Responding to a Student who Bullies

When intervening with a student who has bullied others:

  • listen closely to the description of the incident given by the student;
  • name the student’s behaviour as bullying;
  • refer to any concepts, definitions or vocabulary in the school’s Code of Conduct or other school policy to help the student understand why his or her behaviour is bullying;
  • model the use of respectful and assertive behaviour through your interaction with the student; using aggressive (i.e. bullying) behaviour with the student will most likely create feelings of hostility and resistance;
  • help the student understand the impact of his or her behaviour, such as the distress experienced by the student he or she has bullied;
  • encourage the student to take responsibility for the behaviour and its consequences and impact;
  • make a distinction between the student’s bullying behaviour and the student as a person; communicate clearly that the behaviour is unacceptable, without putting down or rejecting the student;
  • avoid labelling the student as a “bully”; instead, try to use language that names and focuses on the student’s behaviour, communicating your belief in the student’s ability to change;
  • confront the student’s attempts to justify or excuse the behaviour (e.g. “it was just a joke”) by clearly stating that such behaviour is not acceptable.

To follow-up on a bullying incident with the student who bullied:

  • involve the student closely in developing an action plan by using a problem solving process such as the one described in our Nine-Step Process;
  • encourage the student to make choices, find solutions and make as many decisions as possible within appropriate limits, with the goal of ending the bullying situation;
  • enable the student to identify and undertake some kind of reparation with the injured student, if it is appropriate; that is, the student who has bullied can undertake some act or gesture to make reparations to the injured student;
  • take appropriate action to ensure that the student experiences the natural consequences of their behaviour; it is important that the consequences:
  • give a clear message that bullying is unacceptable;
  • help develop the student’s awareness of the impact of bullying;
  • help develop needed skills for alternatives to bullying behaviour; and
  • help develop the student’s empathy and sense of responsibility;
  • check back with the student on a regular basis to ensure that the bullying has stopped;
  • ensure that the student receives the necessary support, in the long-term, to change the aggressiveness of responses and behaviour, and to develop empathy and a sense of responsibility;
  • consult as a team if the bullying continues – with input and guidance from the student who is bullied – to develop and implement a whole school strategy to stop the bullying.