What is Bullying?

Bullying is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an

individual or group against another.

Isolated incidents of aggressive behaviour, which should not be condoned, can scarcely be described as bullying. However, when the behaviour is systematic and ongoing it is bullying. Any person can be a victim of or perpetrator of bullying.

Why do children bully?

It is generally accepted that bullying is a learned behaviour. Pupils who bully tend to display aggressive attitudes combined on a low level of self esteem. Children become bullies for many reasons. Some of these reasons are:

• They may feel insecure or inadequate

• They may be bullied by parents or older children at home

• They may find it difficult to fit in with other children

• They may feel they must succeed at all costs. They may be very spoilt and go totally unchallenged at home.

• They may be constantly humiliated by others and in turn do this to other children

• They may be physically, sexually or emotionally abused themselves.

Where can Bullying happen?

Bullying can take place anywhere:

• In school, in class, in the playground

• On the way to or from school

• At activities outside school

• On the road/in the home etc

Note: factors having their origins in differences or conflicts between parties outside the school may contribute to increased incidents of bullying within the school.

Types of bullying

(i) Extortion

Demands for money may be made, often accompanied by threats (sometimes carried out) in the event of the victim not promptly “paying up” “victims” lunches or money may be taken or demanded. Victims may also be forced into theft or property for delivery to a bully. Sometimes, this tactic is used with the sole purpose of incriminating the victim.

(ii) Intimidation

Some bullying behaviour takes place in the form of intimidation. It is based on the use of very aggressive body language with the voice being used as a weapon. Particularly upsetting to victims can be the so called “look” a facial expression which conveys aggression, dislike or contempt.

(iii) Isolation

This form of bullying behaviour seems to be more prevalent among girls. A certain person is deliberately isolated, excluded or ignored by some or all of the class or peer group.

(iv) Name Calling:

Persistent name calling directed at the same individual (s), which hurts, insults or humiliates should be regarded as a form of bullying behaviour. Most name calling of this type refers to physical appearance, e.g. “big ears”, size or clothes worn. Accent or distinctive voice characteristics may attract negative attention. Academic ability can also provoke name calling. This tends to operate at two extremes. First, there are those who are singled out for attention because they are perceived to be slow, or weak, academically. These pupils are often referred to as “dummies”, “dopes” or “donkeys”. At the other extreme are those who, because they are perceived as high achievers, are labeled ‘swots’, ‘brain boxes’, ’licks’, ’teacher’s pets’, etc.

(v) Slagging

This behaviour usually refers to the good natured banter which goes on as part of the normal social interchange between people. However, when this slagging extends to very personal remarks aimed again and again at one individual or family about appearance, clothing, personal hygiene or involves references of an uncomplimentary nature to members of one’s family, then it assumes the form of bullying. Suggestive remarks about a pupil’s sexual orientation can also be classified as bullying.

(vi) Malicious Rumours

Spreading malicious rumours about a person is also a form of bullying. This can be done verbally or electronically.

(vii) Physical aggression

This behaviour is more common among boys than girls. It includes pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, poking, and tripping people up. It may also take the form of severe physical assault. While boys commonly engage in ‘mess fights’ these can often be used as a disguise for physical harassment or inflicting pain.

(viii) Damage to Property

Personal property can be the focus of attention for the bully. This may result in damage to clothing, school books and other learning materials. The contents of the school bags and pencil cases may be scattered on the floor. Items of personal property may be defaced, broken, stolen or hidden.

(viiii) Bullying of School Personnel

Bullying of school personnel by means of:

a) Verbal Abuse

b Damage to property

c) Threats

d) Physical assault

e) Electronically using mobile phones, social networking sites etc.

(x) Cyberbullying: Cyber bullying involves the use of technology such as the Internet or mobile phones. It can involve text messages, silent phone calls, emails, video recordings, photos or web posts that are used to upset, threaten ,abuse or harm someone. It can also involve impersonating someone else by accessing their account and leaving messages for others which are upsetting.

Indications of bullying/Behaviour sign & Symptoms 

The following signs and symptoms may suggest that a child is being bullied:

* Anxiety about traveling to and from school—requesting parents to drive or collect them, changing route of travel, avoiding regular times for traveling to and from school

* Fear of going out on yard

* Unwillingness to go to school, refusal to attend, particularly among older children

* Mitching

* Deterioration in educational performance, loss of concentration and loss of enthusiasm and interest in school

* Pattern of physical illness (e.g. headaches, stomach aches)

* Unexplained changes in mood or behaviour. These may be particularly noticeable before returning to school after school holidays

* Visible signs of anxiety or stress—stammering, withdrawing, nightmares, crying, not eating, vomiting, bedwetting etc.

* Spontaneous out of character comments

* Possessions missing or damaged

* Increased requests for money or stealing money to meet extortion demands.

