In this paper we will examine the different aspects of bullying in schools. The purpose of this paper is to determine what is meant by the term “bullying”. Does it mean only physical harassment or does it go deeper than that. We will also detail the effects that bullying has on the victim and what are the concerned authorities doing to curb it. We will also explore the role of teaching staff and parents in preventing bullying and also how a victim can be counseled to overcome the trauma of bullying. Are schools are equipped to handle the menace of bullying on their own, or do they require external assistance. Finally, an action plan to curb this phenomenon will be proposed.
Key Words: Bullying, Awareness, frightened and action plan.
Schools are academic institutions, meant as a seat of learning for acquiring knowledge. All schools strive to increase the student’s attendance and increase their achievement in terms of scores or marks obtained. But bullying incidents create a sour note and challenge the schooling community to take urgent steps to discourage and prevent it. Bullying is recognized as behaviors that show cruelty, bias and intolerance towards others who are thought to be different or defenseless. The acts which constitute bullying were not given much weightage earlier, and it was considered a part of the growing up process (California Department of Education, 2003). In today’s world, bullying has gained prominence, since now it is accepted that it is not just an innocent case of teasing or having fun at someone’s expense.
Bullying was earlier associated with physical abuse only, but now the coverage of acts construed as bullying has been expanded. Physical abuse, isolation, shunning, online intimidation, textual intimidation, verbal abuse are also considered under the ambit of bullying. These are not innocent acts and deliberate, persistent harassment of a victim is considered dangerous and intentionally malicious, causing the victim to feel humiliated, frightened, and losing self esteem and being socially isolated. The victims are often those who are in some manner different from the majority. These may be based on physical or mental deficiencies, race, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender (California Department of Education, 2003).
There are many guidelines to prevent such abuse of victimized students and school authorities are asked to follow these stringently. The school authorities’ objective should be to prevent such abuse, and create a harmonious atmosphere in school and create a safe school. This would give rise to a culture where students look forward to coming to school and doing what they are meant to do at school – learning.
Bullying in school has a direct impact on learning. This holds good for the bully, the victim and the bystanders. The onus of implementing school safety lies with the entire teaching community. Studies indicate that students, who consistently evade harm at school, may be doing so at the cost of their studies and learning. There are different methods of bullying. Source: Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary schools, from the United Kingdom Department of Education and Skills, 2013.
Physical Assault: This includes punching, shoving, pushing, poking, slapping kicking, hair pulling and tripping others. It may also escalate into a severe physical assault and causing pain.
Intimidation: This form of bullying takes place, when there is no actual physical contact, but the aggressor’s non verbal body language and unspoken aggression in behavior convey a threat to the target.
Isolation, Exclusion or Shunning: This takes place when a person is given the cold shoulder by the entire class or a particular group in the class. This means that the targeted person’s efforts to socialize with others is thwarted. Rumor mongering, maligning the target may also start under this category of bullying.
Damage to personal property: This occurs when the target’s personal belongings are tampered with. Text books, notes, writing material, mobile devices, food articles etc may be hidden or damaged to cause harassment.
Online: This covers bullying which takes place through the use of technology and the internet. Unflattering pictures of the target, accompanied by unsavory messages are common forms of online bullying. It is more convenient for the aggressor, since it can be committed outside schooling hours also. Text messages with unacceptable contents are very common.
Extortion: Demands for money may be made to stop the harassment. In the event of nonpayment, other means of bullying may be employed to force the targeted person to comply.
Effects of Bullying
Other students who observe such bullying may develop similar symptoms as the target and at the same time be wracked with feelings of guilt for not being able to help the victim or prevent the bullying.
The bullies themselves are at considerable risk because of this aspect of their nature. Drop out without completing schooling, aggressive behavior outside school, feelings of anxiety and guilt, developing anti social or criminal traits in their persona are possible reasons emanating from a bullying behavior.
The Danger Signals
The target: The victim or target usually displays some signs which indicate that he/she is being bullied (U.K. Department of Education and Skills, 2013).
Tendency to avoid going to school, or playing truant.
Avoiding normal school going timings, or asking parents to provide a drop till school.
Loss of interest in school and a lowering of academic performance.
Loss of appetite and unexplained common illnesses like headaches.
Behavioral change or mood swings.
Things taken to school, missing or damaged.
Avoiding discussing school or activities at school.
Dirty or torn clothing, cuts and bruises.
Frequent request for money.
These are signs to be watched out for. There may be more such signs, and the parents or guardians of the student will know when they detect a marked deviation from the person’s normal behavior or tendencies. This may not necessarily confirm that a person is being bullied, but certainly deserves a closer look to determine the cause of these signs.
The Bully: Similar to the target, the bully also displays certain signs and characteristics, which again may turn out be otherwise, but again calls for a closer examination of such behavioral traits and characteristics
Lack of respect for other’s feelings.
