Bullying has been a sore spot for every school administrator since Adam and Eve were in school. It is most certainly a thorny issue that few of us feel that we under control. State Law 20-2-751.4 puts bullying in a new light for school administrators. First of all it requires that every school and school system must have a protocol or procedure for systematically dealing with bullying. Perhaps the best way to view the intent of the new legislation is to examine our perspective for sexual harassment. All of us have received numerous trainings on sexual harassment and we get the idea that sexual harassment is defined by the harassee, not the harasser. If a person genuine feels they have been harassed, they have. We are being asked to adopt the same perspective for bullying—changing our focus from the bullyer to the bullyee. When students come to us and present genuine testimony that they have been bullied, we must action.
The protocol that I have suggested to numerous administrators is that when we find that a student genuinely feels that they have been bullied, we should confront the bully and cite them for bullying, regardless of what their “intentions” were just as we would do with sexual harassment. The placement of a bullying citation in a student discipline record does not within itself demand punishment—it very well may be a documented warning but the bully should know that if similar actions continue against any student that the consequences for the second documentation will be more significant and that if it continues to a third citation within the current school year that we are required by law to take the student to a disciplinary hearing and ask to have them placed in alternative school for the remainder of the school year. We literally must change our point of reference from the bully to the bullyee. We very well may have to cite both students involved for bullying but we must take action. We can no longer afford the luxury of waiting until the “evidence” against the bully reaches unhealthy proportions.
It is after all about being fair to all concerned and doing what is right.