Bullying, peer conflicts and teasing . . . What’s the difference?

by Cori Denk, YES/MES Counselor; and David Perrodin, Director of Student Services

DeForest Area School District staff strive to develop a school environment in where all students are valued and safe. A comprehensive pupil nondiscrimination study conducted this year affirmed that nearly all students perceive their school as a welcoming environment. Schools are using more terms to describe and report student behavior – and sometimes staff and parents have questions about the terminology used to describe these behaviors. Students, staff and parents have asked a number of thoughtful questions about bullying, some are about how to differentiate between bullying and other peer conflicts and teasing. We have developed the following information to help.

There are four main categories of bullying types of behavior: friendly teasing, hurtful teasing, peer conflicts, and bullying. Below are a few examples of these behaviors:

  • Friendly Teasing:  One student comments to another student that he should turn his/her jersey inside out because his favorite team lost last night.
  • Hurtful Teasing:  One girl comments to another girl that she looks chubby in the outfit she is wearing.
  • Peer Conflicts:  Two students have a disagreement on the playground about which one will be the pitcher in kickball.
  • Bullying:  One student repeatedly threatens another student that if he walks down a specific hallway he will get “beat up”. Another example is one student repeatedly calling another student a name regarding his sexual orientation.

Friendly Teasing

Hurtful Teasing

Peer Conflicts


Equal power

Unequal power

Equal power

of power


Sensitive topic



Purpose is to
be playful

Purpose is
to upset


and serious



and option

Seeks to
gain power

Funny to
both parties


an option

Victim is

Relationship is

No remorse

Effort to

No effort
to resolve

Three questions guide school officials to determine when a behavior constitutes bullying. (1) Was the alleged bullying behaviors repeated and deliberate? (2) Did the alleged bullying behaviors inflict harm or suffering? (3) Is there an imbalance of real or perceived power between the alleged victim and alleged author of the behavior?

As a school community, staff teach children how to advocate for themselves and to advocate for others. They also incorporate lessons and programs to promote acceptance of all people. Over the course of a student’s educational experience at DASD he/she will participate in many activities relating to acceptance and tolerance, including: The Purple Hand Pledge, Pinwheels for Peace, Mix-it-Up Lunch, Kelso’s Choice, Bullying & Tolerance units, Character Development, a Harassment presentation, Restorative Circling/Practices, On-line Safety, Link Crew and Advisory.

Together we can instill the single most powerful tool against bullying—a welcoming validating school environment built upon strong character values.

One comment

  1. Cori and David, I think this is outstanding. I hadn’t fully thought out the differences the power and resolution make in a situation. Thanks!

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