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This study was posted to the St. Johns Waldorf discussion forum, and permission was granted to "share this work with anyone."

"I am happy to share this work with anyone. It can save you weeks and months of research and be a departure point. One big recommendation... if a social policy is being 'worked-on', suggest that it include both adult relationships and child relationships and that there be parallel work occurring with regards to conflict resolution. By empowering the 'bystanders' we can make a huge difference. They outnumber everyone! Good Luck." -- Cynthia Kennedy

We post this report because we are very concerned about the role of karma in determining how Waldorf teachers react to bullying incidents...

Destiny

"We have labored over this section and it has been written and rewritten a number of times. Can a child's karma or destiny be that of a victim or bully? Is it a child's destiny to seek certain experiences to build his or her self-esteem and inner self? Should a potentially abusive situation be stopped, and if so, at what point?" -- Cynthia Kennedy and Betty Robertson

Bullying Presentation to Faculty - Handout

May 13, 1999
Alan Howard Waldorf School


Prepared by Cynthia Kennedy and Betty Robertson

Introduction

In April, a Sunday New York Times featured an article on the Best Ideas, Stories and Inventions of the last Thousand Years. The best revolution was thought to be human rights -- the idea that certain fundamental rights are inherent to all humanity.

The reason that we bring this up is that, underlying much of the recent work on bullying is the thought that:

Every individual should have the right to be spared oppression and repeated, intentional humiliation, in school as in society at large. No child should be afraid of going to school for fear of being harassed or degraded and no parent should need to worry about such things happening to his or her child.[1]

Our work on this topic has come from a place of reality with the thought that there may be ways to make our school a healthier and therefore richer experience for our children.

The issue

Our question is How should bullying best be handled in a Waldorf environment?

In the last twenty years, there has been a major initiative worldwide to understand bullying and to reduce and/or eliminate it. We are interested in determining whether any of this work could be usefully incorporated at our school.

We recognize that a teacher's goals at a Waldorf school involve so much more than the avoidance of certain negative behaviors, that they involve the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of our children. We feel initiatives in this area would be complementary to the teacher's work.

This paper deals primarily with what bullying is and why it is a problem that needs to be addressed. We will then touch on what can be done about bullying, applicability to Waldorf schools and what our goals are. Although there are a myriad of procedures and policies, which could be presented at this time, we believe that any detailed examination of methodology requires faculty input to determine applicability within our school. In addition, the faculty can bring its wisdom and experience to the table.

What is known about bullying

The history

Bullying in schools is an age-old problem; examples of it appear in classic literature written hundreds of years ago. Many teachers will tell you it is a fact of life and most adults have encountered bullying at some point in their life, if not at school then perhaps in their work environment.

It was not until the early 1970's that bullying started being researched in a systematic way and this was being done primarily in Scandinavia.

In 1982 a nation-wide anti-bullying policy was introduced in Norway after three 10 to 14 year-old boys, who were being severely bullied by peers, committed suicide. The media attention and general public concern led to programs being introduced in primary and junior high schools.

By the late 1980's research dollars and effort were also being spent in Canada, the USA, UK, The Netherlands, Japan and Australia.[2] If you look on the internet, you will find that many of the European countries are developing anti-bullying policies -- and many of these policies are not just for schools but also cover the work environment. In the US, the school is legally responsible for the safety of the children and a parent can sue the school and/or teacher if his/her child has been damaged.

The definition

A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students[3]

A power imbalance is found at the heart of the bullying dynamic.[4]

We are not considering the one-off or occasional dispute; we are dealing with a child being victimized over months, perhaps years. It should be noted that in the U.K., the time period is not viewed as critical:

Bullying is a willful, conscious desire to hurt another person. It can be occasional and short-lived, or it can be regular and long-lasting.[5]

Negative actions can include:

Bullying can either be direct -- such as name-calling, physical attacks or indirect -- such as exclusion from a peer group and the spreading of rumors. Boys are more involved with direct bullying tactics than girls. Boys are almost always bullied by boys. Girls are more often bullied by boys than girls.[7]

Where does it happen?

Bullying happens primarily where adults cannot easily detect it. It is more likely to happen in the schoolyard than in the classroom and is more likely to happen when an adult is not present or when their attention has been diverted.[8]

Prevalence

The majority of a class does not participate directly as either a bully or a victim. With a class of 25 students, on average, two will be bullies and two to four children will be victims.

