School bullying has been found to have extreme and diverse effects on those victimized. Among those are, depression, anxiety, changes in sleep and eating habits, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, health issues, decreased academic achievement and school participation. “Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. This aggressive behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” (“Bullying | Disability and Safety | NCBDDD | CDC”, 2018) Both the victim and the aggressor may have serious, lasting problems. “Because of its connection to violent and aggressive behaviors that result in serious injury to the self and to others, bullying is now considered a major public health issue. Once viewed as a ritual of childhood and adolescence, bullying has now captured media headlines nationally and internationally.” (Wolbert Burgess, Garbarino, & Carlson, 2006, p. 1)Arizona has “no statewide definition in the statute. Local school board policies and procedures must prohibit student-to-student harassment, intimidation and bullying on school grounds, property, buses, at school bus stops, school-sponsored events/activities, and through the use of electronic technology or electronic communication on school computers, networks, forums, and mailing lists.”
Bullying Definitions in State Anti-Bullying Statutes
There are different types of bullying, all of which can leave an emotional or physical scar on the victims. “The first type of bullying is verbal bullying which is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, or threatening to cause harm. The next type of bullying is social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, this type of bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public. The third type of bullying is physical bullying. This involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures. The final type of bullying is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over devices such as cellphones, tablets and computers. The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices, instant message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features) or email.”
What Is Bullying?
“Bullying is a problem that affects the academic, social, and emotional well-being of scores of children and youths daily in U.S. schools. Understanding how to influence the environment in which the bullying occurs is essential to creating safe schools. Whole-school intervention programs train teachers, school staff, and administrators to model and provide opportunities to practice respectful and nonaggressive behaviors to decrease bullying among peers.” (Letendre) Some people feel that implementing an anti-bullying or bullying intervention program at schools for teachers, other school staff and students would help decrease the amount of aggression or victimization in the schools, thus, reducing bullying, school shootings and suicides. Other people would argue that implementing these programs is outside of school budgets and that there is no time or space for the programs in the curriculum. They also would argue that bullying would continue and possibly become more severe.
Arizona schools should implement anti-bullying or bullying intervention programs in to the curriculum. By implementing anti-bullying programs or interventions, schools can reduce aggressive behavior and victimization. Students need a safe learning environment to excel and grow into our future leaders. Teachers and other school staff would be able to effectively spot and stop a bullying episode and would also be able to know what to look for when spotting at risk children. By implementing these programs, teen suicides and school shootings may decrease as well. Bullying has become a national and even international issue that has gained a lot of media attention over the last several years. Anti-bullying or bullying intervention programs have been introduced into several schools and have been proven successful.
As a parent, bullying is a major concern of mine. I was a victim of bullying throughout elementary school into high school. As I got older, the bullying became more severe. I worry every day about what my daughter may go through at school. I actively talk to her about bullying and have often asked her if her teacher or other adults have talked to her class about bullying. She continually states no. This is shocking to me as bullying has become more frequent and severe since I have been in school.
