Betrokkenen van pesten bij elkaar brengen of juist niet?

Preventie is de beste aanpak tegen pesten. Helaas kunnen we het toch niet altijd voorkomen. Als het zich dan toch voordoet, wat kan je dan het beste doen? Breng je de betrokken leerlingen bij elkaar of juist niet? Vaak worden de pestende leerling en gepeste leerling te snel bij elkaar gebracht, waardoor het niet de gewenste resultaten oplevert. Wanneer breng je deze leerlingen bij elkaar en wanneer liever niet? Welke voorwaarden zitten daar aan? Ik heb een artikel geschreven waarin ik deze vragen beantwoord vanuit Restorative Practices (Herstelgericht werken). Lees het hier:


            This paper is about responding to bullying.  A research conducted in England shows that in 2011 still 92 percent of the schools used direct sanctions to solve bullying (Thompson & Smith, in Rigby, 2014).  This punitive approach is contrary to the way of working in Restorative Practices.  Both Wachtel (2012) and Smull (2015) explain bullying as a community issue and a relationship issue.  With restorative practices, strong community and strong relationships can be built, which helps to prevent bullying.  But what can be done when bullying does occur? This paper will address the issue whether or not the offender and the victim should come face-to-face to solve the bullying. 

Restorative Circles

            According to Wachtel (2012) bullying should be addressed face-to-face in restorative circles.  Everyone who has been affected by the bullying is brought together in the circle.  For example, students, teachers and potentially parents.  A safe environment is created where all participants can speak openly about the way they have been impacted by the bullying.  The participants receive understanding and support from each other.  The bullies are confronted with the emotional damage caused by their behavior.  They are given the opportunity to make amends and to assure the victim that further harm will stop.  The offenders are then reintegrated into the community. 

Concerns about face-to-face meetings

            In contrast to Wachtel (2012), trainers of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) generally discourage meetings between the victim and the offender in cases of bullying (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014).  An aspect of bullying is the imbalance of power between the offender and the victim.  Therefore, bullying is considered a form of abuse and not a conflict between equals.  This is one of the reasons that face-to-face meetings are not recommended.  Another reason is that the bullying can increase when the face-to-face meetings are improperly facilitated (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014).  Incorrectly facilitated face-to-face meetings could possibly reinforce the power imbalance.  These impacts can cause further isolation and harm for the victim (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014). 

            In compliance with Molnar-Main et al. (2014), Patricia (in Wachtel, 2013) emphasizes on the power imbalance in bullying and therefore considers bullying as a victimization and not as a conflict.  She explains that bringing the victim and the offender face-to-face shouldn’t be the first step in solving bullying issues.  Rather, there need to be actions to empower the person who has been victimized and to build empathy in the person who is causing the harm (Patricia, in Wachtel, 2013). 

            Rush (2014) is concerned that adults sometimes tend to bring students together too soon.  The students are asked to make amends immediately, to shake hands and be friends or to stop this behavior and stay away from each other.  Rush (2014) explains that teachers and counselors should first consider its appropriateness of bringing the students together.  Every situation is unique, therefore Rush (2014) doesn’t say that the students should always or never be brought together face-to-face.  Teachers and counselors should consider every situation separately.  To find out its appropriateness, individual interviews are crucial.  Information should be gained about what really happened and to find out what the person who has been victimized really wants.  Does the victim want a face-to-face meeting or not? The victim needs to feel that this is their decision to make, and to feel supported in their decision (Rush, 2014).  Rush (2014) believes that face-to-face conferences could be effective in solving bullying.  This needs to be appropriately explored with the people most affected by the bullying and it needs to be well prepared. 

            Molnar-Main et al. (2014) state that face-to-face meeting can be done to hear all the damage, to hold the students who have been bullying accountable for the harm they have done and to help them reintegrate.  When face-to-face meetings are used, this must be a deliberate decision and meet a number of requirements (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014).  Rush (in Molnar-Main, 2014) explicitly mentions to do no harm.  Davis and Nixon (in Molnar-Main, et al., 2014) show with their research that in 27 percent of the reported bullying cases, the bullying got worse.  That makes the requirements indispensable. 

A requirement for face-to-face meetings is that both the victim and the offender of the bullying wish to be involved in the face-to-face meeting.  Also, the offender realizes that he or she may have negative impact towards the other person.  The needs of the victim are at the most forefront during the whole process, also the needs of the offender are prioritized (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014).  Children should never be forced to do a face to face meeting.  To find out the wishes and needs of both sides, one-on-one interviews are crucial.  Furthermore, both sides are given the opportunity to bring support persons to participate in the meeting.  Both parties attend separate preparatory meetings where they are informed about the procedure of the conference.  It is important that the school works with a restorative perspective and that the facilitator of the conference and preparation meetings is trained in restorative practices.  Rush (2014) recommends to use the script for conference facilitators (Wachtel, O’Connell & Wachtel, 2010, p.  163). 

Smull (in Wachtel, 2015) explains how bullying is addressed at CSF Buxmont (School for at risk students in Pennsylvania).  First the students who got involved in the bullying meet up individually with their counselors who they already know very well.  Restorative questions are asked to both the victim and the person who is doing the bullying.  The counselor explores with the victim of the bullying how this impacted him or her and they explore what needs to happen to make things right.  The Counselor helps the student who has been bullying to take responsibility for their behavior and to reintegrate in the classroom.  To reintegrate the student must demonstrate commitment to change their behavior in the future.  The student can demonstrate this during a face-to-face meeting, when appropriate.  The one-on-one meetings with the counselor can prepare the students for the potential face-to-face meetings. 

Options when a face-to-face meeting isn’t appropriate

When face-to-face conferencing is not an option, Molnar-Main et al. (2014) suggests to focus on the one-on-one restorative meetings with the offender and the victim separately.  The facilitator can help the person who has been bullying to get insight into how their behavior affected others and help them with taking responsibility for their actions.  The facilitator can help the student who has been bullied, to feel supported, the facilitator can show the students that he or she cares about the student and their safety. 

Nicolaides, Toda and Smith (in Strohmeier, & Noam, 2012) found that teachers are most confident in supporting the victimized student and less confident in conducting effective conversations with the offender to stop the bullying.  Motivational Interviewing can be a helpful method when conducting conversations with bullying students.  Motivational Interviewing is a method that can provide guidance for conversations about behavioral change.  Motivational Interviewing utilizes the intrinsic motivation and can help strengthen genuine motivation to change behavior within the bullying student (Cross, Runions, Resnicow, Britt & Gray, 2018).  Another method that can provide guidance in the one-on-one meetings is Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI).  LSCI provides specific guidelines for both the victim and the offender that can help counselors to conduct conversations.  LSCI uses crisis situations as a teachable moment.  It helps students to gain insight into the situation, insight in their own behavior and to change their behavior (Long, Wood, & Fecser, 2001). 

Other actions that should be taken when bullying occurs are informing parents and guardians when their child is involved in the bullying in any way, monitoring the bullying, providing active adult supervision (Molnar-Main, et al., 2014). 


            When bullying occurs one-on-one meetings should be facilitated with the involved students separately to find out what happened, support the students, find out what the students wishes are to make things right and help the bullying student realize the harm he or she has done.  Face-to-face meetings should be considered carefully and only be held when the students are open to this.  The meetings should be well prepared.  When face-to-face meetings are not appropriate, the facilitator can focus on the one-on-one meetings with the students separately.  Motivational Interviewing or Life Space Crisis Intervention can be helpful with this.


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