Bullying vs. arguing: Morristown High School staff explains the difference


Disagreements, arguments and fights are part of growing up, and of life. Such “normal social conflict” is mutually competitive, involving opposing actions or engagement.

These actions may violate Morristown High School’s code of conduct, and hence be punishable, but such behavior does not warrant reporting to state and local officials.

Harrassment, intimidation and bullying behavior, on the other hand, are one-sided.  Very often the force is heavily weighted in the bully’s favor. This aggression has victims; the intent is to physically or emotionally hurt someone.

MHS staff explained these nuances of the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and the school’s procedures for complying, before a small audience on Wednesday. The presentation was pushed back from last month because of Hurricane Sandy.

Bullying has been an especially sensitive topic at Morristown High since the suicide last spring of a freshman who authorities say was bullied.

The school’s post-conflict procedures are intended to be transparent and to involve the parents/guardians of the students involved.  This goes beyond legislative requirements, according to school staff.

At no time does the MHS staff report a student’s disciplinary record to colleges or anywhere else, staffers said on Wednesday.  Even when reporting to the state, names are not used, only student ID numbers.

The response plan balances consequences with remedial action.  Counselors are available and the school is finding that incidents of conflict and bullying behavior often have an underlying problem that is solvable.

When the state’s anti-bullying law was signed, the emphasis was on reporting.  More recently, the shift is moving toward addressing “school climate.”  Eventually each school will receive a report card on its learning environment.



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