bad about one another to their mutual friends
-A group of three 8th graders saying something mean to another group of three 8th graders
-Two 7th graders of similar build getting into an argument that escalates into a fist fight
What Is Otsego Doing?
When bullying occurs, students need to speak up and make teachers and administrators aware. Once the situation has been brought to light, administration follows the Olweus rubric, which outlines a protocol of escalating disciplinary action, depending on the level of threat. For example, a group of students calling one student a name is a written warning for the first offense for each student and a detention for the second offense.
Without the presence of a power difference, conflicts arise, and they arise frequently. Most of the issues encountered at Otsego center around students involved in conflicts. There are many ways to deal with student conflict. A few examples include simply separating the students (when possible) or having two arguing friends meet with the school counselor for mediation.
Whether bullying or conflict. Otsego is continuously developing and re-evaluating its interventions to make sure our school is a more enjoyable place for all students.