Bullying is the abuse of a power imbalance with the intent to harm someone.
Generally, bullying is repeated behaviour; however, depending on the impact on the individual student, it could also be a single event. The person who is targeted usually fears or learns to fear the power of the person who is bullying them.
People who bully may act alone or with accomplices against a single target or a series of individuals to inflict physical, emotional, or social damage. These bullying episodes may occur over a short period of time or go on indefinitely and are frequently organized and systematic. People who bully often rationalize their behaviour and feel justified in their actions. They rely on bystanders either to do nothing to aid the targets of bullying or to be an ally in their bullying behaviour.
Bullying includes such behaviours as physical assaults, unwanted sexual touching and assault, intimidation, threats, coercion, exclusion, rejection, gossip, spreading rumours and name-calling. It can be carried out in person or through text messaging, Internet sites or other parts of cyber space.
In October 2007, the Government of Ontario introduced a Policy and Program Memorandum (P/PM 144) on Bullying Prevention and Intervention for use by schools across the province. This P/PM includes a definition of bullying:
Bullying is typically a form of repeated, persistent, and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.