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Is it Bullying?
Bullying chart
Types of Bullying

There is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean, and behavior that is characteristic of bullying.

  • Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.

From kids, rudeness might look more like burping in someone’s face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade, or even throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone’s face. On their own, any of these behaviors could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners, or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.

  • Mean = Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice.)

The main distinction between “rude” and “mean” behavior has to do with intention; while rudeness is often unintentional, mean behavior very much aims to hurt or depreciate someone. Kids are mean to each other when they criticize clothing, appearance, intelligence, coolness, or just about anything else they can find to denigrate. Meanness also sounds like words spoken in angerimpulsive cruelty that is often regretted in short order. Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down.

  • Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.

Experts agree that bullying entails three key elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance, and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse—even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop.

Bullying may be physical, verbal, relational, or carried out via technology:


• Physical aggression was once the gold standard of bullying—the “sticks and stones” that made adults in charge stand up and take notice. This kind of bullying includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, tripping, hair-pulling, slamming a child into a locker, and a range of other behaviors that involve physical aggression.


Verbal aggression is what our parents used to advise us to “just ignore.” We now know that despite the old adage, words and threats can, indeed, hurt and can even cause profound, lasting harm.


Relational aggression is a form of bullying in which kids use their friendship—or the threat of taking their friendship away—to hurt someone. Social exclusion, shunning, hazing, and rumor spreading are all forms of this pervasive type of bullying that can be especially beguiling and crushing to kids.


Cyberbullying is a specific form of bullying that involves technology. According to Hinduja and Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center, it is the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Notably, the likelihood of repeated harm is especially high with cyberbullying because electronic messages can be accessed by multiple parties, resulting in repeated exposure and repeated harm.



Signe Whitson, LSW is a national educator on bullying and author



In a positive school climate, the caring attitude of the school is clearly visible and is reflected by widespread participation in all areas of the school. According to the National School Safety Center (1990), a student’s perspective of the school climate is affected by the following:

  • Student involvement: The degree to which students are involved in and enjoy classes and extracurricular activities at school.

  • Student relationships: The level of comfort students feel in relating to one another and the ease with which they make new friends.

  • Teacher support: The amount of help and care that teachers direct toward students.

  • Physical environment: The extent to which the school building reflects the caring attitude of the school, the school buildings are clean, well cared for, supervised, and safe.

  • Conflict resolution: Whether students are clear about the rules and feel that conflicts are resolved fairly and rules are consistently enforced.

  • Participation in decision-making: The extent to which students, administrators, and teachers share in making decisions about school improvement.

  • Curriculum: The extent to which students feel that what is taught in classes meets their needs.

  • Counseling services: Whether students feel counselors are accessible and able to help with personal problems, job, and career information, and concerns about drugs, alcohol, and relationships.

  • Recreation alternatives: Whether students are satisfied with existing recreational activities and teachers’ support of these activities.

  • Personal stress: The amount of pressure students feel they are under and the resources they have to cope with it.

While a safe school has a positive, warm, and welcoming school climate, there is more to a safe school than a good school climate. A safe school is also a school that is prepared for emergencies, provides opportunities and guidance for students before and after school with programs and activities at school and/or in the community, and involves the whole community in anticipating and preventing school problems. A safe school requires balancing physical security with a nurturing school climate, as well as developing effective school – community partnerships.



  • More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied.


  • 64% of children who were bullied do not report it; only 36% of children report being bullied.


  • More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.


  • Students who engage in bullying behavior are at increased risk for academic problems, substance abuse, and violent behavior later in adolescence and adulthood.


  • Among high school students, 15.5% are cyberbullied and 20.2% are bullied on school property.


  • Among middle school students, 24% are cyberbullied and 45% are bullied on school property.


  • 90% of teens who report being cyberbullied have also been bullied offline.


Ron L James | 3303 Glen Hollow Dr, Dover, PA 17315