On a Canadian national basis, surveys of approximately 5,000 children in grades 1 to 8, 6% of children admitted to bullying and 15% reported that they had been victimized (within a six-week period). Observations of children indicated bullying occurred once every seven minutes in playgrounds and every twenty-five minutes in the classroom.[9]

These numbers are consistent with a recent study of students in four Toronto schools.[10] It was found that teachers and other students rarely intervened (4% and 11% respectively). In 85% of cases, peers were involved, either as co-bullies or as bystanders.[11]

In Norway, one in seven children is involved as bully or victim with 9% of children victimized and 7% bullying.

Students in younger grades are bullied more than children in older grades and the bully is often in an older grade than the victim. The occurrence of bullying/victims by grade in Norway were found to be as follows:

Five Groups

Five parties are involved in bullying behavior:

Profile of a Bully

Students who engage in bullying behavior have a need to feel powerful and in control. They appear to derive satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering on others, they have little empathy for their victims, and they often defend their actions by saying their victims provoked them in some way.[13] The child is aggressive towards peers as well as towards adults -- both parents and teachers -- and has a more positive attitude towards violence and the use of violent means than students in general.[14] Bullies appear to have little anxiety and to possess strong self-esteem.[15]

There are also passive bullies: followers or henchmen who participate in bullying but do not take the initiative. This group may contain a mix of anxious and insecure students.[16]

Bullies tend to become aggressive adults who stand a greater chance of having a criminal record,[17] alcohol abuse, marital violence, child abuse and sexual harassment.[18] The Canadian National Crime Prevention Council has recognized that bullying may be one of the early behaviors that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior patterns.[19]

How is a bully created?

The research is quite consistent on how a bully is created and the essence is that the roots of much bullying are nurtured at home.

Dr. Olweus from Norway found that the main factors leading to the development of an aggressive child are as follows:

According to Dr. John Gottman Ph.D., an emotionally distant dad -- one who is harsh, critical, or dismissing of his children's emotions -- can have a deeply negative impact. His kids are more likely to do poorly in school, fight more with friends, and have poor health. In contrast, when fathers are aware of their kids' feelings and try to help them solve problems, children do better in school and in relationships with others. (This emphasis on dads does not mean that the mother's involvement doesn't affect children's emotional intelligence as well. The effects of her interactions with her children are significant. But studies indicate that a father's influence can be much more extreme, whether that effect is good or bad.)[21]

In other words, although it has been thought that schools are breeding grounds for bullies, there is considerable evidence that the root of much bullying is nurtured in the home environment and much of this is done at the pre-school ages.[22]

Profile of a Victim

Most victims are passive or submissive and tend to be quiet and shy in temperament. They tend to be anxious, insecure and cautious and suffer from low self-esteem, rarely defending themselves or retaliating when confronted by students who bully them. They may lack social skills and friends and are thus often socially isolated. Victims tend to be close to their parents and may have parents who are overprotective.[23] The major physical characteristic of victims is that they tend to be weaker than their peers, particularly for boys; however, other physical characteristics -- such as weight, dress or wearing eyeglasses -- do not appear to be significant factors that can be correlated with victimization.[24]

Victims of bullying typically are unhappy children who suffer from fear, anxiety and low self-esteem because of the bullying. They may try to avoid school and to avoid social interaction, in an effort to escape the bullying. Their social, academic and emotional development suffers.[25] As many as 7% of America's eighth-graders stay at home at least once a month because of bullies.[26]

Most students who are bullied either do not report the bullying or do so after a long period. The reasons include shame, fear of retaliation for reporting and fear that adults will not or cannot protect the victim in the settings where the bullying takes place.[27]

Involvement of Peers

An often-overlooked group is the children who are neither the perpetrators nor the victims of bullying, but who see the bullying happening. These are the bystanders. They may follow the bully's lead and help victimize a particular child. The bullying may increase anxiety and fear in the bystanders. Children, who observe violent behavior and see that there are no negative consequences for the bully, will more likely use aggression in the future.[28]

Why teachers don't intervene

Bullying involves a power differential between the bully and the victim that most often requires adult intervention.[29] And, given the type of behavior we are talking about, you would think a teacher would intervene. So why do they not intervene? They are not aware it is taking place. And victims generally keep quiet. Every piece of research indicates teachers underestimate the amount of bullying when compared to the response from students.[30]

Also, bullying may be viewed as a harmless rite of passage that is best ignored unless it crosses the line into physical assault or theft.[31] Or it may be easier, given the profile of the victim, to blame the victim -- they are too sensitive, too anxious or they have a tendency to exaggerate. And if the parents complain - they are being overprotective.

