Teacher Guide to Bullying and Exclusion
Refer to your school’s Student Engagement PolicyAll schools are expected to have a Student Engagement Policy to prevent and respond to bullying or other forms of unacceptable behaviour. This policy will include whole school strategies and initiatives as outlined in the Victorian Department of Education’s anti-bullying policy. Your engagement and support of this policy can help create an inclusive environment for students with a disability.
Talk regularly with students about inclusionConsider ways in which you can promote tolerance in your classroom. Talk to students about diversity and the ways in which individual differences can be valued. Consider having different guests or show videos which cover different disabilities, and highlight positive contributions made by various people with disabilities. Talk about language, including why we should avoid terms that may be offensive to another child. Focus on the strengths and positive attributes of people/children with disabilities. If a child and their family wish to disclose a child’s disability to peers, consider accessing AllPlay Learn’s disclosing a disability page which includes information about how to talk with peers about a disability, or AllPlay Learn’s Information Sheets for Peers in the teacher resources page.
Talk to students about your school’s bullying policyDiscuss with students what bullying is (and isn’t!), what exclusion is, and clearly outline for them what inclusion and positive behaviour looks like at school. Provide clear expectations to students about what is expected of them, and what is not tolerated at school. You may also want to complete an activity with students in which they create a group agreement or guidelines as to what inclusion and positive social behaviour will look like in their classroom and playground.
Teach students social and emotion regulation skillsConsider teaching children positive social skills that they can use to develop friendships or handle conflict (see AllPlay Learn’s social skills page), and training students how to be inclusive of others (see AllPlay Learn’s peer mediation resource). Teaching all students how to recognise emotions and express them in a positive way can also help reduce conflict and increase inclusion (see AllPlay Learn’s emotions page for information about emotion development and regulation). It may also be important to talk to students about how to respond when being bullied or when they see someone else being bullied, and how they can seek help.
Consider ways in which your classroom and school can support a student’s inclusionIdentify the situations or contexts in which exclusion may happen (e.g. lunchtimes, group activities), and take action to prevent this. For example, lunchtimes may be particularly challenging for children who are unsure how to join in with others. Strategies that may help include ‘Friendship Benches’ in key locations (next to the oval, next to the playground) so that peers can easily recognise when they should ask another child to join in. Diverse lunchtime programs such as organising games on the oval, chess club, or choir can provide opportunities for children to join in and get to know other children, particularly if these are linked to a student’s interests. It may be important to consider age groups when running lunchtime programs to ensure they are accessible for all students (for example, hold ‘Prep-Grade 3’ games on the oval separately to ‘Grades 4-6’ games).
Learn how to recognise the signs that a student may be experiencing bullying or exclusionIf a student’s behaviour or emotion regulation changes significantly, this can sometimes be an indicator that they are being bullied or excluded. There can also be many other possible explanations for changes in behaviour and emotions. If you observe some of the following indicators, consider talking with the student directly or observing peer interactions and relationships over a number of days.
- Often alone or excluded.
- Frequent target for teasing, mimicking or ridicule.
- Stops/reduces speaking up in class.
- Changes in their emotions – frequent tears, anger/aggression, mood swings, anxiety.
- Appearing anxious/insecure.
- Appearing withdrawn or depressed.
- School refusal or avoidance.
- Frequently complaining of headaches or stomach upset (mostly connected to school attendance).
- Physical injuries (bruises/scratches) with no explanation.
- Changes in their academic performance at school.
- Missing or damaged belongings.
- Changes in their behavior (including aggression/bullying behavior towards other children).
- Talking about having no friends or being disliked by other students.
- Refuse to talk about what is wrong.
- Appear anxious or insecure.
- Difficulty concentrating.
Students can practise asking for help, using these scripts.