Bullying Prevention and Response Policy

Statement of Intent

The aim of this policy is to ensure that students learn in an environment that embodies the FIS core values which guide our commitment to positive relationships and anti-bullying:

Caring: The FIS prioritizes everyone’s well-being, empowering students to care for themselves and others, nurturing empathy and compassion. These qualities are vital in maintaining a supportive environment free from bullying.

Curiosity: The FIS promotes a culture where it’s encouraged to ask respectful questions to learn about one another instead of gossiping or making assumptions.

Respect: The FIS fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect, teaching students to appreciate diverse perspectives and treat everyone with kindness and understanding. Respect is the first step to preventing and addressing bullying.

Integrity: The FIS creates a learning environment for people to act ethically and responsibly, standing up against bullying and supporting those affected by it. By building trust, the FIS fosters a culture where every student feels secure and valued.

Belonging: The FIS strives to create a sense of belonging for all. Our welcoming and inclusive community helps ensure everyone feels valued, accepted, and safe from bullying.

Our commitment to these core values contributes to our robust anti-bullying efforts, creating a school environment that encourages positive relationships and respects individual differences.

Everyone has the right to live without fear of being harmed by others. Bullying has a detrimental impact on everyone, and is unacceptable at the FIS. All members of the FIS community are responsible for upholding and living our core values, including addressing bullying. When bullying does occur, all community members should be able to tell and know that incidents will be dealt with promptly and effectively. This policy promotes practices within the school to reinforce our vision and core values, and to guide all community members when bullying occurs.

Aim of Policy

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • Identify the systems in place for students and all members of the community to confidently report or address concerns or allegations, knowing their concerns will be treated seriously and with discretion.
  • Outline clear processes as to how allegations of bullying will be responded to, considering the needs of all involved.
  • Set out our strategy for preventive and proactive measures for minimizing the risk of bullying behavior.

Application of Policy

This policy applies to all members of the FIS community; especially students, staff, and parents/carers. This policy needs to be accessible to all community members. There are no known restrictions, exclusions, or special conditions to this policy.

Related Policies, Procedures, Forms, Guidelines, and Other Resources

This policy has been developed in alignment with the school’s Guiding Statements, and with the standards and practices of both the IB, and the CIS and NEASC accreditation agencies. It is the school’s overarching policy for any issue that could constitute bullying. It is in alignment with, relates to, and should be read alongside the school’s Safeguarding Policy and any other relevant school documents including, but not limited to:

FIS Conflict Resolution Procedure

FIS Device Guidelines 2022-23

FIS Field Trip Policy

FIS Handbook

FIS Responsible Behavior Guide for Primary School

FIS Responsible Behavior Guide for Secondary School

FIS Student Policy: Smoking, Vaping, Alcohol, Drugs and other Substances

The policy is also in alignment with the German Juvenile Protection Act (Jugendschutzgesetz) and Juvenile Court Act (Jugendgerichtgesetz).


The policy was largely developed during the 2022/2023 school year, drawing widely on current and evolving best practices. The policy is the product of a comprehensive consultation involving students, staff, and parents/carers, and was finalized in semester 2 of the 2022/2023 school year by the Pastoral Cluster.

Publication Information

The policy is for both internal and external publication.

Policy approved by SLT date: July 3, 2023

Policy effective date: August 1, 2023

Next policy review date: July 31, 2024

Policy Statement

1. Identification

1.1 What is Bullying?

At the FIS, bullying is understood as ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or anti-social behavior that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying (qtd. from “Bullying for Schools”).

According to German law (Strafgesetzbuch), bullying behaviors can be criminal offenses, with criminal responsibility starting at the age of 14. These can include, but are not limited to: insults (§ 185 StGB), defamation (§186 StGB), slander (§187 StGB), bodily harm (§223 StGB), and extortion (§253 StGB).

1.2 What Bullying is not:

  • single episodes of social rejection or dislike,
  • single episode acts of nastiness or spite,
  • random acts of aggression or intimidation,
  • mutual arguments, disagreements or fights

These actions can cause great distress. However, they do not fit the definition of bullying and they are not examples of bullying unless someone is deliberately and repeatedly doing them.