What can be done about it?

As mentioned earlier there are numerous approaches, which have been or are in the process of being implemented. We would like to bring your attention to just a few matters at this time:

What has been done in Toronto?

The Toronto Board of Education has been working to implement an Anti-Bullying Intervention in seven elementary schools based on the Norwegian program implemented in Norway. To-date there has been some improvements, particularly in the rate of victimization. Where a code of behavior, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of children, as well as consequences of misdemeanors, was formalized, more positive results were obtained.[32]

Role of a school

Schools have a primary role in the socialization of children and they need to provide a safe and healthy environment within which learning and healthy social interaction occurs.

What if there is no intervention?

If bullying is allowed to occur it will likely affect the academic development of both the bully and the victim, and all of the children will learn that those who have the power have the right to use it aggressively.[33] For example, if a teacher were at the playground but refrained from intervening in a bullying incident; this behavior would imply, for all children, a silent condoning of bullying.[34] Lack of first-hand knowledge by the teacher will not necessarily resonate in a child's mind as being an adequate reason why bullying is allowed in an environment supervised by an adult.

How does this tie in with our School?

We have looked briefly at our school's vision statement, Steiner pedagogy and our discipline policy to determine whether an anti-bullying policy would be, in principle, consistent with the Waldorf philosophy. We recognize that our views could be erroneous as we are relatively uneducated in this area but we have offered these views as a means to initiate discussion.

Rudolf Steiner College

The Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California, is offering a two day workshop entitled: Teasing, Bullying and Fighting: Breaking the Pattern on July 16 and 17th this summer. This workshop may be in response to the charter school status of some U.S. Waldorf schools and the related requirement that these charter schools abide by state legislature on anti-bullying.

Vision statement

Within the detailed vision statement the following phrases are used: enabling our children to emerge as healthy human beings and we nourish needs. An anti-bullying policy would address the needs and problems faced by the victims and the bullies. In addition, it is viewed as a preventative measure to have a community ethos that would discourage such behavior.[35]

Pedagogy

Imitation

Having the teacher set a firm example by not accepting bullying seems to be consistent with Steiner's view of the importance of teaching children through imitation and by working with children by means of an unquestioned authority.[36]

Destiny

We have labored over this section and it has been written and rewritten a number of times. Can a child's karma or destiny be that of a victim or bully? Is it a child's destiny to seek certain experiences to build his or her self-esteem and inner self? Should a potentially abusive situation be stopped, and if so, at what point? We do not know the answers; however, when dealing with bullying behavior we thought that caution is necessary. If intervention can change the experiences that our children encounter then conceivably it is not entirely destiny we are dealing with. And perhaps all the children are better served if they are given tools to better handle aggression, be it their own, or their peers.

For a child who is being victimized, it must be the teacher's role and responsibility to determine how much victimization is healthy to enable the child to be strengthened through the experience and at what point the exposure is excessive and detrimental. This situation is something that all teachers must struggle with, and the obligation becomes that much more onerous given that, in all likelihood, most of what a child is subjected to will be unknown to the teacher.

It appears that the bully, primarily through child rearing, arrives at our school with a predisposition to aggressive and bullying behavior. The research is not clear as to how much these children can be helped without the support of the parents. However, parental commitment is one of the qualities expected of any Waldorf family so there may be more success with our families than the average. In addition, we understand that doing biography work with the affected child(ren) and families may increase understanding and help the situation. Curative work, including assessments and curative eurythmy, perhaps in consultation with specialists like Anthroposophical doctors, may provide additional information to both the family and teacher(s).

Saying no

If you see your child hit another child in the sandbox, what do you do? This was the question posed by the keynote speaker, Jack Petrash, at last month's Gateways Conference. In his answer he suggested that there are times when you may need to say the word no, regardless of the age of the listener.

