An article in a recent issue of Independent School magazine, “Why Our Approach to Bullying is Bad for Kids” caught my attention. In essence, the author Susan Porter, a school dean, says that labeling children as either “bully” or “victim” doesn’t help us to help children. We know that children’s social lives and behavior are dynamic, changing, and developing. We need to “separate their behavior from their characters.” She also notes that it is especially children labeled “victim” who are deprived a sense of agency.

I appreciate the perspective of the article. At Friends School of Minnesota we have so much in place that lets us look at behavior in much more depth than a dichotomous bully/victim framework. We work to build trust and community, the context within which all children grow, learn, make mistakes, forgive and are forgiven.

In talking with students and parents I am reluctant to use the term bullying. This is not to say that repeated targeting of a vulnerable individual (bullying) never happens, even at FSM. But in my experience, most of what students and parents identify as bullying is what I call mean behavior. And that helps us to look at what happened, talk about it, hopefully grow in understanding from it.

I think the topic is important and I believe Friends School of Minnesota has an approach to caring, noticing, and acting that helps all students grow. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Lili Herbert
Head of School

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“Why Our Approach to Bullying is Bad for Kids” by Susan Porter, Independent School; Winter2013, Vol. 72 Issue 2, p72