Bullying - What it is and what it isn't.
There is perhaps no bigger issue in education today than bullying. It can take many forms including face-to-face, physical, on-line (cyberbullying), or subtle/exclusionary acts. The impact of bullying can be very profound. It can lead to depression, withdrawal, changes in appearance, changes in behavior, it can impact eating habits, socialization, and friend groups and can even lead to the use of drugs (self-medication) and suicide. There is no question that bullying is among the most harmful behaviors a student can experience. For those reasons and more, acts of bullying and the mistreatment of others will not be tolerated.
As prevalent as bullying may seem to be, the misapplication of the term "bullying" is also prevalent. Disagreements, differences of opinion, arguments, and other behaviors are simply that. If students disagree on where to sit at lunch, not liking someone's outfit, or have a verbal disagreement, it is not necessarily bullying. Students need to understand that disagreements will occur. That is part of life. A student may not like what is said or done to them, but it does not always constitute bullying.
Where these behaviors become problematic is when they are persistent and repeated or are used to upset a "power balance" between individuals. Refusing to allow a student to sit at the same lunch table repeatedly is very different from not having room at the table. Intentionally excluding someone to make them feel less important or undesirable is at a minimum cruel and may elevate to bullying behavior. "Ganging up" on a student by a group and belittling them to cause harm is offensive and may also constitute bullying. Repeated social media posts used to demean, degrade, insult, or offend a person may also constitute bullying.
Unfortunately, some forms of bullying can be very subtle and difficult to detect. MPASD encourages all students to be aware of bullying and to make credible reports of bullying to trusted adults. All reports of bullying are investigated and handled according to district policy and student codes of conduct. Keep in mind, however, a report of bullying may be investigated and determined to be something other than bullying itself.