Cruelty

There are normal levels of aggressive behavior particularly as children are exploring the cruel aspects of their nature. Every school provides the opportunity for some bullying to take place, as children test each other out and work out their roles in the classroom and playground relationships.[37] However, at some point, this behavior may be excessive and represent a behavioral problem.

Discipline policy

Our school discipline policy appears to deal mainly with the classroom setting and interactions between the teacher and the student rather than student-to-student interactions. However, certain aspects of the policy deal with student interactions as follows:

The social context and supervision at school have been shown to play a major part in the frequency and severity of bullying.[38] An anti-bullying policy is consistent with the requirement that fellow students are treated with respect and would encompass repeated and directed verbal abuse, profanity and/or aggressive behavior and malicious practical jokes and teasing.

What are our goals/ expectations?

As stated we are interested in determining what policies and methodologies exist within our school and whether any of the external work may be usefully employed.

Initial goals

A report on our current practices. This would include a description of:

Timing

The thought was to consider the possibility of sending out a questionnaire in the autumn. It would be best to look at our current practices prior to such a mailing.

Conclusion

We are of the opinion that either there is, or there can be, a problem with bullying in our school as in any other school. It may not exist in all grades but it is there, and people who believe it does not exist are being na‘ve, perhaps because they believe Waldorf schools are exempt from aggressive children. You do not have to have a child that is a bully or a victim for your child to be affected, they are affected when they are bystanders. And finally, we believe that we either already have, or have the capability to have, wonderful methodology to deal with this issue given the humane reputation of Waldorf education.

  1. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 48, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  2. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 1-2, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  3. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 9, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  4. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.2, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  5. Tattum, 1989, Great Britain, , pp. 53, Bullying: Home, School and Community, 1997, Great Britain
  6. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.1, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  7. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 18-19, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  8. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 70-71, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  9. National Crime Prevention Council, Bullying and victimization: The problems and solutions for school-aged children, pp.2
  10. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.2, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  11. Wendy Craig, Debra Pepler, Understanding Bullying at School: What Can We Do About It?, Queen's University and York University, pp.2
  12. Netherlands Education Protocol Against Bullying, Bullying at School: How to deal with it, pp. 3
  13. Ron Banks, Parent Brochure, pp. 1, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, USA
  14. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 34-36, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  15. Ron Banks, Parent Brochure, pp. 1, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, USA
  16. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 34-36, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  17. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 36, 45, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  18. Farrington, 1993; Olweus, 1991 per National Crime Prevention Council, Bullying and victimization: The problems and solutions for school-aged children, pp.1
  19. Farrington, 1993 per National Crime Prevention Council, Bullying and victimization: The problems and solutions for school-aged children, pp.1
  20. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 39-42, 45, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  21. John Gottman, Ph.D., Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, pp. 26, Simon & Schuster, 1997
  22. Pete Randall, Pre-school children: experiences of being parented and routes to bullying, pp. 6, Bullying: Home, School and Community, 1997, Great Britain
  23. Ron Banks, Parent Brochure, pp. 2, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, USA
  24. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 30-31, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.,
  25. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.5, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  26. Ron Banks, Parent Brochure, pp. 2, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, USA
  27. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.3, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  28. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.6, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario
  29. National Crime Prevention Council, Bullying and victimization: The problems and solutions for school-aged children, pp.6
  30. Delwyn Tattum, Home and School, pp. 47, Bullying: Home, School and Community, 1997, Great Britain
  31. Ron Banks, Parent Brochure, pp. 2, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, USA
  32. Wendy Craig, Debra Pepler, Understanding Bullying at School: What Can We Do About It?, Queen's University and York University, pp.8-9
  33. Wendy Craig, Debra Pepler, Understanding Bullying at School: What Can We Do About It?, Queen's University and York University, pp.5
  34. Dan Olweus, Bullying at School, pp. 71, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1993
  35. Delwyn Tattum, Home and School, pp. 48, Bullying: Home, School and Community, 1997, Great Britain
  36. R. Steiner, Walking, Speaking, Thinking -- Gratitude, from Human Values in Education
  37. Delwyn Tattum and Eva Tattum, From Home to School, pp. 41, Bullying: Home, School and Community, 1997, Great Britain
  38. Marlies Sudermann, Peter Jaffe, Elaine Schiek, Bullying: Information for Parents and Teachers, pp.4, London Family Court Clinic, London, Ontario



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