* Reluctance and /or refusal to say what is troubling him/her.

* Becoming isolated in class

* Unexplained absences

* May begin to bully other smaller children

These signs do not necessarily mean that a child is being bullied. They can also be indicative of other problems. If repeated or occurring in combination these signs do warrant investigation in order to establish what is affecting the child.

Dealing with Bullying Behaviour

This is recognized internationally that Bullying behaviour is not confined to schools. It is prevalent in society, in the workplace and in the home. To counteract bullying behaviour, it is important that all involved with children have an understanding of the factors which give rise to bullying. A high degree of collective vigilance is needed throughout the local community, the school and other agencies and by parents if bullying behaviour is to be identified and dealt with in equitable. While recognizing and accepting that a community approach is essential in dealing with bullying, we also recognize that the school is in a unique position to promote Attitudes and to map patterns of behaviour which are positive and caring. Our Code of Behaviour states that the school should provide an environment where a child is physically

safe and happy and where good relationships are fostered between pupils, teachers, parents/ guardians and other involved in the running of the school.

In accordance with this:

• The school recognizes the need for teachers, parents/guardians to communicate and cooperate with each other to maintain good relationships within the school community.

• The school recognizes the responsibility of parents and teachers to share in the task of equipping their children with a range of skills which help them in their dealing with others.

• The school acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual and his/her worth as a human  being. It therefore aims to foster self respect and self discipline in the child. Respect for and courtesy towards each other is encouraged and an awareness of the inter dependence of the group/school community is fostered.

• The school acknowledges the right of each child to enjoy school in a secure environment. It therefore promotes qualities of social responsibility, tolerance and understanding amongst the children both in school and out of school.

• The pupils aim to take particular care of all pupils and to respond to their needs, fears or anxieties.

School procedures in dealing with Bullying

(a) Since the failure to report bullying can lead to a continuation or a deterioration of bullying the school and parents encourage children to disclose and discuss incidents of bullying behaviour. This can be with the class teacher, the teacher on duty at the time, the principal or with parents. This is a “telling school” as defined in Stay Safe Programme. Children will therefore be constantly assured that their reports of bullying either for themselves or peers will be treated with sensitivity.

(b) Repeated incidents of bullying behaviour will be noted by the class teacher or the teacher on duty/yard duty.

(c) Incidents will be investigated—what, who, when, where, why? will help here.

(d) Serious incidents/ resistant problems will be reported to the principal / deputy principal.

(e) If a gang is involved, they will be met both individually and as a group. Each member will be asked for his/her account of what happened to ensure that everyone is clear about what everyone else has said. This account may be oral or written.

(f) Pupils who are not directly involved can also provide very useful information in this way, and will be expected to assist the investigation. Children should understand there are no innocent bystanders where bullying is concerned.

(g) The “bully” will be asked to reflect on his/her behaviour and its consequences for himself/herself and for the person who is the victim.

(h) Parents will be made aware of this behaviour and requested to come and discuss it with the teacher/principal with a view to solving the problem.

(i) The situation will continue to be monitored to ensure that the problem has been resolved.

(j) Where cases remain unresolved at school level the matter should be referred to the school’s Board of Management. If it is not resolved at Board level the matter may be referred to the Department of Education.

(k) Scoil Mhuire will undertake to keep the awareness of bullying and its dangers, high on the agenda. This will be done by:

i) the principal regularly talking about it to classes and assemblies.

ii) Each term, teachers will teach SPHE , covering the topic of bullying.

The theme and message will always be to tell, whether you are the victim or the witness.

How to support your child

• It is important to be realistic; it will not be possible for a single child to assert his/her rights if attacked by a gang. Children should be advised to get away and tell in situations such as this. Tell them that you would have done the same in such situation.

• Teaching your child to say “NO” in a good assertive tone of voice and carry him/her in a confident way will help your child to deal with many situations. A child’s self image and body language may send out messages to potential bullies.

• Children should be encouraged to talk about bullying and given an opportunity to express their concerns e.g. circle time.

• Approach your child’s teacher if the bullying is school related. It is important for you to understand that bullying in school can be difficult for teachers to detect because of the large numbers of children involved. Teachers will appreciate bullying being brought to light. School bullying requires that parents and teachers work together for a resolution.

• Very often parental advice to a child is to “hit back” at the bully if the abuse is physical. This is not always realistic as it requires a huge amount of courage and indeed sometimes makes the situation worse. Children should not be encouraged to engage in violent behaviour. Teaching children to be more assertive and to tell is far more positive and effective.

• Keep an account of incidents to help you assess how serious the problem is. Many children with a little help overcome this problem very quickly.

What if your child is a bully?

