General Information

BULLYING is typically a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation. BULLYING occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance. (Based on the Ontario Ministry of Education definition; for the full definition, refer to

BULLYING, discrimination, and sexual harassment are all intentionally harmful behaviours, physically and/or psychologically. They tend to be repetitive and persistent behaviours. BULLYING, discrimination, and sexual harassment leave victims feeling afraid, helpless, vulnerable, traumatized, rejected, isolated, and less than others. Victims feel powerless to resist, and perpetrators derive what they perceive as status and gratification.

What Is Bullying?

Physical BULLYING: hitting, kicking, punching, tripping, shoving, spitting, stealing, damaging property.

Weight-based teasing: BULLYING based on body shape/size.

Verbal BULLYING: name calling, mocking, taunting, put-downs, sexist, racist, or homophobic comments, threats, humiliating someone, making people do things they don’t want to do.

Social BULLYING: excluding others, spreading gossip and rumours, setting others up to look foolish, damaging friendships, rejection of someone, rolling eyes and other demeaning gestures, dividing people from one another, isolating someone, making sure others do not spend time with a certain person.

Cyberbullying: sending or posting harmful material or engaging in forms of social aggression using the Internet or other forms of digital technologies. Remember that cyberbullying is BULLYING in a different location.

Examples of Cyberbullying

flaming: online fights and arguments using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.harassment: repeatedly sending mean, offensive, and insulting messages to an individual.

denigration: showing disrespect for someone online; sending or posting gossip or rumours about a person to damage his/her reputation or friendships.

impersonation: pretending to be someone else, and sending or posting material to a person in trouble or to damage that persons’s reputation or friendships.

outing: sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online.

intrusion: over-the-shoulder surfing, sharing/stealing passwords, or unintentional or unauthorized use of a web camera.

trickery: tricking someone into revealing secrets with the intent to embarrass him/her online.

exclusion: intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group.

cyberstalking: repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

Threats including Cyberthreats: sending or posting direct threats or distressing material statements that alludes that the person may be considering harming someone else or harming him/herself.

What Is Discrimination?

Discrimination is the unfair treatment of a person or group because of differences such as race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual preference, or socio-economic status. Discrimination means prejudging or stereotyping people, and being bigoted and intolerant of differences. It can make a child or family feel unwelcome, marginalized, excluded, powerless, or worthless in a school or community.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted and unwelcome behaviour about sex or gender that interferes with a person’s life and makes him/her feel uncomfortable, even if the harasser claims to be only joking. The following are examples of sexual harassment:

  • rude jokes, sexual comments, spreading rumours
  • sexual put-downs
  • catcalls, rating appearances, whistling
  • insults about sexual orientation
  • bragging about sexual relations
  • unwanted kissing, touching, flirting, grabbing

What Is Weight-Based Teasing?

Weight-based stigmatization is “negative weight-related attitudes and beliefs that are manifested through stereotypes, bias, rejection, and prejudice toward children and adolescents because they are overweight or obese.” Obesity is one of the “most stigmatized and least socially acceptable conditions in childhood.” (Russell-Mayhew, McVey, Bardick, Ireland, “Mental health, wellness, and childhood overweight/obesity,” J Obes., 2012)

General Characteristics To Look For

How BULLYING (including cyberbullying), sexual harassment, discrimination, and weight-based teasing might look
  • The classroom setting is likely where the less overt signs of BULLYING, sexual harassment, or discrimination will be evident.
  • Some students may be excluded in certain groupings in the class or in informal settings such as the schoolyard; they may be chosen last for teams and may prefer to spend their time with staff.
  • Students may leave quickly at the end of the day or volunteer to stay behind, hoping to avoid confrontations outside the classroom or school. They may avoid specific areas in the school where bullies are likely to be encountered.
  • Bullied students may look like other students who are under stress (unhappy, tearful, sullen, sad, anxious, avoidant, etc.) and may complain of headaches, nausea, and fatigue because of sleep difficulties.
  • Students may experience difficulty concentrating, a change in level of participation or work productivity, have an unexplained change in attendance patterns, or be easily distracted and slow to progress.
  • Students may report vandalized or stolen personal property, damaged or missing possessions, or lost money.
  • Students might run away, become secretive or school phobic, feel suicidal, or start stealing to pay off the bully.
  • Students who are experiencing anxiety or stress as a result of cyberbullying may show an obsessive interest or, conversely, an avoidance of social media and the Internet.
  • Students who experience weight stigmatization and teasing may be depressed, anxious, exhibit low self-esteem and bodydissatisfaction, have suicidal ideations, and participate in unhealthy eating behaviours and binge eating (Puhl, 2009).

