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What is Bullying?

If you understand bullying, you can become empowered to interrupt and prevent bullying behaviors. The standard definition of bullying is repeatedly doing, saying, or writing hurtful things with the intent to harm another person. Bullying typically involves a power imbalance between the person doing the bullying and the person being targeted.

It is important for parents to remember these key things about bullying:

  • Bullying is NOT a normal part of growing up.
  • Your child could bully others, even if they are generally good kids.
  • Children who repeatedly engage in bullying behaviors generally DO NOT grow out of it. If it is not dealt with they will continue as adults.
  • Children need adults to advocate for them and help them resolve conflicts. They should not be left to do it alone.

The chart below can help you understand the difference between general forms of peer conflict and bullying.

General Peer Conflict Bullying
Equal power of friends Imbalance of power; not friends
Happen Occasionally Repeated negative actions
Accidental Purposeful
Equal emotional reaction Strong emotional reaction from victim and little or no reaction from bully
Not seeking power or attention Seeking power, control, or material things
Remorse and will take responsibility No remorse and may blame the victim

It is important to note that every state law defines bullying differently. Alabama uses the term harassment. For an incident to be categorized as harassment in Alabama it must:

  1. Place a student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property.
  2. Have the effect of substantially interfering with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of a student.
  3. Have the effect of substantially disrupting or interfering with the orderly operation of the school.
  4. Have the effect of creating a hostile environment in the school, on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored function.
  5. Have the effect of being sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.

Understanding the basics of bullying and your state’s definition is important. It will provide you with the language to use when reporting an incident and help you recognize when children need help.