HIB is defined as “any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or series of incidents, that: is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or off school grounds as provided for in section 16 of P.L. 2010, c 122, substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students.”
There exists a difference between HIB and conflict, though for the untrained may seem similar. For example, HIB is one sided while conflict is “mutually” competitive or consists of opposing action or engagement. HIB, consists of one or more students that are victims or one or more person’s aggression, as it applies to the HIB definition under the ABR. This aggression has the intent to physically or emotionally hurt someone. Though disagreements and arguments within conflicts may cause physical or emotional harm, the aggression’s intent is different.
The responsibility of the educator is to confront any forms of HIB before it has the chance to escalate to threats of physical intimidation and violence. There are several steps to reduce bullying and creating a healthier climate and culture in the school building. First, it is important to increase adult presence in “hot spots” for HIB. This adult presence also needs to be active and trained to confront any signs of HIB and follow through with defined procedures. The school most normalize and reinforce pro-social behavior to increase student solidarity and decrease chances of bullying. What’s important is establishing and protecting the culture of identifying and reporting incidences that have signs of HIB. These reports can come from students, faculty, or parents and all must be investigated effectively. A consistent zero tolerance policy can prevent HIB before it has a chance to progress into physical or more emotional harm.