Conflict VS Bullying
I know that our administrators spend a majority of their time investigating any incidents of bullying that are brought to their attention. Witnesses are sought out and interviewed. Stories are checked and rechecked. Generally, both the principal and vice principal interview together. They may re-interview based on new information or to confirm or probe stories.
Remember, bullies do not bully in front of adults or others who would intervene, nor do they make it easy for others to come forward and report them without intimidation.
So, it is very important that all reports of bullying be investigated thoroughly, and fairly. And, there must be direct teaching to all students about how to recognize bullying and what to do when you witness bullying.
But, let's not call everything bullying. Let's remember that getting along with others includes having disagreements and conflicts. We need to teach our children to fight fairly. We need to model how to disagree politely. We need to show our kids that sometimes, we have to walk away when we are too angry to discuss things, and come back to argue with reasonable tone of voice and respect for the other person.
Some of the ways that teachers and parents can help their children learn this is to teach and practice ways of dealing with disagreements. If we can help children recognize different points of view, and respect different opinions, we can foster the kind of respect where a conflict of opinion does not lead to an escalation of bad behavior. We also need to model this in our own dealings with people: when we are driving, shopping, and being parents.