No Bull about Bullying
This month at Park Tudor School we are hosting a symposium on bullying. On Friday, April 15 at 7:30 a.m., a panel of experts will present on bullying from multiple perspectives — legal, emotional, personal, athletics and parental. Bullying is a hot topic in schools in the past couple of years, with several high profile incidents in the local and national media.
We’re not putting on this symposium because we perceive there is a “bullying problem” at Park Tudor or in the Indianapolis community, any more so than other schools or communities. Rather, our goal is to help people better understand what bullying is, as well as what it isn’t. Bullying takes on several forms, some obvious, and some more subtle. At the same time, not every incident where “kids don’t play nice” rises to the level of bullying (either from a legal definition, or in terms of potential emotional impact). Unfortunately, the heightened attention to bullying in the media has led some people quickly to use the “B” word in describing behavior that is relatively normal for a child’s developmental age. At the same time (especially in the digital age), there are behaviors which on the surface seem relatively harmless that are actually very destructive forms of bullying. I am eager to have an open discussion of bullying so that people are better able to recognize signs of bullying (from both the victim and the perpetrator vantage points).
One of my colleagues at Park Tudor shared an article with me about the psychological underpinnings of bullying, which I found quite informative. I think Becky Bailey’s observations are quite astute. My personal feeling is that many children and adolescents engage in behavior that turns out to be bullying for reason #3 (bonding: being identified with part of a social group); most children aren’t budding antisocials who bully out of sheer aggression and lack of empathy. Regardless of the reason behind the bullying behavior, the importance of teaching empathy to children, even at a very young age, cannot be understated.