Insensitivity towards others.
Uncalled for aggressive behavior.
Low self esteem and low levels of confidence (U.K. Department of Education and Skills, 2013).
Sample Study of school Bullying Source: American Psychological Association.
Method: 905 ninth grade students were taken from four secondary schools in different school districts for the study. This was done to cover a wide variety of demographic and socioeconomic conditions. The rate of consent was 68%, though none of the schools were below 65% consent rate (Buckman, 2011). A total of 211 teachers from the same school were also taken for the study. The teacher’s consent rate was 90.0% and none fell below 73%. The average age of the teachers was 38.8 years.
All eligible students and teachers were given the survey forms and based on discussion, one research assistant and one school staff were tasked to monitor the students’ activities behavioral patterns in various locations.
The demographic information is given in Figure 1:
The teachers and students both were questioned on the frequency of bullying and the incidence of bullying in the different locations. Figure 2 explains the results:
The results suggested that both teachers and students perceived the occurrence of bullying to be somewhere between moderate to high in terms of frequency (Buckman, 2011). The studies further indicate that both teachers and students had similar perceptions about the locations where bullying was most frequent, which was the hallways. But teachers seemed to endorse the hallways to a greater degree than the students. In terms of prevention efforts against bullying, there were dissimilarities between the teachers and students perceptions. The study revealed that students felt that there was a reporting process against bullying, that there were school rules against bullying and that bystanders participated more in prevention than teachers. The teacher’s perceptions were that there were frequent discussions in class on bullying. With such differing perceptions, it would be helpful if teachers and students had regular interactions on bullying to clear these perceptions and agree on a standard procedure for prevention of bullying.
Though this study is more developed than previous studies done in the same field, it is bound within limitations. The student and teacher sample taken was only from schools willing to take part in the survey. The total required demographic and socioeconomic spectrum could not be captured due to the limitations of geography. Further, the difference of perceptions between students and teachers could not b broken down and examined in detail. More such studies and research would be required to remove this limitations and getter a clearer picture of bullying in school.
Action Plans to Prevent Bullying and Help Victims
All schools should implement anti bullying policies, which should be stringently implemented. Regular interactions with students are required to permeate the concepts of anti bullying to the youngest levels. Regular surveys should be conducted on bullying amongst teachers and students to receive a feedback about the prevalence of such activities in the school (U.K. Ministry of Education and Skills). Teaching and other school staff should be instructed to intervene immediately on detecting any bullying activity. A mix of students, teachers, parents or guardians can come together to form an anti bullying team for prevention of bullying activities in school. Areas, other than classrooms should be monitored by such team members to curb the incidence of any such activity, say in the playground or the washrooms. Close coordination with local bodies involved in the prevention of such activities and also with the relevant government departments to stop such activities is required. Clear policies should be formed to deal with incidents of bullying. A reporting format for the benefit of the victims can be started, since a victim may find it easier to write down details of the bullying incident, instead of reporting it verbally or face to face with the authorities.
Some of the common methods of helping the victim are given below:
Increasing student engagement may be a good method of helping the victims (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011).
Strengthening the victim may actually stop the target from being a victim and instead face up to the bully (Rigby, 2010).
Mediation by a teacher or adult between the bully and the target can solve the reason for conflict. (Rigby, 2010).
Restoration between the victim and the bully, where the bully publicly acknowledges his mistake and makes and apology or makes up for the wrongdoing in other ways (Rigby, 2010).
Mentoring the victim, so that the loss of self esteem and confidence are restored. This can be done by teachers or parents or both.
Intervention at the starting point of the bullying act can do wonders for instilling the victims and the bystanders with confidence in their teachers and adults.
Buckman, M. (2011). A Comparison of secondary Student and Teacher Perceptions of school Bullying and Prevention Practices. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apadivisions.org/division-16/publications/newsletters/school-psychologist/2011/07/preventing-school-bullying.aspx
California Department of Education. (2003). Bullying At (pdf Document). Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/documents/bullyingatschool.pdf
Rigby, K. (2010). Bullying Interventions at Schools: Six Major Approaches (pdf Document). Retrieved from: http://www.bullyingawarenessweek.org/pdf/Bullying_Prevention_Strategies_in_Schools_Ken_Rigby.pdf
United Kingdom Department of Education and Skills. (2013). Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary schools (pdf Document). Retrieved from: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Anti-Bullying-Procedures-for-Primary-and-Post-Primary-Schools.pdf
United Kingdom Ministry of Education and Skills. (2013). Plan on Bullying (pdf Document). Retrieved from: http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/Action-Plan-On-Bullying-2013.pdf
United States Department of Justice. Office of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2011). Bullying in Schools: An Overview. (pdf Document). Retrieved from: http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/234205.pdf