Impact On Student Success

  • Students who are bullied can easily feel afraid or want to avoid potentially threatening or dangerous situations in the classroom or schoolyard, on the bus, or while walking to or from school. They may feel or pretend to be sick to avoid these situations, and this can interfere with their school attendance.
  • Students who are bullied may also take on BULLYING behaviour as a coping and/or learned behaviour.
  • Students who bully may be the victim of BULLYING by others.
  • Students may avoid or miss classes, run away, or become secretive or school phobic.
  • Student grades may drop.
  • Some students may become depressed, anxious, phobic, or suicidal.
  • For students who are repeatedly ostracized or intimidated, dropping out of school may be an attractive option.
  • Actively engage with the school team and board initiatives to establish safe school environments.
  • Be proactive and involve everyone, including young people, in education about and awareness of various components of BULLYING.
  • Celebrate diversity in the home, school, and community.
  • Promote an understanding and inclusive approach to all children, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, language, sex, age, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, size, shape, or socio-economic status.
  • If children who are bullied and/or who bully, or who are bystanders, receive early intervention, they can develop strategies for healthy, positive relationships.
  • Anyone who feels that they have information about a crime taking place or having been committed should be encouraged to call Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
  • Be proactive—create and teach in a physical environment that promotes social competence, core values, and empathy.
  • Bring the issues of BULLYING, sexual harassment, and discrimination out into the open and acknowledge that they exist in the classroom. Foster discussion of these issues (e.g., bring in newspaper articles related to BULLYING, sexual harassment, and discrimination).
  • Create ways for students to share concerns and feel safe about sharing feelings. Promote good citizenship and a sense of responsibility for others in the school environment.
  • Let students know that BULLYING, sexual harassment, and discrimination will not be tolerated.
  • Be there to listen if someone has a problem or sees another student having a problem.
  • Create a climate of belonging for every student and involve all students in classroom activities.
  • Be aware of the messages you send about your body and the comments you make about the appearance of others (for more information, refer to the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds section).
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of safe school policies and programs by conducting school climate surveys at least every two years.
  • Engage and collaborate with the school team, students, parents/caregivers, and community partners in establishing a safe school environment.
  • Develop policies and procedures that promote inclusion; develop a school plan (as part of annual school improvement goals) and consistently monitor and reassess the plan.
  • Provide opportunities for all staff to participate in BULLYING prevention training and leadership initiatives, and provide teachers with classroom activities to promote inclusion. Provide information and training for students, parents/caregivers, and volunteers.
  • Deal with incidents in a positive and responsive manner.
  • Provide a safe and anonymous reporting mechanism in the school for students. Keep a record of all incidents reported.
  • Work with school and board staff to provide supports for students who have been bullied, students who bully, and bystanders.
  • Consider restorative practice interventions (led by trained facilitators) to prioritize victim safety.
  • Consult with police about school-specific BULLYING trends, and identify issues to attempt early intervention and resolution.
  • It is recognized that school staff must speak to students to determine the nature of the issue/complaint. Staff are reminded to be mindful that, once they are satisfied that the matter could be criminal in nature, continuing to interview/question students and witnesses could jeopardize the investigation to follow. When you are unsure, please contact the local police department for advice.
  • Inform the principal and teachers if your child has been a victim of BULLYING, sexual harassment, or discrimination.Actively work with your child’s school team in the development and implementation of safe school plans, anti-BULLYING initiatives, and intervention programming.
  • Be aware of and seek out any opportunity to attend workshops or information sessions about BULLYING and technology.
  • Watch for signs and symptoms such as fear of going to school, insomnia, stomach aches, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, soiling, bedwetting, eating disorders, self-harming behaviours, broken bones, hair loss, cigarette burns, bite marks, bruises, pencil jab marks, and obsessive interest in or avoidance of social media and the Internet.
  • Be aware of your child’s Internet and cellphone usage. Talk to your child about safety, including privacy and sharing of information. Establish rules for Internet and cellphone use. Discuss the uses of and misuses of technology.
  • Provide opportunities to collaborate in workshops to address BULLYING issues.
  • Facilitate parent/caregiver workshops about BULLYING and healthy relationships.
  • Include information about discrimination and BULLYING in flyers, training, and newsletters.
  • Facilitate referral processes and provide supports for children who are victims and for children who are bullies or bystanders.
  • Collaborate to create a culture of Health at Every Size, taking a health-centred approach rather than a weight-based approach, to focus on the whole person—physically, mentally, and socially.
  • Respond to and consult with school staff and administrators about school-specific BULLYING trends, and identify developing issues so that attempts can be made at early intervention and resolution.
  • Advise school staff on specific incidents, and discuss whether any applicable legislation has been violated.
  • Participate in informational programs with specific students and with the school community as a whole.
  • Engage everyone involved (victims, bullies, parents, school staff, and community partners) in education and discussion about criminal proceedings, criminal harassment, and threats.