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Bullying Information and Prevention

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Webisodes - Stop Bullying Now

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Bullying is the first form of violence that many experience and it is not fun. The American Medical Association has determined that bullying is a public-health issue with short and long term consequences for everyone involved. A study reported by Time magazine (April 18, 05) states that 47% of sixth-graders said they were bullied at least once in the course of five school days.

Victims of bullying report being unhappy, often earn lower grades, and occasionally retaliate.

Warning signs that a student is being bullied may be subtle, so it is important for parents to keep a vigilant watch for any changes in behavior which may indicate bullying is taking place. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, report the incident to school personnel and talk with educators at your child’s school about bullying.

Overall, everyone is affected by a classroom climate that allows bullying, because such a climate is not conducive to learning. Teachers, parents, and children are encouraged to use bullying prevention activities, materials and computer/internet resources to create a school climate that eliminates bullying. Children learn best in environments where they feel safe, respected, and are encouraged to take risks.

Questions Frequently Asked by Parents

  1. What are Polk County’s definitions of bullying and harassment?
  2. How do I tell the difference between rough play, fighting and bullying?
  3. How do I tell the difference between bullying and harassment?
  4. What causes people to bully?
  5. What are the signs and symptoms of bullying?
  6. How can I help my child if he/she is bullied?
  7. What are ways for your child to address bullying in school?
  8. How do I report bullying?
  9. What can I expect the school to do once I file the report?
  10. What can the school do to support my child if he’s bullied?

Question 1: What is Polk County’s definitions of bullying and harassment?

Answer 1: The Polk County Schools definition of bullying closely follows the terms of the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, and defines bullying as:

  1. “Bullying” means systematically and chronologically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as: unwanted purposeful written, verbal, nonverbal, or physical behavior, including but not limited to any threatening, insulting or dehumanizing gesture, by and adult or student, that has the potential to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment or cause long term damage; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation, is carried out repeatedly and is often characterized by an imbalance of power. Bullying may involve, but is not limited to:
    • unwanted teasing
    • threatening
    • intimidating
    • stalking
    • cyberstalking
    • cyberbullying
    • physical violence
    • theft
    • sexual, religious, or racial discrimination
    • public humiliation
    • destruction of school or personal property
    • rumor or spreading of falsehoods
    • Bullying can take many forms; boys and girls tend to bully differently and generally their methods target whatever the bully’s group values the most. Boys are often physical and threatening; girls will attempt to alienate the victim from their social groups.
  2. “Harassment” means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of technology, computer software, or written, verbal or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:
    • places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property;
    • has the effect of substantially negatively impacting a student’s educational performance, or employee’s work performance, or either’s opportunities, or benefits;
    • has the effect of substantially negatively impacting a student’s or employee’s emotional or mental well-being; or
    • has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school

Question 2: How do I tell the difference between rough play, fighting and bullying?

Answer 2: The first step in untangling the differences between bullying and other forms of aggression is to define what bullying is and how it differs from “normal” childhood conflicts. The following table illustrates the differences between rough play, fighting and bullying.

Rough Play: Fighting: Bullying:
Usually friends; often will do the same things again Usually not friends; Typically not repeated Not friends but will be repeated
Power not an immediate Issue Power close to equal Power is not equal
Not about hurting Trying to hurt each other Bully is trying to hurt, humiliate
Affect is friendly, mutual Affect is negative, angry Affect varies between the victim and bully

Question 3: How do I tell the difference between bullying and harassment?

Answer 3: Bullying occurs when a student or group of students targets an individual repeatedly over time, using physical or psychological aggression to dominate the victim (Hoover & Oliver, 1996; Rigby, 1995; USDOE, 1998). The repeated incidents function to create and enforce an imbalance of power between bully and victim. Harassment involves any action that can be severe enough that it keeps a child from being successful in school. However, unlike bullying, which involves repeated incidents, harassment can be a one-time occurrence.

Question 4: What Causes People to Bully?

Answer 4: In general, bullies are using behavior that they have determined will gain them status and feelings of control, and they derive satisfaction from inflicting either physical or emotional pain on others. They usually seek victims they can successfully bully. Victims do not “ask for it,” but there is a group of victims who are not socially successful, and may annoy others, perhaps in an attempt to gain attention from their peers. Bullies use this annoying behavior to justify their own actions. To many bullies, their victims were “asking for it.”

Question 5: What are the signs and symptoms of bullying?

Answer 5:

  • Frightened to walk to school
  • Schoolwork is going downhill
  • Has damage clothing, etc.
  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Starts fights with peers or friends
  • Has headaches, stomachaches, or other stress symptoms
  • Cries in bed at night
  • Having nightmares
  • Possessions or money is missing
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, etc.
  • Anxious when their cell phone rings or they get a new email

Question 6: How Can I Help My Child If He/She Is Bullied?

Answer 6:

  • Affirm the Child - “You were right to tell me about this.” “I’m glad you asked me to help you with this.”
  • Ask Questions - “Tell me more about what happened.” “Has this happened before?” “Did anyone try to help you?”
  • Assess the Student’s Safety - Determine what the child needs in order to feel and be safe now.
  • Take Action - Talk to the teacher, school counselor, or administrator. You can also fill out the Bullying Report Form online or download a copy and give a completed copy to the school.

Question 7: What are ways for your child to address bullying in school?

Answer 7: There are several ways your child can protect his/herself:

  • Remind them not to fight, this is dangerous and will only make the problem worse
  • Bullies tend to pick on children who are isolated. See if you can pair your child with other children who do not support bullying.
  • Remind them to avoid places where supervision is limited
  • Are there adaptive skills that your child needs to learn? It might help them to know:
    • When and how to tell a joke
    • When to ignore
    • When to tell an adult

Question 8: How do I report bullying?Report Bullying Now

Answer 8: There are several methods for reporting suspected bullying incidents:

Students: There are many methods for you to report; follow the link to the student page for more information. Click here to visit the Student Information Page

School Board Employees who wish to report employee bullying should follow the link on this website to staff information to report. Click here to visit the Staff Information Page

Question 9: What can I expect the school to do once I report bullying?

Answer 9: Once a bullying incident is reported, the following actions occur:

  • Administrators will acknowledge receipt of your report in three school days
  • A preliminary review of the incident may be conducted to determine need for the investigation
  • If warranted, an investigation will be conducted and completed within 10 days
  • Parents of the victim and bully will be notified of the results and the school will take appropriate action

Question 10: What can the school do to support my child if he’s bullied?

Answer 10: Once school personnel have determined a bullying incident has occurred, an official plan will be developed to support the child who has been bullied. This plan will be implemented as written, with follow-up and modification if necessary. Plans will involve a variety of means of keeping a child safe and might include:

  • Increasing supervision
  • Restructuring schedules
  • Pairing the Targeted student with other children who will not support bullying
  • Counseling, to learn effective coping skills
  • Additional education for targeted groups of students


The resources below include definitions, statistics, and strategies to help with bullying and/or harassment.

Standing Tall Newsletter: Parent's Edition