Bullying in schools is a challenging subject for all educational staff.
The definition of the word bullying can and has been understood in different ways in different times and different societies. In everyday language there is a wide range of behaviour covered by this word. In the school environment bullying is different to the normal rough and tumble of play.
Bullying can be single actions in which a person uses their strength or power to gain an advantage, to hurt, frighten or intimidate a weaker person (e.g. pushing past others on the stairs, using the belongings of others without asking, insulting words ...).
However not every conflict is an example of bullying.
If we translate this form of the understanding of what a bully is into German, it would be "brutaler Kerl" or "Tyran" (male or female).
Now we look at the part of the definition of bullying which has the same meaning as the German understanding of the word "mobbing".
There are five clear indications of this form of bullying which, from now on, we refer to as bullying/ mobbing. These are clearly different to other forms of violence:
- Imbalance of power: the victim stands alone against one or many perpetrators and their sympathizers. "The word bullying/ mobbing is not used when two children who are of equal physical or emotional strength fight or disagree with each other."
- Frequency: the incidents of violence occur at least once a week.
- Duration: the incidents occur over a longer period of time (weeks or months). A conflict which lasts only a few days is not bullying/ mobbing.
- Solution of the Conflict: the victim does not have the power to end the bullying/ mobbing alone.
- Exclusion: one aim (conscious or unconscious) of the bullying/ mobbing is to exclude the victim from the group.
However bullying/ mobbing is often not recognised because the victims, maybe out of fear or shame, are slow to communicate the problem to the adults around them.
Bullying/ mobbing that occurs in school must be solved in school. Prevention methods do not just involve the victim and perpetrator but the whole school as a social network.
The basis of prevention is to make our school a safe place for all the members of our community.
Social competences must start to be learnt from the beginning of school life (especially in the earliest classes) in order to develop socially appropriate and socially acceptable behaviour.
This behaviour is based on uniform clear guidelines that apply to the whole Schuldorf and form its "Leitsätze" (Mission Statements) (www.schuldorf.de, Schulprogramm, point 3.3).
The following of these rules is continuously observed.
After the breaking of these rules there follow timely sanctions as detailed in the Schuldorf Schulordnung, which is based on the Hessische Schulgesetz (www.kultusministerium.hessen.de).
For the State International Primary School these guidelines are simplified into the Golden Rules.
SISS GOLDEN RULES
- We treat each other respectfully. Nobody gets hit, pushed, insulted or picked on.
- Everybody is allowed to say what they think. Nobody gets laughed at.
- We listen to each other.
- We handle problems as soon as possible. We talk to each other, use the STOP sign and, if necessary, ask an adult for help.
- We treat animals and plants with respect.
- We take good care of our own belongings and those of others.
- We look after our school and keep it clean and tidy.
- We respect the dining hall rules.
- We respect the toilet rules.
- Inside the school building we keep our voices down.
- We walk the stairs slowly and with care.
- For running, playing, jumping etc we use the playground.
The entire Educational Team continually work on the psychological and social level to maintain and improve the respectful atmosphere in our school by the agreement of how we deal with each other and by the development of life skills such as empathy and civil courage.
Interactive sessions in small groups and whole classes in which group dynamic processes are analysed, evaluated and developed by students and professionals are a regular part of our school life. During the variety of these interactive sessions democratic skills, relationship and communication building skills with peers are improved/ rehearsed ("Stop Rule", awareness of personal spaces, verbalizing of feelings, teambuilding skills, active listening, role play, conflict management ...).
A valuable part of prevention is the building of self-perception, as a basis for empathy and self- esteem, of our children. This makes them feel confident and empowered enough to stand up for themselves (and for others) so as not to become either a perpetrator or victim.
We develop support concepts for individuals for early intervention and prevention of incidents that could lead to bullying/ mobbing.
In cases of "small violence" or minor conflicts, a clear word from a peer or an adult usually suffices. For more complicated issues, depending on the situation, small group or whole class etc. sessions (mediation, behaviour management based on effective behavioural therapy, situational approaches ...) mostly lead to a solution.
In cases of bullying/ mobbing the protection of the victim is of supreme importance (physical/ psychological protection, reinforcement of self esteem, reinforcement of social competences to build friendships...).
Depending on the situation, constructive behaviour may be supported or sanctions used to punish problematic behaviour.
A variety of anti- bullying/ mobbing strategies are feasible: meeting with victim, meeting with perpetrator, counselling of groups/ classes; rehearsing anti aggression strategies; rehearsing civil courage; recognizing, setting, defending and respecting boundaries.
The "No Blame Approach" (developed in the early 1990s by Barbara Maines and George Robinson, England) is a method used in the SISS and whole Schuldorf. With the "No Blame Approach" despite the severity of the whole area of concern it is trusted that the children and adolescents have the capability and resources to produce an effective solution. This method has shown great success. In most of the documented cases, bullying/ mobbing could be stopped swiftly (www.no-blame-approach.de).
In dealing with bullying in all its forms in the SISS, we have the professional experience of Mrs Lehn, Diplom Sozialpädagogin, Primary and Mrs Koniarski, Head of Supervision, who work in close cooperation with each other and the Educational Team. They are also the link to external specialists such as psychologists, therapists and other forms of support. The whole Schuldorf Prevention Team can be reached on the email hotline firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have concerns that your child may be bullied/ mobbed (because she/ he is afraid to go to school, often complains of headaches or stomach aches, "looses money", sleeping problems) please contact the school.
If we have concerns about an individual child, that parents should be aware of, they will be informed by the class teacher or the Social Pedagogue.
Information about "visionary", a European cooperative project can be found at
Written by C. Elliott, A. Koniarski and J. Lehn, June 2011