Despite our best intentions, it’s a fact that most students around the country don’t want to talk about bullying. They’re tuned out; believing that they got the “bullying” lecture in elementary school and they don’t need to hear it again. We need to be clear about drama vs bullying.
Talking about bullying is important for the safety of every young person. But we have to clear with our words and approach.
Drama vs Bullying
Bullying is when one person or a group of people repeatedly abuses or threatens to abuse their power against another person. We see it as stripping someone of their dignity by attacking, demeaning and/or humiliating someone based on a perceived inherent trait. Traits like their sexual orientation, conformance to gender appearance, religion, socio-economic level, race, ethnicity or a disability.
But young people don’t usually define the conflicts they get into as bullying. They usually define it as drama: a conflict that’s serious to the people involved but not taken seriously by other people gossiping about it. Drama is where peers are in conflict with each other. Or the “target” is believed to have done something wrong or antagonized the “bully.” In both situations, the aggressor and their peers often don’t think they’re bullying the target. Instead, they believe they’re righting a wrong or defending themselves or someone else by using the power and resources available to them.
The consequences for both bullying and drama can still be serious—a young person can be really upset, isolated and distracted in school. But we have to talk about these dynamics in a way young people can relate to it you want young people self-reflect and shift their behavior.