Pervasive Problem

Recent media attention has exposed parents and caregivers to the most extreme and frightening bullying situations. On the one hand, this has created a climate of genuine concern about the issue. On the other hand, the more subtle, insidious and pervasive forms of bullying and inequity are more easily overlooked when such extreme situations are the reference point.

Schools can aim to raise awareness about the subtle and more obvious power dynamics that underlie bullying and inequity in schools and within our broader culture and society. Parents and caregivers can begin to observe when abusive power dynamics shape daily interactions within their children’s peer group. This may lead to observing the seeds of bullying and inequity in other contexts, such as the family, the neighbourhood, the workplace or the community at large. Tolerance for bullying and inequity begins when we overlook or ignore such dynamics in any context of our daily lives.

Understanding subtle and pervasive forms of bullying and inequity in any context helps to increase awareness of the issue and its basis in the school culture. At the same time, it is essential to disseminate a clear and widely understood and agreed upon definition of the problem. This helps to avoid a backlash where conflict and peer aggression are conflated with bullying and inequity.