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A Parent Asks Questions About Bullying

by Steve Cox, April 7, 2004

bullyingA Christian education must include clear Biblical principles, including issues that deal with discipline. I asked a parent to ask some honest questions about bullying and how we handle it at Heritage Christian School. I attempt to explain our elementary school intervention techniques, not with popular theory, but with methods that align with Scripture.

What would be considered “bullying” in our school?

In the elementary grades, bullying is a repeated intimidation of one or more students on one or more victims. It can take many forms and can include a variety of repeated unkind behaviour.

Is “exclusion” a form of bullying?

In itself, exclusion may just be an unkind action. When done repeatedly with other forms of intimidation, it could be considered part of the bullying tactics. While teachers and lunch hour supervisors react to any behaviour that falls short of “caring,” they report repeated incidents. I follow up on these cases where students seem to have repeated run-ins with each other. Often counseling sessions identify the problems children are having with each other, and usually methods of rectifying the situation are adopted by the students involved.

Some kids tend to “grab” others’ belongings such as hats, backpacks, or personal items and run away with them. Though many see this activity as “harmless play,” some children become upset. How does the school view this?

It is difficult to determine intent. Sometimes it is just one child teasing another in good fun. Other times it may be part of a series of attacks on another’s personal possessions. Whatever the situation, both children need to recognize at what point it needs to stop. The owner of the backpack must be able to let the teaser know when it is not fun anymore. The teaser must be able to recognize when the owner has had enough. Discipline and counseling is dependent on intent and continuation of these or other circumstances. In cases where there is an imbalance of power, it takes counseling of a different sort. Intimidators are often surprised that they have gone too far already in the early stages. They have to learn to see the signs earlier. At this point, some Scripture is important for them to see how they should be treating others. A retraining of the mind is in order for this child to respect and care for another. It touches on changing the heart, not just discipline for unwanted behaviour in the school system.

Victims must first let the intimidator know in no uncertain terms that they have had enough of the interchange. Often, they find themselves so rattled that they forget to verbalize their desire to quit the exchange. They must then reiterate their concerns for all around to hear. They now have witnesses and are attracting enough attention for the intimidator to see what it must look like. If the behaviour continues, it is a concerted choice to continue by the intimidator and the child should bring in a teacher or supervisor. It is then be very comforting for the victim to sit back and watch the system at work. The teacher will step in and the errant behaviour stops. The victim has been empowered. They have learned to follow some simple steps that bring about change.

Matthew 18:15-18 says:
"And if your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again. But if he will not give ear to you, take with you one or two more, that by the lips of two or three witnesses every word may be made certain. And if he will not give ear to them, let it come to the hearing of the church: and if he will not give ear to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-farmer. Truly I say to you, whatever things are fixed by you on earth will be fixed in heaven: and whatever you make free on earth will be made free in heaven."

Do you see the parallel? It’s one small indicator that the community your child learns in is ruled by Christian principles.

Steve Cox