Our new policy is below, after the top few paragraphs and videos.
It has been great to see the swiftly growing national attention to and concern about bullying in our schools in the past year, although the attention brings some increasingly challenging management issues. As school leaders, we must take stronger action to elevate our vigilance; communicate emphatically our disapprobation; educate our students, teachers, administrators and parents; facilitate and advance intentional, pro-active, bullying prevention programs; and respond to acts of bullying with vigor and consistency. That said, there are many, many grey areas in evaluating and judging events that appear very differently to different observers.
Among those deserving praise and appreciation for leadership in this movement are Dan Savage and the team of danah boyd and John Palfrey at Harvard’s Berkman Center. Dan Savage is the creator of the youtube “It Gets Better” campaign (video below), and was a featured speaker at the NAIS annual conference in Seattle this past March. At that convention, Savage spoke with tremendous compassion for all, gay, straight, and everyone else, who is bullied, and directly confronted and challenged school administrators to take a stronger stance, suggesting that we have betrayed the trust families put in us to provide a safe school environment. (President Obama’s video contribution to the “It Gets Better” project is available here.)
Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society has a new project which offers some valuable resources, the Kinder and Braver World Project, with funding and support from Lady Gaga’s Born this Way foundation. In preparing our new policy here at St. Gregory, we reviewed these resources closely, and took especially from the paper What You Must Know to Help COmbat Youth Cruelty, Meanness and Bullying, co-authored by Law Professor (and the new Headmaster of Andover), John Palfrey and the terrific social thinker about social media and new technologies, danah boyd. A few key quotes:
Bullying is a serious issue. It leaves scars and makes learning hard. Both those who are victims of bullying and those who bully others face serious educational, social, and psychological challenges. We need to address bullying in order to make certain that all youth have the ability to grow up healthy and happy.
Not all aggression is bullying. Bullying refers to repeated psychological, social, and physical aggression propagated by those who are more physically or socially powerful.
“Zero tolerance” school policies are ineffective. They sound good, but they do tremendous damage in schools and are often correlated with a rise in bullying and other forms of aggression. Consequences for bullying should be clear, but support structures must also be put in place to help youth learn from their mistakes.
Cyberbullying is not a discrete practice. It should not be addressed separately. While digitally mediated interactions can complicate bullying dynamics, what happens online is often deeply entangled with what happens offline.
Cyberbullying is more visible, but not more common. Studies consistently show that face-to-face bullying is still more common – and youth consistently report that it has a greater negative impact – than what happens online. Technology can be a valuable venue to communicate messages of love, acceptance, and bravery and to engage youth who are struggling at home or in school.
We must create a positive youth culture that reinforces kindness and bravery. And we must help encourage youth to be courageous and loving, respectful, and tolerant. This is hard, but it starts with each of us.
At St. Gregory, we have taken new, sincere, and I think significant action to enhance our efforts to prevent and combat bullying. Our terrific new school counselor, Kim Peace-Steimer, has teamed with our (also terrific) Middle School head to launch several new programs in the middle school, one of which garnered a national award as can be seen in this video below.
We also have worked hard this spring to review and revise our anti-bullying policy, which is pasted in below and which will be published in our 2012-13 parent and student handbooks. Note that at bottom of the policy is a set of references and resources, most of them which links to online published documents, which readers might find valuable.
ST. GREGORY’s new and revised Anti-Bullying Policy.
One of the principal statements in the philosophy of St. Gregory is that the school community values the dignity, self-worth, and potential of each individual. Bullying/harassment will not be tolerated. The school will become involved in cases which occur at school or at a school event, or which substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school and/or the learning environment for any individual regardless of where they occur.
Bullying and harassment include behaviors that are intended to intimidate, embarrass, or harm, often involving a perceived imbalance of power. Such behaviors are typically repeated over time, and may not necessarily be the result of or part of an ongoing conflict. This includes targeting others based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
- nonverbal or emotional threats or intimidation
- physical or verbal assault
- social exclusion and isolation
- using electronic communication to send or post embarrassing, slanderous, threatening, or intimidating messages
- teasing, put-downs, name-calling
- pressure to participate in illicit activities, such as using tobacco, using alcohol or other drugs, displaying offensive or demeaning materials
- cruel rumors, false accusations
- retaliation towards the person making a complaint about bullying or harassment
Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature which is offensive, including:
- undesired physical contact
- coerced sexual relations
- physical assault, including rape
- personal comments or questions about clothing, physical appearance, or sexual activity that makes another person feel uncomfortable
- repeated or unwanted requests for social engagements or subtle pressure for sexual activity
- suggestive remarks, jokes or gestures
- verbal abuse
- ogling or leering at a person’s body
Social Conflicts vs. Bullying/Harassment
Not all conflict is bullying. Though physical conflict is never acceptable on campus, normal social conflict is a part of daily life and can also be, sometimes, a positive agent for progress and change.