1. Don’t panic. This may be a temporary response to something else in the child’s life e.g. a new baby, a death in the family, a difficult home problem etc. give your child an opportunity to talk about anything that could be upsetting him/ her.

2. Don’t punish bullying by being a bully yourself. Hitting and verbal attack will make the situation worse. Talk to your child and try to find out if there is a problem. Explain how the victim felt. Try to get the child to understand the victim’s point of view. This would need to be done over time.

3. Bullies often suffer low self esteem. Use every opportunity you can to praise good, considerate, helpful behaviour. Don’t only look for negatives.

4. Talk to your child’s teacher and find out more about the child’s school behaviour. Enlist the teacher’s help in dealing with this. It is important that you both take the same approach.

5. If the situation is serious you may need to ask the school or G.P. to refer your child to the child guidance clinic for help.

Cyberbullying: What to do when it’s happening to you

Bullying is repeated aggression by an individual or a group, against others. It can be physical, verbal or psychological. Cyber bullying involves the use of technology such as the Internet or mobile phones. It can involve text messages, silent phone calls, emails, video recordings, photos or web posts that are used to upset, threaten, abuse or harm someone. It can also involve impersonating someone else by accessing their account and leaving messages for others which are upsetting. (We would remind children and parents that under the company’s own rule that no person under the age of 13 should have a Facebook page.)

Bullying is always wrong and unacceptable.

If you are being repeatedly bullied there are three key things you need to do:

–          Don’t Respond

–          Save the Evidence

–          Get Help

Don’t Respond

As tempting as it may be to reply to a text, message or post that is hurtful, don’t. If you don’t engage with them, they’ll get bored and move away. If you try to justify yourself or get them to change their opinion of you, you’re simply showing them that you’re upset – which is exactly what they want.

If it’s happening on a social network site, block them from your page. The site will have info on how to block others, set your privacy settings, and how to manage your profile.

If you receive silent or abusive phone calls, hang up immediately. Don’t try to get the person to talk to you – you’re simply showing that you’re upset and that their strategy is working. Hang up, record the time and date of the call and tell someone.

 Save the Evidence

Keep a note of the times and dates of abusive messages. Don’t reply to them or delete them but tell your parents so that they can make a complaint to the Gardai.  While you still have the evidence, don’t be tempted to read it over and over. If you read it more than once, you are giving power to the words contained in it. Don’t allow the perpetrator to have that power over you.

Get Help

The school will encourage children to tell their parents that this is happening. Parents can help them bring this to the Gardai. It can be reported to or go to your local Garda station.

Don’t be afraid to report what’s going on. If you’re worried that your parents will remove your phone or your internet access, in order to keep you safe, you should talk with them about whether this is the best option. On the one hand, it would mean that you can’t be reached by the perpetrator and it may be seen as an end to the distress. On the other, it could isolate you from support from your friends. However, some compromise is likely to have to be reached. Be willing to talk about what will work best for you.

If it’s a social networking site, use the “Report” link on the web site to make a complaint. You may not know who is sending the messages, but the site provider can find out this information.

You might consider shutting down your account for a while, in order to break communication between you and the perpetrator.

Don’t underestimate the impact of the bullying on your well-being. Reach out to those you trust to support you. Talk to them about how its impacting on you, how its making you feel, how it has changed how you feel about yourself, if you have started to isolate yourself, if its lowered your self-confidence and belief in yourself.

There are lots of support services available to help you, if you need them in addition to your family and friends. Don’t be shy about contacting them. See list of useful websites below.

Keeping Safe

Be mindful of your privacy settings on social networking sites. Control who sees your profile and your details. Assume that everything on your profile can be seen by others unless you’re absolutely sure otherwise. “Private” means different things on different sites, so get to know the sites you use.

Be sure that you know who you are accepting as friends.

Don’t give your mobile number to everyone – know who has it.

Avoid networking sites that allow for anonymity – they’re a breeding ground for abusive and hurtful communications.

If you receive one communication that is upsetting or negative, tell the person to stop. If they repeat it or add to it, then you should ignore all future communications from them, and block them or delete them from your page.

Stop Cyberbullying

If you witness it, don’t just be a bystander. Forward information about where people can get help. See our list of useful websites. 

If you know someone who is being bullied, reach out to them to support them:

–          Small gestures like saying hello, smiling, choosing them as a partner in team work at school, acknowledging their effort in class and other small acts can mean a lot.

–          Let them know you’ve seen what has been said about them and that you think it’s wrong.

–          Encourage them to get help from their parents or another trusted adult, and to report the behaviour to the Gardai and the owners of the site.

Information sources used:

This policy was formulated by Yvonne Ruddy and John Egan in Jan/Feb 2013. It was forwarded to representatives of the Parents’ Association in March 2013, and ratified by the Board of Management at its March meeting.


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