1.3 Bullying Can Take Many Forms Including, but not limited to:

  • Physical bullying can include kicking, hitting, pushing and taking away belongings.
  • Verbal bullying includes name calling, mocking and making offensive comments.
  • Emotional bullying includes isolating an individual or spreading rumors about them.
  • Cyberbullying occurs when technology is used to hurt an individual – for instance text messaging or posting messages/images on the internet or any form of social media.
  • Identity-related bullying occurs when bullying is motivated by an individual’s identity or perceived identity group; for example, their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, physical appearance, disability, cultural practices, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.

The FIS Safeguarding Policy addresses what goes beyond the scope of bullying.

1.4 Potential Signs that a Student May Be Suffering from Bullying

Signs that a student may be suffering from bullying can also overlap with those indicating other types of abuse and can include:

  • reluctance to go to school or skipping school,
  • regular sickness and/or visits to nurse,
  • fear of particular places, situations, or people,
  • physical injuries,
  • running away or regularly going missing from home or school,
  • experiencing difficulties with mental health and/or emotional wellbeing,
  • becoming nervous, anxious, distressed, clingy, withdrawn, or depressed,
  • isolation from peers/usual social networks, losing confidence and becoming withdrawn,
  • self-harm or suicidal thoughts,
  • eating and/or sleeping problems (including suffering from nightmares),
  • regularly wetting the bed or soiling their clothes,
  • belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged,
  • asking for, or stealing, money (to give to someone else),
  • changes in appearance – e.g., weight loss,
  • changes in performance and/or behavior at school,
  • involvement in abusive relationships,
  • angry outbursts, or behaving aggressively or abusively towards others,
  • unexplained behavior changes, e.g. moody, bad-tempered, tearful, unhappiness,
  • lacking concentration,
  • losing interest in people and activities, or avoiding social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past

Signs that a student may be involved in cyberbullying can include:

  • noticeable, rapid increases or decreases in device use, including texting,
  • exhibiting emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device,
  • hiding device when others are near, and avoiding discussion about what they are doing on their device,
  • shutting down or starting new social media accounts

Bullying affects all students differently. The above list is by no means exhaustive, and the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily indicate bullying.

1.5 Some Reasons why People use Bullying Behaviors

  • to impress others,
  • desire to appear powerful,
  • unhappiness,
  • feelings of inadequacy,
  • difficulties at home,
  • learned behavior (They too have been bullied.)

2. Taking Action

FIS community members have a shared responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of others. Everyone must take action if suspected bullying is occurring. Ignoring bullying can be seen to be complicit with bullying.

2.1 Taking Action: Students

Students may experience bullying in different ways. The table below sets out different student situations and ways in which they can take action.

Person(s)Definition of Person(s)Ways These People Can Respond to Bullying
Students who are bulliedThese students are the targets of bullying behavior.There are things you can do if you are being bullied:
  • Look at the person bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the person bullying you off guard.
  • If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

There are things you can do to stay safe in the future, too:
  • Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone.
  • Stay away from places where bullying happens.
  • Stay near adults and other students. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.
Students who use bullying behaviorsThese students engage in bullying behavior towards their peers.Nobody should be mean to others.
  • Stop and think before you say or do something that could hurt someone.
  • If you feel like being mean to someone, find something else to do. Play a game, watch TV, or talk to a friend.
  • Talk to an adult you trust. They can help you find ways to be nicer to others.
  • Keep in mind that everyone is different. Not better or worse. Just different.
  • If you think you have bullied someone in the past, apologize. Everyone feels better.
  • Stop and think if you are assisting or reinforcing bullying behavior. If you are, you are also bullying.
Students who assistThese students may not start the bullying or lead in the bullying behavior, but serve as an "assistant" to students who are bullying. They may encourage the bullying behavior and occasionally join in.
Students who reinforceThese students are not directly involved in the bullying behavior but they give the bullying an audience. They will often laugh or provide support for the students who are engaging in bullying. This may encourage the bullying to continue.
Students who are bystandersThese students remain separate from the bullying situation. They neither reinforce the bullying behavior nor defend the child being bullied. Some may watch what is going on but do not provide feedback about the situation to show they are on anyone’s side. Even so, providing an audience may encourage the bullying behavior.

