Bullying has become a huge, time consuming, and frustrating thing at my site. Despite all of the efforts put towards prevetative measures (there is an SEL curriculum, we do the SOS cards, we have been giving ABCD problem solving presentations to each grade level, there is Responsive Classroom in place, and we had part 1 of a 3 part a community/parent night presentation regarding bullying) there have been at least 10 incidents this year. Out of those 10, I believe 2 of them meet the criteria of bullying.
The “high inference” issue we are having is that parents are calling/emailing saying their child has been bullied without considering the nuances that distinguish bullying from social conflict. Which leaves the administration in the tricky position of doing an investigation and possibly telling a concerned parent that their child is NOT being bullied.
The school’s policy, handbook, and various communications to kids and adults have stated that bullying is distinguised from social conflict because 1) it is repeated over time and 2)there is a power imbalance between the two parties. Oftentimes we can collect a history where name calling has happened over time- but how do we identify and quantify to explain to ourselves and to parents whether or not a power imbalance exists (doc project, anyone)?
So, “bullying” is my high inference label. Clarifying questions I have asked “what form did the bullying take? What did it look like? Sound like? How long has this been happening? What effect have these interactions had on your child”. But what clarifying question do you ask to find out who is in power and who is not? And then, how do you convey that you are taking the student’s concerns seriously while still informing the family that it is a social conflict, and not bullying?