Social Exclusion at School: Emotional Bullying

When your child is bullied at school, there are things that can be done. Please see a previous blog of mine about what schools should be doing about bullying. I have decided to take my focus on bullying a bit further and discuss the specific types of bullying taking place in our schools today. Yesterday I discussed cyber bullying, or bullying that happens over the Internet. Today I am going to discuss in detail about social exclusion at school, this is commonly referred to as emotional bullying.

This type of bullying, more common with girl’s than with boys, is really more of a discrete way to bully than a punch in the face or a push to the ground, or even a blatant name call. This type of bullying occurs when a child is isolated or excluded from participating in activities with other children such as being ignored in the lunchroom or not being played with at recess. It may also involve the spreading of rumors about another child, rumors that are hurtful and created for only one purpose: to make the child who they are about feel badly about herself.

As I write this, many of you may be reading and thinking, “this is typical grade school or junior high behavior, it has happened since I was in school.” You are right, this type of thing has happened since we were young, and if you were ever a victim of social exclusion and know what it felt like to have happen to you, you will know why schools are doing things to try to prevent it from happening.

As a teacher, it is imperative if you notice emotional bullying occurring with students in your classroom, or you notice a child being excluded in something at recess, it is your job to ask what is going on. Yes, it may seem nosy, but it is important to find out the facts. Is this simply a tiff that will resolve itself in a day or two, or is it something much worse, something in which a child is feeling hopeless and has lost self-esteem because of it? If so, then the school needs to intervene and stop the problem before it gets much worse.

Many schools have implemented a bullying policy just for this type of emotional bullying. The school that I taught at had something that was quite effective and while maybe not that unique, it was something we were proud of. When teachers noticed emotional bullying occurring, the girls (and I can say that in our school, 99 percent of this type of problem was amongst the girls) would be called in separately to speak to the guidance counselor and the principal.

During these chats, each girl would discuss her side of the story about what was happening and why. This way the adults were able to take notes and find out everyone’s point of view. The parents of the girl’s were always called to be made aware of the situation (unfortunately, in our school, the parent population thought nothing of what was happening) and to discuss what would be occurring over the course of the next few weeks. After all of the parents were contacted and all the children were allowed to tell her side of the story, the girl’s (including the girl who was bullied) were then brought back into the counseling office during their joint lunch hours for the next two weeks.

Just what occurred during these joint lunch sessions with the students? The counselor would start with exactly what types of behaviors got them there, why it was considered bullying and what was going to be done about it. Every girl got a chance to speak about the situation, including the girl who was bullied. She got to tell what it was like. This put a human side to the bullying. The counselor would then use role-playing situations to practice how to effectively communicate with each other, how to handle situations like this and every girl got the chance to sit in the bullied girl’s shoes for a bit.

Students in our school not only learned why emotional bullying is hurtful, but also what it felt like to have happen to them. Every school should have some sort of policy in place for handling this type of bullying. What does your child’s school have?