Is exclusion from a group always bullying?

No matter how incredibly interessting I find the issue about academic inclusion this post is not going to focus on that, but on social exclusion – which can be understood as the opposite of social inclusion (see previous post) and how this is connected to bullying. Nevertheless it is a super important distinction to make. Schools have to consider both the social aspects as well as the academic aspects. This is somewhat troubeling to grasp. Some people would argue that you can measure academic performance through various tests you would give to the pupils. But how do you measure social inclusion and exclusion? Is it solely a subjective thing when you are included or excluded in a class community? As long as you feel included or excluded, is that then the truth?

Back in 2010 Nilholm & Alm made a research containing these questions. By asking one of the so-called inclusion classes (a normal class where pupils with special needs are being transferred to) they discovered that things are not always as they seem. In this particular class 5 out of 15 students were transferred from a special class. Their study showed that the children with special needs were being deselected from group work and from play during the breaks by the normal students. But when the pupils were asked to assess their own belonging to the class community all 15 of them responded that they were content about the class and their classmates and that they always had some one to play and work with in school. So despite of the normal students negative attitude towards the included students in the class they had a positive experience about the class and felt included in the class community. So even though some of the pupils were being excluded from the majority they did not feel excluded – and therefore not bullied. This leads us back to an important aspect of bullying, which is mentioned in another post (see post); the perceptional aspect.

Whenever we define exclusion from a group as a form of bullying that is not always the case. You can in fact be excluded from a group (in this case a class community) without feeling bullied or even excluded. You can also choose not to take part of a certain group. Nilholm & Alm (2010) describes one of the girls from their study who chooses to sit by herself in each break and not to play with any one. But she is happy about it and does not feel alone or excluded. Is that social exclusion?

So even though the results from the articles that Cara is referring (see post) show a decrease in bullying after the start of wearing school uniforms I do not believe that conformity is the right way to go for the schools. Because when does a student fit into the normal school? When is a student normal? Is it when we all look like each other – or is it when we feel part of a group no matter what differences we might have?


Nilholm, C. & Alm, B. (2010). An Inclusive Classroom? A Case Study of Inclusiveness, Teacher Strategies, and Children’s Experiences. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25:3, 239-252.


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