These students often want to help, but don’t know how.
What you can do to help:
  • Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.
  • Be kind to the student being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.
  • Consider how to respond if witnessing bullying behavior.

Not saying anything could make it worse for everyone. The child who is bullying will think it is okay to keep treating others that way.
Students who defendThese students actively comfort the student being bullied and may come to the student’s defense when bullying occurs.What you can do:
  • Continue comforting and defending.
  • Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.

(Adapted from StopBullying.gov)

2.1.1 How to Get Help

Students that have concerns about bullying can talk to the following people at school:

  • Teachers / Homeroom teachers / Advisors
  • Counselors
  • School nurses
  • School leadership
  • Any other trusted adults

If students report concerns to anyone listed above, they can feel confident that the person they report to will:

  • Take the report seriously and listen non-judgmentally.
  • Do all possible to support and assure the safety of anyone involved.
  • Respect the sensitivity of the situation by not discussing with anyone who does not need to be involved.
  • Consult on next steps with the child’s Head of Section, Deputy Head of Section, or Counselor.

2.2 Taking Action: Parents and Carers

Students may choose to disclose knowledge of bullying to their parents or parents may have reason to believe bullying is occurring via other means. Should concerns around bullying behaviors at school arise, parents and carers are encouraged to contact their child’s Homeroom teacher (primary), Advisor (secondary), Head of Section, Deputy Head of Section, or Counselor.

Parents and carers can also feel confident that the person they report to will:

  • Take the report seriously and listen non-judgmentally.
  • Do all possible to support and assure the safety of anyone involved.
  • Respect the sensitivity of the situation by not discussing with anyone who does not need to be involved.
  • Consult on next steps with the child’s Head of Section, Deputy Head of Section, or Counselor.

The Australian National Center Against Bullying shares valuable advice to parents and carers on how to talk with your child if you are concerned that they are being bullied, as well as how to talk with your child if you are concerned that they are engaging in bullying behaviors towards others.

2.3 Taking Action: School Response

The FIS core values of caring, curiosity, respect, integrity and belonging stand at the fore in guiding all considerations of desired outcomes, appropriate strategies, and potential interventions.

The FIS’ approach to responding to any sort of harm is incident-focused, with each incident viewed as a unique event, allowing for a way forward that is based on needs. The end goal is to support students in understanding the impact of their actions on others, developing social proficiency, learning how to repair relational mistakes and/or harm, and maintaining a sense of belonging within the school community. The understanding of “how we treat each other and why” is part of any agreement reached. The responsibility guide in section 2.3.1 shows this.

2.3.1 Response to Incidents of Harm by all FIS School Staff

All school staff have a responsibility and a role in noticing and addressing incidents of harm in line with our core values.

In such instances, staff should follow these steps:

  1. Check that the person targeted is okay.
  2. Ensure you understand correctly by asking the person to clarify the meaning and intent of their actions or words.
  3. If the observation was in fact unkind, address the issue – explore the impact of the behavior on self and others, talk through which values relating to how we treat each other were breached, determine together what could have been done differently/what needs to happen to make things right.
  4. If the act moves towards intentionally harmful, report it to the Advisor/Homeroom Teacher outlining how you addressed the issue. In more hostile/repetitive cases, also report to the deputy head of section and the head of section who will address the issue immediately and advise on next steps.

As an Advisor/Homeroom Teacher, this is what you need to do when an incident of harm is reported to you:

  1. In general, keep track of how many instances there are with those students.
  2. If it’s repetitive:
    • Address it with the student as soon as possible.
    • Report it to the Deputy Head of Section and Head of Section.
  3. If it’s hostile, report it to the Deputy Head of Section and Head of Section who will address it immediately.

Prompts that can support opening a constructive conversation:

  • What happened?
  • This is what I understand has happened. _____ Have I got it right?
  • Who has been affected? In what way?
  • How do you think they felt when ____ happened?
  • In what ways do you think ____ affected them?
  • This is how it impacts me (or others). _____
  • This is what I see happening to others. _____
  • This is what concerns me the most. _____
  • What values about how we treat each other have been breached?
  • Was what you did helpful or unhelpful / fair or unfair / mean or kind?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • What needs to happen to make things right?
  • Does it take care of everyone affected by the negative behavior?

