School Bullying

In the past many have focused on the abuse of drug and alcohol use in school aged students along with students carrying weapons to schools, it seemed as if no one was recognizing the significance of school bullying. For victims of bullying, they go to school every day facing harassment, taunting, and humiliation. Studies show that 25-35% of teens encountered some type of bullying in their lifetime (Nansel et al, 2001). Bullying is a form of violent behavior that happens not only in the schools but everywhere.

Kids have been exposed to bullying in school for generations. Even though bullying has always been a factor the consequences for the victims have become more severe and sometimes fatal. The violent behavior within school disrupts the learning process and creates a negative atmosphere for the students, staff and everyone involved. There has to be an answer and a solution for what we as educators and members of a community can do to minimize and stop bullying.

According to Dan Olewus, creator of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program bullying is defined when a person is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself (When looking at this definition of bullying it is important to notice that there are three components. The first component of bullying is there must be aggressive, unwanted negative behavior, the negative behavior has to be repeated over a period of time and finally there has to be an imbalance of strength between the two individuals involved.

There are many forms of bullying some of which include verbal belittling regarding religion, race, looks, or speech; hitting, pushing or slapping; rumors; and sexual comments or gestures. Pansy, nerd, dweeb, and loser: these are just a few of the horrible slurs that school bullies direct toward their not accepted, vulnerable peers. These malicious words can quickly grind down the self-esteem of their victims. However, words are not the only tool the bullies use against their victims.

Physical violence towards the weak and emotionally unstable is a common theme in many schools, and can pose a grave threat to those students who cannot readily defend themselves. Physical bullying can result in many dangerous outcomes. The bully themselves create physical harm to their victims and even in some cases the victim has a breaking point and retaliates in a violent way. Unfortunately some students and faculty do not feel like their schools are safe because of the types of bullying that occur. In the past there have been devastating acts of school shootings that haunt the minds of many.

One of the more devastating examples of bullied victim retaliation is of the kids from the Columbine shooting, where two kids who were bullied went on a murderous shooting rampage killing the lives of many at their schools and taking their own. According to the United States Secret Service and Department of Education’s school violence report, “as more violent acts occur, not only in their schools and other schools around the world, more kids are becoming afraid to go to school”. Schools need to become a safe haven for students not a place of fear.

As educators we need to develop a plan to minimize the bullying and let students know they are safe when they cross through the doors of the school. One of the first questions asked about bullying is why would someone bully another person? Some people believe bullying and aggressive attitudes towards one another are normal behavior for children. Dr. Howard Spivak of the New England Medical Center disagrees, he says bullies or people being bullied are people who show indicators that something is wrong, and children who experience either or both need help (Spivak & Prothrow-Stith, 2001).

While looking through research, one conclusion that can be drawn about kids and teens who bully, a common denominator is they come from a bad home environment. Signs and evidence pointed to individuals who bully have been verbally or physically abused at home, which causes anger and sadness to build inside of them. If this is the case these “bullies” are looking for a way to take it out on someone who will not fight back. Which brings up the next question about bullying, what makes someone a target of bullying? The victims of bullying tend to be the exact opposites of their bully.

Finding the victims of bullying, or even potential victims of bullying, tends to be easier to find then the bullies themselves. People who are bullied are often shy and quiet, with few friends and little social support at school. They may be physically weak or lack confidence in their physical abilities therefore they rarely stand up to bullies. Most victims do nothing to provoke the harassment, their lack of physical strength and social abilities do it for them. There is on subgroup of bully-victims called the “aggressive” victims. These victims are usually impulsive and socially clumsy.

They often have reading and writing problems and show characteristics of attention-deficit disorder (ADHD). Their behavior tends to bring out negative reactions from other students. James D. Unnevern found in his study, “Bullies, Aggressive Victims and Victims: Are They Distinct Groups? ” aggressive victims were less proactively aggressive but more reactively aggressive than pure bullies (Unevern, 2005). They were also substantially more proactively aggressive than pure victims. What that means is the “aggressive” victims react in a negative way to how people are treating them rather than being the instigators of the bullying.

Bullying occurs at any school age starting from lower education and into the high school years. Researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found 30 percent of 6th through 10th graders are involved in bullying at school and frequency of bullying was found to be higher among 6-8th graders compared to 9-10th graders, and more prominent among boys compared to girls (Langdon & Preble 2008). Who are bullies? Bullies can be anyone. Within a school building a bully can be an administrator, a teacher, a staff member and both male and female students.

Most studies have shown there are more boys bullies than girls. However, do not count girls out; there can be a girl bully too. Although physical bullying does happens among girls, they tend to use less-direct tactics such as ostracizing their victims, spreading rumors, name-calling and/or manipulating friendships. Boys tend to get physical, threatening bodily harm to their victims. Even though boys usually revert to physical bullying, with social network popularity on the rise, more social and verbal bullying is being seen between boy bullies and their victims. To conclude who are our bullies, they can be anyone.

A bully is a person, no matter what age, gender, or race, who gangs up on a weaker individual repeatedly causing physical or emotional harm. You never really hear of any positive results as an outcome in a bullying situation, however there have been plenty stories that end in a devastating or even fatale way. In extreme cases, someone, between the bully and the victim, ends up dying. It is usually the victim who takes their own life and in some cases set out for revenge before doing so. In 2006, Megan Meier, age thirteen, was repeatedly bullied over popular social network called MySpace.

