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"Stop the Guesswork: How to Tell if It's Bullying or a Simple Conflict"

By Kinota Braithwaite, Author and Youth Speaker

Understanding whether a situation is bullying or a simple conflict can be difficult for educators.

Here are some examples of conflicts

  1. Sharing Supplies: Two students want to use the same set of colored pencils for their art project.

  2. Playground Disagreement: Two friends argue about which game to play during recess.

  3. Seating Arrangement: Students have differing preferences for where they want to sit during class.

  4. Line Cutting: A student accuses another student of cutting in line during lunchtime.

  5. Choice of Game: Some students want to play tag, while others want to play hide-and-seek during PE.

  6. Sharing Playground Equipment: Students argue over who gets to use the swing or the basketball first.

Here are some examples of bullying

  1. Name-Calling: A student repeatedly calls another student mean names and makes hurtful comments about their appearance.

  2. Exclusion: A group of students deliberately ignores one student, leaving them out of games and activities.

  3. Intimidation: A student uses threatening gestures or facial expressions to scare another student.

  4. Physical Aggression: A student pushes, shoves, or hits another student without any provocation.

  5. Spreading Rumors: A student starts false rumors about another student, aiming to damage their reputation.

  6. Mockery: A student imitates another student's actions, speech, or mannerisms in a way that's intended to ridicule them.

  7. Cyberbullying: A student sends hurtful messages or posts negative comments about another student on social media or online platforms.

  8. Taking Possessions: A student steals another student's belongings and refuses to return them, causing distress.

  9. Verbal Threats: A student repeatedly threatens to harm another student physically or emotionally.

  10. Forced Isolation: A student pressures their classmates not to talk to or befriend a specific student.

To make things easier, I created a simple chart using a simple acronym so you can differentiate between bullying and other conflicts.

The acronym is "SAFE" and it stands for:

S - See it Repeatedly

A - Asserts Power

F - Feels Harmful

E - Excludes and Isolates





See it Repeatedly

- Teasing the same student every day.

- Repeatedly leaving someone out of activities.


Asserts Power

- A student using their popularity to control others.

- Older students targeting younger ones.


Feels Harmful

​- Name-calling that causes emotional pain. - Spreading rumors to damage a student's reputation.


Excludes and Isolates

​- Forming groups that purposely leave one student out. - Ignoring a student's presence consistently

This simple acronym can serve as a quick reference guide for educators to determine whether a situation involves bullying or other types of conflicts. Remember, addressing harmful behavior promptly and appropriately is essential for maintaining a safe and inclusive learning environment.

Let's Start a Dialogue:

Principals, I extend a heartfelt invitation to engage in open conversations. Together, let's address concerns, exchange ideas, and craft experiences that transcend. Let's embark on a journey to enrich minds and create a lasting positive impact on the lives of students.

Warm regards,

Kinota Braithwaite

A Vision for a World Free of Racism and Bullying

You're welcome to connect with me at

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