2.3.2 Response to Bullying Behavior by the Head of Section or Deputy Head of Section

In the instance that harm moves up the continuum of the Responsibility Guide to bullying behavior, the concern will be addressed by the Head of Section of Deputy Head of Section, with steps taken as promptly outlined here:

Response to Bullying Behavior by the Head of Section or Deputy Head of Section
Step 1: Consultations

To build a full picture of the situation, and considering any potential situations of urgency, the Head of Section and/or Deputy Head of Section will determine who needs to be consulted with, and in which order. They will treat the situation with utmost seriousness, respecting the sensitivity of the situation by not discussing with anyone who does not need to be involved.
Step 2: Mapping the Situation

Map out the people involved, and the times and locations the bullying was said to have taken place, to gain a sense of how chronic, acute, or widespread the behavior has been.

The following considerations serve to guide the response as a whole:

  • How long has the behavior been going on for?
  • Who is/are responsible for the harm?
  • Who has been targeted by those responsible?
  • Who else might have been affected?
  • What are the ages and developmental stages of the students involved?
  • Is the nature of the bullying behavior hostile/intentional? (sexist, racist, physical, etc.)
  • Is the behavior acute? (property damage, physical assault, defamation online, etc.)
  • What are any risk factors or individual vulnerabilities from wider contexts?
Step 3: Thinking about Outcomes

The following is an inexhaustive list of preferred outcomes:

  • Prevent / stop harmful behavior.
  • Address the needs of all people involved.
  • Support learning for those involved.
  • Promote more respectful behavior.
  • Repair/rebuild positive relationships.
  • Build / rebuild student confidence in reporting and seeking help.
  • Reflect school values in our decision-making.
  • Maintain open lines of communication with all involved, as well as with parents and carers.
Step 4: Thinking about Needs

As well as considering appropriate outcomes for students, the short- and long-term needs of all involved need to be considered. Needs can be categorized into three main areas:

  • The need to be treated fairly, and to have a voice in the process of problem-solving.
  • The need to feel respected, understood, validated, and not judged.
  • The need to be part of the process of decision-making–not have it done for me, or to me, but with me.

(Adapted from Thorsborne et al. 71)

The following is taken into account when addressing needs:

Understanding Everyone’s Needs in the Wake of Bullying Behavior
Those Affected
  • Be able to talk about what it’s been like.
  • Be treated with respect and not judged.
  • Be understood.
  • Have the harm acknowledged.
  • Know that the person responsible is truly sorry.
  • Be assured that it won’t keep happening.
  • Have a voice in deciding what to do.
  • Be relieved of any potential emotional burden in relation to the situation.
  • Be able to heal, let go, and move on.
Supporters of Those Affected
  • Be able to talk about what it’s been like for the whole family/support group.
  • Be treated with respect and not judged.
  • Be understood.
  • That the matter has been taken seriously.
  • That the acknowledgement of harm is genuine.
  • Be assured that it won’t keep happening, and that their child/friend will be supported.
  • Have a voice in deciding what to do.
  • Experience a sense of relief for themselves and their child/friend.
  • Not to have to worry about their child/ friend’s wellbeing and sense of safety.
Those Responsible
  • Have a chance to explain their behavior.
  • Be treated with respect and not judged.
  • Be understood.
  • Feel safe enough to take responsibility.
  • Better understand the harm they have caused.
  • Be able to reassure others that it won’t keep happening.
  • Have a voice in deciding what to do.
  • Be relieved of any potential emotional burden in relation to the situation.
  • Be given a chance to make amends, let go, and move on.
Supporters of Those Responsible
  • Have a chance to explain their behavior.
  • Be treated with respect and not judged.
  • Be understood.
  • Feel safe enough to take responsibility.
  • Better understand the harm they have caused.
  • Be able to reassure others that it won’t keep happening.
  • Have a voice in deciding what to do.
  • Be relieved of any potential emotional burden in relation to the situation.
  • Be given a chance to make amends, let go, and move on.
School Staff
  • Be able to tell their view of the situation, especially around school responses.
  • The process to be fair, effective, respectful, and non-judgmental.
  • Be understood.
  • For everyone to better understand the wide impact of the problem.
  • Be able to have the school values better understood.
  • Know that peaceful relationships will be / have been restored.
  • Have a voice in deciding what to do.
  • Know that emotional burdens have been relieved.
  • Know that true restoration has occurred, and the matter is successfully closed.

