The issue of bullying has become a major area of discussion in schools, especially in light of our growing awareness of the intense injury that stems from bullying. There have been far too frequent reports of suicides and retaliatory violence in school settings that seem to be responses to bullying.
In one sense, bullying has always been a feature of school life, and I think that many of our readers will remember a time when victims were expected to “suck it up” because being bullied by bigger and more powerful people was simply one of the rites of passage on the road to adulthood. For many years, we did not face up to the incredible damage done to both the perpetrators and recipients of bullying behavior. We have also not faced the fact that some of our actions as educators, from our positions of power in our classrooms, could also be described as bullying.
We now know that, in addition to physical and emotional harm, bullying also has serious negative effects on the learning experience of the bullied student and on the learning environment as a whole. Learning takes place most effectively in safe and supportive communities, but that safety disappears for all learners the moment bullying occurs. We also recognize that bullying is not simply an issue at in classrooms at school, but is often also a feature of life in our workplaces, our churches, and our communities.
In this issue, we look at the issue of bullying mainly as it affects schools. The articles look at definitions of bullying, guidelines for identifying it, and strategies for addressing it that protect all students involved.
It is our hope that examining bullying in this way will encourage us as Christian educators, wherever we teach, to look at the culture of our schools and to examine ways we can work with all those in our school communities—parents, students, teachers and support staff alike—to create safe and healing communities where all of God’s people can flourish. We can then pray that the shalom of God that will become more evident in our school communities will spread into our workplaces, our churches, and throughout our world, to the advancement of God’s kingdom in every area of life.