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What is bullying?
Bullying is a global problem that occurs throughout all educational levels without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability level, or socioeconomics. Bullying happens everywhere; in schools, in neighborhoods, and online. Bullying may occur with one student or a group of students. All students are negatively impacted by bullying including the bullies, the victims, and the observers.
There are three major categories that are recognized with bullying. First, there is a purposeful intent to do someone else harm. This harm can manifest itself in verbal, written, or physical manners. Second, there is a pointed power imbalance. Bullying does not occur with students of the same strength, station, and ability. Third, bullying happens to the same person multiple times, although it does not necessarily happen in the same form. One incident does not mean bullying as a pattern must have been formed.
It is important to realize that every student is at risk for bullying, but patterns are beginning to emerge. It seems as though students who are perceived as different or weaker in some way are more apt to become targets. How students dress or what their bodies looks like are often noted by bullies.
In general, boys are more often bullied than girls. Girls, however, more often experience bullying of a sexual nature. Minority students are often bullied and LGBTQ students are overwhelmingly targeted.
These are disturbing trends but also helpful when developing and implementing programs to bring awareness to, and reduce instances of, bullying in schools.
Bullying can occur anywhere. It can happen in classrooms, in hallways, in auditoriums, in gymnasiums, in lunch rooms, at sporting or extracurricular events, or online. Often, bullying occurs on the way to school or on the way home from school. It also happens in higher numbers in school bathrooms.
Students are frequently targeted online. Students report increased incidences of fear and bullying in spaces where adults are not as prevalent, but they also note that teachers are not likely to stop bullying even when it occurs in front of teachers. Teachers, of course, report that they are very likely to stop bullying that occurs in front of them.
There are several categories that help to classify bullying.
First, there is verbal bullying. This involves threats, humiliation, taunting, teasing, name calling, and many other forms. Next, there is social bullying. This occurs through rumors, gossip, alienation, coercion, and more. Often times this happens in group settings and it may involve more than one target. Girls are more likely than boys to participate in social bullying.
There is also physical bullying. Hitting, kicking, punching, shoving, slapping, spitting, or damaging or stealing physical property, and others are involved in this category. Boys are more likely than girls to participate in physical bullying. Finally, there is cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying involves the use of electronic technology, including computers, tablets, and cellular phones, to threaten, harm, disrespect, ignore, or embarrass others. This may take the form of email, text messages, pictures, videos, websites, social media, and many others. Cyberbullying is prevalent among middle school students.
There are a wide number of suggestions and strategies provided in research and on websites. Most importantly, never ignore bullying. This empowers bullies and sets up a hostile environment for students.
It is always advisable to be proactive. Set up a program (or use a school-wide program if one is provided), inform students and discuss bullying with them, and monitor your classroom, as well as the school, for instances, rates, and patterns of bullying. If all students know that the teacher is always thinking about, discussing, and taking action against bullying, instances are less likely to occur.
Suggestions to help students include peer mediation, counseling, student reporting and suggestion boxes, student surveys, peer counseling, safe rooms, telephone and computer help lines, and many others. Administrators, faculty, and staff can help to set an appropriate environment, collect data and act upon the results of the data, enforce school policies with regard to bullying, and continually remain alert and informed. There are a tremendous number of additional resources available under the references links on this page as well as the “Informative Links” section to the left side of this page.
Note: Please keep in mind that this site is now, and always will be, a work in progress. As we learn more about bullying, what is involved, possible strategies, and new resources, these pages will be updated. Thank you very much for your interest and desire to make a positive change.
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