Social conflict occurs when there is equal power among friends, equal emotional reactions, and/or one is not seeking power or attention. Often, social conflict is marked by an element of remorse and a taking of responsibility, and sometimes additionally by an effort to solve a problem.
Bullying is characterized by an imbalance of power, purposeful repeated negative actions, and/or strong emotional reaction on the part of the victim. The bully seeks power and/or control, tends to express no remorse, and/or may blame the victim, with no apparent effort to solve a problem. (For more about social conflicts distinguished from bullying/harassment, see Bonds & Stoker, 2000, boyd & Palfrey, 2012, cited at the end of this section)
If a student feels that s/he has been bullied/harassed, the student should:
1. If possible, let the offending person(s) know that s/he wants the behavior to stop immediately. S/he
should say “NO” firmly and should not apologize. Silence encourages recurrent behavior.
2. Remove him/herself from a perceived unsafe environment .
3. Take note of witnesses to the event. In the event of online harassment or bullying, take a screen shot
to use as evidence of the behavior.
4. Tell an adult: a parent, an advisor, teacher, the school counselor, a coach, the Middle School Head, the Upper School Head, the Athletic Director, Dean of Students, or the Head of School.
5. Fill out a form and have the adult sign it. Report forms are available outside the counselor’s office,
in the middle and upper school offices, in teacher/advisor classrooms and on the Family Portal on the school website. Forms are submitted to the middle or upper school head by the adult. Neither the victim nor witnesses can be promised confidentiality; however, every effort will be made to support and protect them.
1. Annual professional development for administrators and staff to increase awareness of the
prevalence, causes, and consequences of bullying, as well as how to respond appropriately to students who bully, are bullied, and bystanders who report bullying.
2. Efforts to improve school climate in order to promote student involvement in the anti-bullying efforts, peer support, mutual respect, and a culture which encourages students to report incidents of bullying to adults (for example, ongoing advisory discussions, guest speakers/presentations in assemblies, counselor presentations, regular surveying of students).
3. Informing families about the prevalence, causes, consequences of bullying, and the means of
Responses to bullying/harassment
Bullying, harassment, or intimidation, including cyber-bullying, can take many forms and can vary dramatically in seriousness and the impact that it has on the targeted individual and other students. Accordingly, there is no one response to bullying, harassment, or intimidation, but rather several levels of responses that may be used. While conduct that rises to the level of bullying, harassment, or intimidation generally warrants disciplinary action against the perpetrator, whether and to what extent to impose disciplinary action (for example: detention, counseling, in and out-of-school suspension, probation, expulsion) is a matter for the professional discretion of the administration.
Responses may include one or more of the following:
1 Intervention for the students exhibiting bullying behaviors, including teaching replacement
behaviors, empathy, tolerance, and sensitivity to diversity in order to correct the bullying behavior, prevent another occurrence, and protect the victim.
2. Support/counseling for the victim with protection from retaliation and additional episodes of bullying.
3. Mediation or reconciliation facilitated by the school counselor
4. Appropriate disciplinary consequences, up to and including expulsion, determined by school
administrators. In the case of a possible expulsion, the Head of School is always part of the decision-making process.
A repeat offense, whether minor or more serious, carries with it more significant consequences, up to and including expulsion. When incidents of bullying or harassment occur away from school and school-sponsored events, the School encourages families to communicate and to resolve issues as much as may be possible.
1. Langan, Paul (2011). Bullying in Schools. West Berlin, New Jersey: Towsend Press.
2. The Bully Project. Model Statute and Advocacy Toolkit. Retrieved from
3. Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation (2012). A Guide to the Film BULLY: Fostering
Empathy and Action in Schools. Retrieved from www.facinghistory.org/safeschools.
4. Bonds, Marla, Psy.D and Stoker, Sally, M.S.W. (2000). Bully-Proofing Your School: A Comprehensive
Approach for Middle School. Frederick, Colorado: Sopris West.
5. boyd, danah and Palfrey, John (2012, February 28). “What You Must Know to Help Combat Youth
Bullying Meanness, and Cruelty”. Retrieved from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/Necessary_Info.pdf
6. Collier, Anne; Swearer, Susan; Doces, Mia; Jones, Lisa (2012, February 23). “Changing the Culture:
Ideas for Student Action”. Retrieved from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/IdeasForStudents.pdf
7. Collier, Anne; Swearer, Susan; Doces, Mia; Jones, Lisa (2012, February 23). “Bullying Prevention 101
for Schools: Dos and Don’ts”. Retrieved from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/BullyingPrevention101.pdf
8. Collier, Anne; Swearer, Susan; Doces, Mia; Jones, Lisa (2012, February 23). “Implementing Bullying
Prevention Programs in Schools: A How-To Guide”. Retrieved from http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/ImplementingBullyingPrevention.pdf
Your comments and suggestions are welcome as we continue here at St. Gregory our work to reduce bullying and promote “a positive youth culture that reinforces kindness and bravery. and encourages youth to be courageous and loving, respectful, and tolerant.”