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Student Safety

Peer Conflict, Mean Behaviour and Bullying

What’s the difference?  Not all unpleasant interactions between students are bullying.  

What kind of problem is this?

Students are encouraged to talk about problems in order to solve them. School staff will help to deal with the problem according to the type of behaviour demonstrated. The problem solving process is important to allow students to learn about how to solve problems and accept responsibility for the choices they make.

Is this Peer Conflict?

Conflict between students is a natural part of growing up. You will have times when you disagree and can’t solve problems on your own. Sometimes students become so frustrated that they say mean things or act out physically by hitting, kicking or trying to hurt.

If it’s peer conflict, you will notice that you:

  • usually choose to play or hang out together;
  • have equal power (similar age, size, social status, etc.)
  • are equally upset
  • are both interested in the outcome
  • will be able to work things out with adult help (after calming down)

Is this Mean Behaviour?

Sometimes students may try out behaviours to assert themselves – sometimes saying or doing mean things – such as making fun of others, using a hurtful name, taking something without permission, leaving a child out, or “budging” in line.

If it is mean behavior, usually:

  • it is not planned and seems to happen spontaneously or by chance;
  • it may be aimed at any child nearby;
  • the child being mean may feel badly when an adult points out the harm they’ve caused. 

Is this Bullying Behaviour?

Bullying is serious behaviour and requires the help of an adult to deal with it.  It has three key features – all three must be present for the situation to be considered bullying:

  • Power imbalance -- One child clearly has power over the other(s), which may be due to age, size, social status, and so on.
  • Intention to harm -- The purpose of the bullying behaviour is to harm or hurt other(s) – it’s intended to be mean and is clearly not accidental.
  • Repeated over time -- bullying behaviour continues over time, and gets worse with repetition. There is a real or implied threat that the behaviour will not stop, and in fact will become even more serious.
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