Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

October 12, 2015

How Catholic Schools Can Address the Sinful Nature of Bullying

Over the last few decades, there has fortunately arisen a greater awareness of the scourge of bullying within school settings throughout the United States. To be clear, the awareness is the fortunate aspect, while the prevalence is the obviously deleterious one. In other words, bullying is being exposed for what it is, while the sheer quantity of its occurrence remains stunning.

In a digital age ever more categorized by the trappings of the realm of virtual reality afforded by the Internet and social media, bullying now has an altogether uncharted dimension whereby much of it takes place even outside of a school’s walls. Worthwhile initiatives such as StopBullying.gov and the HRSA’s Bullying Prevention Campaign have brought the dilemma of bullying and its proposed remedial measures to national prominence, leading schools and other administrative societal frameworks to address the issue and seek possible solutions.

Catholic schools, while unfortunately hardly immune from the effects of bullying, are actually in a position to positively contribute to this significant dialogue, yet with an even greater ethos: that of the theological dynamic inherent to the consideration of the sinful nature of bullying, which is opposed by way of a call to virtue as its true alternative. Listed below are four ways that Catholic school teachers, administrators, and other personnel within the school community can encourage their students to not only stop bullying or condoning the behavior of [would-be] bullies, but to likewise deter and dissuade students from otherwise contributing to such inappropriate comportment by encouraging them to seek justifiably righteous demeanors instead. These suggestions are not necessarily programmatic or systematic, but they will reliably help to confront the heart of the matter of bullying: the requirement that we recognize that our neighbor is likewise made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). As such, these recommendations may initially appear to be fodder for cynicism, but an uplifting and optimistic approach imbued with Christian principles is due for consideration, and can yield highly affirmative results in order to facilitate enduring peace in our schools.

  1. Familiarize yourself, and share with your students, scriptural passages related to the Christian way to approach others. Have your students reflect on these, perhaps in written form, such as in a prayer journal or within the context of a more extensive essay. A few (of the many) passages to consider, in canonical order, include the following (courtesy of the New American Bible, Revised Edition):          
  1. Remind your students of how school is meant to be a safe place. This statement may seem trite, but students must recall that being at school implies being in a secure location, both physically and socially. Feeling isolated, whether through intentional exclusion, is not a normal condition, and there are many support networks available for them, including your school’s guidance office, campus ministry, or another outlet that will allow them to express their concern and to build up positive relationships with others.
  1. If you notice that a student is, or has become, particularly withdrawn, emotional, sensitive, or similarly out of his or her typical character, speak to his or her guidance counselor or to a school administrator. Your student might be dealing with a considerably concerning situation, either within or outside of school, that deserves attention.
  1. Pray. Jesus taught us the need to pray consistently, particularly during a trial or set of difficult circumstances: “Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). Bullying has been a disordered specter within humanity for a multitude of generations, yet we must steadily recall that Jesus himself knew revulsion and mistreatment at the hands of his tormentors, and he of course has provided us with the epitome of a Christian response – one laden with prayer (read Matthew 27:46 [and Mark 15:34] in light of the extent of Psalm 22 [often denoted as the “Prayer of an Innocent Person”]). Bullying can ultimately only be counteracted with the love which must typify our Catholic educational institutions. After all, as Jesus reminds us: “‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’” (Luke 6:31). And just how seriously does Jesus take our expectation to treat everyone else in a Christian manner? In comparison to this passage from Luke’s Gospel (6:31), how fitting that the version in Matthew’s Gospel, the great “teaching Gospel,” features the added attestation that the Lord holds this Christian outlook to be so crucial that he further asserts that “‘this is the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, against injustice, God commands us to have love for others.

Leave a Comment

High School eNewsletter
Receive bi-weekly lessons, links, tips and more in our Email Newsletter

Resources Archive