(Adapted from Thorsborne et al. 72)

3. Prevention & Ongoing Proactive Work to Minimize the Risk of Bullying

The FIS actively seeks to raise awareness of and prevent all forms of bullying by:

  • Building an inclusive, equitable, and respectful culture in which:
    • Students of all backgrounds and identities feel safe and can thrive.
    • Community members feel able to share their concerns openly, in a non-judgmental environment. Community members are clear about how to report concerns, and understand the process of how reports are handled. Students are aware of multiple venues for reporting, including to a trusted adult, and anonymously. Students are also informed of external anonymous helplines and crisis chat services, which are available in multiple languages, to seek advice and support.
    • Students are able to develop trusting relationships with staff, and in which staff explore, through regular discussions and professional learning, the importance of these relationships in building a sense of connectedness and belonging within our community.
    • Staff proactively identifies and nurtures positive qualities in all students
  • Engaging the school community around themes such as:
    • Nature, prevalence and effect of bullying, and how to prevent, identify, and respond to it.
    • The importance of taking seriously all forms of bullying (no matter how ‘low level’ they may appear), ensuring that no form of bullying is ever dismissed as horseplay or teasing, and challenging attitudes that underlie such bullying behavior.
    • The effect that bullying can have on those who experience it, including vulnerability of those who bully others.
    • How to intervene / respond if witnessing or experiencing bullying.
    • Advocating for self and others.
    • Social media and online safety, including using social media in a positive, responsible and safe way; and how to identify and manage bullying behavior online.
    • The responsibility of all community members for building and maintaining healthy and respectful relationships, and helping to create a safe school environment in which bullying is never acceptable.
    • Boundaries and consent.
    • Stereotyping, prejudice, and bias.
    • Cultural sensitivity and humility.
    • Self-knowledge, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
    • How to recognize an abusive relationship, including coercive and controlling behavior.
  • Supporting and promoting students’ wellbeing and mental health by:
    • Drawing on multiple resources that prioritize student wellbeing, resilience and mental health.
    • Providing in-school counseling to address underlying mental health needs.
    • Employing classroom management strategies that will prevent and deter any acts of bullying.
    • Demonstrating by example the high standards of personal and social behavior expected of our students.
    • Assisting students who are isolated or alone to participate in activities, interests, and hobbies. These can build confidence and friendships, which can in turn prevent bullying.
    • Being alert to the signs of distress and other possible indications of bullying.
  • Ongoing proactive work occurs via:
    • Social-emotional learning across the school and during Homeroom and Advisory.
    • Parent coffee mornings and information evenings.
    • Guest speakers and trainers.
    • New staff induction programming.
    • Staff professional learning.
    • Newsletters and other school communications.
    • Community partnerships with applicable agencies; for example, the local police and health authorities.
    • Ongoing review of relevant school policy and procedure, including input from across the community.
    • Board meetings.
    • Encouraging community members to hold the school to account on these issues.

4. Sources

“Bullying for Schools.” National Centre against Bullying, www.ncab.org.au/Bullying-Advice/Bullying-For-Schools/. Accessed 21 June 2023.

Smellie, David. Editorial. www.farrer.co.uk, 14 Dec. 2017, www.farrer.co.uk/news-and-insights/peer-on-peer-abuse-toolkit/. Accessed 21 June 2023.

StopBullying.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021, StopBullying.gov. Accessed 21 June 2023.

Thorsborne, Margaret, et al. The Continuum of Restorative Practices in Schools: An Instructional Training Manual for Practitioners. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2022.

Special acknowledgment to Margaret Thorsborne and Dave Vinegrad as the original source for policy section 2.3: Taking Action: School Response; content adapted with permission.

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