Because of bully telling her the world would be a better place without her; Megan took her own life (Cyber Bullying, 2007). If the victim gets bullied enough, they can develop depression and become unsafe to themselves or to others. The topic of bullying has gained not only national attention but international attention. People everywhere wonder what we can do to put an end to the bullying. Organizations have been created to bring awareness to bullying and schools are beginning to create a zero tolerance policy within their schools.

The idea of what can be done to stop bullying has stumped a lot of people. There have been suggestions of ignoring the bully, but that seems to never work, they are persistent and it could only get worse. For other students who want to stop the bullying they could simply approach the victim and make them feel welcomed and not alone, giving them a support system from the bully. Unfortunately there are many students who will not do anything about it because they do not want to be the replace target of the bully if they protect or support the first victim.

Many schools have created a student organization called S. A. V. E. , Students Against Violence Everywhere. The members of this group try to serve as mediators and help victims when bullying happens. SAVE attempt to take a group of individuals – who are often powerless against the pains of bullying – and turn them into a cohesive group letting them know they are not alone. (Rinaldo, 2005). There is only so much the other students can do to try and prevent bullying without putting themselves into harm so it is up to the teachers and administrators to help them put an end to it.

Following the infamous Columbine High School shooting, mentioned earlier, where two victims of bullying went on a shooting rampage at their schools many schools have enacted zero tolerance policies towards violence within schools. The zero tolerance policy is strict and creates rules for both students and faculty. This policy allows no exceptions, and leaves room for no doubt when a rule is broken which could bring violence to any member around the school building and should result in suspension and expulsion. Many schools have adopted this policy and have observed both positive and negative results.

Those who favor the policy, look at whether the school environment has improvement due to zero tolerance. The individuals who are pro zero tolerance believes it has reinstated safety in schools giving students, parents, teachers, and the community a breath of relief. Jack McConnell, an education minister from Scotland, is in favor of the zero tolerance policy for bullies and commented saying, “a school community should be one where pupils are free to learn and realize their potential away from bullying” (Holme & Buie 2001). Additionally, zero tolerance promotes fair punishment to all individuals.

A zero tolerance policy for schools can create the same rules and consequences for all students within a school no matter their race, gender, religion, background or socioeconomic status (Rice, 2009). It seems if there is a strict policy put in place, such as the zero tolerance policy, the strict rules will imply expectations of how their students should behave and if these rules are not met there will be consequences. While zero-tolerance may seem like a good idea on paper and has been beneficial to some school systems, others feel it is detrimental to education.

People who are opposed of the zero tolerance policy in schools all have the same belief that it is too extreme or inappropriate and that teachers and administrators are not using it in the correct form. After Columbine, and recent events like Columbine, like the devastating shooting at Virginia Tech it is understandable why schools have heightened their security. There seems to a reoccurring theme that the individuals who went on these rampages were victims of bullying and creating a policy to eliminate bullying is understandable.

But many argue the zero tolerance policy while it is a good concept, needs to provide more logic on how to put the policy in place. In her article, The Time is Right to End Zero Tolerance, author Gara Lamarche suggest that zero-tolerance policies are ineffective in improving student behavior and student achievement (Lamarche, 2011). Without a clear understanding of how to implement a zero tolerance policy and logic behind the consequences the nations suspension and expulsion levels are at a new high. According to recent data contained from the National Center on Education Statistics more than 3. million students were suspended or expelled in 2006, which means for every 14 students one of those were expelled or suspended.

The report also indicated of those punished, less than one in 10 were for violent offenses. The vast majority were for non-violent offenses, such as tardiness, talking back to a teacher, or violating dress codes (Lamarche, 2011). Zero tolerance can limit misbehavior with students but the extreme consequences of suspension and expulsion can have serious effects on education process; the students who are likely to be suspended or expelled are the very students who can least afford to miss class.

While preventing education is not the intention of zero tolerance, it has become a negative side effect. Research and literature shows we are still struggling to come up with a solution on what to do to decrease bullying and not affect the educational process. Zero-tolerance for violent acts seems like it could be an effective way to help decrease bullying in the educational environment. However, if schools do decide to adapt this policy it is important for everyone to have the same understanding of how and when this should be enforced and what can be done so the process of learning is not disrupted.

What can we do to prevent bullying? If there is not a policy at your school about bullying, try to get involved as much as possible. Some administrators want to implement policies and there are student organized groups trying to take action, but teachers need to get involved too. Teachers cannot be afraid to take a stand and voice their concerns about bullying with their administrators, hopefully the administrators have the same concerns and collectively you can work together to figure out what can be done.

If you feel like the victim of bullying is comfortable enough with you try to approach them and hold a conversation. Ask them questions like how are they feeling, who is bullying them, and what can you do to help? Do not be surprised if the victim turns you away or shuts down and does not want to talk about, they may fear their bully is taking notice and may seek revenge. Even if the victim does shut down at least you have planted the seed in their head that you are there to help. If you have suspicion a child is being bullied getting the school counselor involved can help as well.

Plan to have the counselor talk to the class as a whole to help plant another seed in the victims mind that there are more people willing to help. A teacher is an important role within the school, not just to educate, but to be a guide and mentor to the students as well. To conclude, schools are institutions which have the potential to mold and create our future generations. The increase in school bullying has directed our attention to the need to take all steps to ensure a safe learning environment for students and teachers.

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