Health and Wellness Tip of the Week: Cliques and Bullying

With a new school year beginning, plenty of new transitions are taking place at St. Michaels University School. Students are moving up from the Junior and Middle Schools, and the Senior School is welcoming many new faces to residences and classrooms. While SMUS maintains a strict no-bullying policy, students should still be prepared to deal with the problem.

Bullying is when one or several people become physically, emotionally or verbally abusive towards someone else. Abuse can take the form of name-calling, sexual harassment, physical abuse or even extreme exclusion. Boys and girls are equally likely both to be bullies and to be bullied, though the forms vary between genders.

“For a child who is experiencing any bullying, they need to know others are there to protect them and need to tell adults,” says Senior School Counsellor Virginia Ronning. “They also need to build skills for dealing with a person who is bullying.”

A clique is a tight group of friends who feel, and often have, social power over others. Cliques tend to be based on the safety of similarities and are often unwelcoming to others. While the formation of groups of friends is natural, cliques exhibit a hostility towards others that often results in feelings of rejection and sometimes fear in non-members. Members tend to target people they perceive as different as a way of uniting and uplifting themselves.

Bullies and cliques are usually small groups, but they enjoy and rely on the support of the whole student body. Students that witness bullying, malicious gossip or unfair treatment can refuse to be a part of bullying by following these tips.

-Don’t watch. The bully or clique leader wants an audience. If you walk away, they no longer have the attention they desire.
-Don’t react. If you can’t walk away (say you’re on the bus or in class) don’t laugh of encourage the bully’s behaviour.
-Don’t gossip. Passing on rumours can escalate the bullying and hurt people’s feelings indirectly.
-Combat gossip with truth. If you hear a rumour you know isn’t true, stop it from spreading by telling the true story.
-Get a teacher/parent involved. If the situation is escalating out of control, get an authority figure involved.

Students struggling with bullying or other problems can turn to SMUS peer support (PeerS) for confidential help. They can talk to someone in person or email [email protected] for help. PeerS will also be facilitating meetings with small groups of Grade 9 students to find out how they are adjusting to SMUS Senior School.

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