Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bullying of Children With Disabilities - Postscript I

English: Official portrait of Justice Potter S...
English: Official portrait of Justice Potter Stewart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At the recent excellent conference at Seattle University, I was lucky enough to present a half-day session on Bullying and IDEA.  The participants were very engaged in the presentation.

We began with the definition of bullying, and we found that the definition of bullying is much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's infamous response when he was asked to define obscenity and he replied that he was not sure if he could define it, but he knows it when he sees it. 

We decided that one element is an intention to harm or harass.  There is no negligent bullying, and the bully must have some foul motive.

Another core element is repetition.  A single act of violence, no matter how bad, is not bullying.  It has to be repeated.

The final element is an imbalance of power, or at least a perceived imbalance of power. Two combatants even if engaged in repeated battle, are not involved in bullying.

We toyed with some other components of a definition of bullying, but none of them got the traction of consensus that the three elements listed above received.  So what do you think of this definition of bullying?

We then had some fun applying the definition to an array of hypotheticals.  My favorite was the famous legal case of Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd.  We all agreed that Mr Fudd had a disability. At first, I had people convinced that Bugs was a bully, and I was afraid that my Saturday morning cartoon enjoyment would be forced to come to an end.  Upon reflection, however, Bugs was exonerated on the theory that Fudd's rifle eliminated any imbalance of power based upon Bugs' superior intellect.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. The famous legal case of BB v. EF. I love that.

    But I think that Bugs Bunny would also at least have a shot at exoneration on the theory that he doesn't meet the first element, intent to harm or harass. It's a very subtle element. I think Bugs Bunny would argue what a lot of accused-bullies argue which is, "I'm just playing."
    In BB's mind, his intent is to include EF in his merrymaking, by pranking him, poking fun at him, occasionally referring to him by the nickname 'Doc.' Well, that's maybe not his true intent, but it's difficult to disprove.
    Intent can be such a complex and unconscious thing with bullies.

    I am really intrigued that this was a topic of discussion at your conference. Sounds like it would have been right up my alley. Thanks for posting.

  2. Jennifer,

    I even tried the Bugs was hungry and not really stealing EF's carrots, but the participants did not buy into it!


  3. Jim -

    I'm not sold on your third element here. I can imagine plenty of circumstances, particularly in the Special Ed community, where two "combatants" could very much be engaged in bullying. The thought being that one of the two very much would like not to be engaged at all. I guess, then, I'm ok with the first sentence of the third element, that an imbalance of power must exist (or a perception thereof), but it can certainly exist in a 1:1 scenario. No?


  4. Jeff,

    Interesting point, but I think that if there isn't at least a perceived imbalance of power, it is not bullying. Don't get me wrong, it could still be something bad, but I think that we would call it something else.

    Thanks for the comment.


  5. I don't think there is any need of bullying of anyone

  6. Megan

    I agree; there is no place for bullies.