IKM-Manning policy and the high school student handbook defines bullying and harassment in this way:
Harassment and bullying mean any electronic, written, verbal, or physical act or conduct toward a student which is based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student and which creates an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:
• Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the studentʼs person or property;
• Has a substantially detrimental effect on the studentʼs physical or mental health;
• Has the effect of substantially interfering with the studentʼs academic performance; or
• Has the effect of substantially interfering with the studentʼs ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
There are really three key elements that constitute a case of bullying:
- The behavior is based on an actual or perceived trait or characteristic.
- Somebody with more power uses that power to hurt (physically, emotionally, mentally) somebody with less power.
- The behavior has a negative impact of some sort on the victim.
Not everything that gets called bullying actually meets the legal criteria of the definition above. Sadly, sometimes students are just mean to each other. We obviously don't want that happening in school but that doesn't mean that every cross word or conflict between students is a case of bullying. There may be another school policy that is applicable to the situation that will allow us to address the situation or we may be able to mediate a solution between the students having the conflict. Our goal as an educational institution is to help students learn the skills necessary for conflict resolution. Next week I'll look at what a student should do if they feel they are being bullied at school.