In June, I conducted a small anonymous online survey. The results of the survey were what I was expecting for the most part but a few of the responses were quite shocking. One result was, every person who took the survey picked how to improve a situation and no one picked that bullying was not an issue. (Figure 1) One of the shocking results I reviewed was, a majority of the people who took the survey reported that adults who saw a bullying episode would do nothing to stop the situation. (Figure 2)
“Although people tend to think of bullying as a dyadic interaction between a powerful aggressor and his or her weaker victim, it is more often a group phenomenon that involves students who take on many roles. A bullying episode typically involves not only perpetrators and victims, but also reinforcers, who may urge the bully on; defenders, who may come to the aid of the victim; and bystanders, who observe but do nothing. Observational studies indicate that peers are present in at least 85% of bullying episodes, but that bystanders coming to the aid of victims are relatively rare. Bystanders often ignore the bullying incident because they are either afraid that they might be next, or they blame the victim for his or her plight and feel no moral obligation to intervene.” (Graham, 2016)
By effectively training teachers, other school staff and students it would create a safer school environment for students to learn. “There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help. It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.” (“What Is Bullying”) There are many warning signs of bullying. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, “A child may have difficulty making friends or establishing social relationships if he or she differs from his or her peers in certain ways. For instance, a child with a physical disability might become socially isolated from or even ridiculed by other children. A child might also become isolated if he or she performs poorly in school activities or differs greatly from classmates in terms of social class or cultural background. In some cases, a child might become socially isolated if he or she displays exceptional talent in a particular area. Children who have difficulty building friendships may become victims of bullying.” (p. 453)
According to the results of the survey I conducted, 39.3% of the people survived felt afraid due to bullying. Another result of my survey showed that a majority have been talked to by an adult about bullying, but the adult didn’t really understand what was going on. A close second on that survey was that no adult at the schools had talked to anyone about bullying. (Figure 3) The effects of bullying are vast. Several children don’t finish school because they are afraid to go back.
Some students don’t finish school for other reasons. Suicide and school shootings also occur due to bullying. Many students are left feeling helpless, worthless, angry, ashamed, humiliated, lonely and suicidal. According to my survey, many of the respondents reported feeling these emotions. (Figure 4) Of the respondents, 25% of them had reported feeling suicidal. Although, according to Stopbullying.gov (2018), “Media reports often link bullying with suicide. However, most youth who are bullied do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors. Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history. Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools. Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.”
According to Wolbert Burgess et al. (2006, p.3), “youths who are bullied both in and away from school are 2.7 times more likely to carry a weapon, while youths who are both bully-victims as well as bullies are at even higher risk of carrying a weapon.” According to my survey, 22.6% of the respondents had reported they had taken a weapon to school at one point.
“The twenty-three-year-old Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui had been relentlessly teased and bullied throughout middle school and high school. He was angry at what he perceived as an unjust school hierarchy that privileged the wealthy. Before he killed thirty-two people and then himself in a 2007 rampage, Cho raged against the rich, declaring his shooting a response to the “brats” and “snobs” at his school who were unsatisfied with their “gold necklaces” and “Mercedes.” The South Korean-born Cho, whose parents ran a dry-cleaning business, seemed to believe he had been bullied because of his lower economic status and his race. His peers said they couldn’t understand his accent and way of speaking and told him to “go back to China” one of the rare times he mustered up the courage to speak in class. When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold sauntered into the Columbine High School library, they were similarly angry at those with higher status in their school. Armed with a rifle, a shotgun, handguns, knives, and bombs, the first thing they shouted was “All jocks stand up. We’re going to kill everyone one of you.” These were vicious and devastating attacks that grabbed headlines all over the world. The media presented a parade of analysts and experts trying to figure out why two middle-class boys or a quiet college student had become mass murderers. Few of them looked at the high school culture that places a diminished value on students who are perceived as not measuring up. In today’s high schools, race and class, the historical purveyors of American status, are still important factors, but gender is also crucial. Students are measured against reductive and stereotypical standards for what it means to be the “right” kind of girl or boy. Children may be perceived as not good-looking or affluent enough; boys are judged for being not sufficiently masculine or athletic; and girls are scrutinized for the extent to which they are pretty and popular with boys. Children found lacking are pushed to the bottom of their school’s social hierarchy, where life can feel unbearable.” (Klein, 2013) These school shootings were devastating, so many lives lost due to bullying. These events may have been avoided if the schools these young boys attended had an anti-bullying program in place.
Both the victim and the aggressor may have serious, lasting problems. Children who are bullied are likely to have depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, and health issues. These issues may persist into adulthood. Children who bully are likely to engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Among those behaviors are, drug and alcohol abuse in adolescence and as adults, get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. Some bullies will have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults. Many will be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults. Even bystanders are affected by witnessing bullying. They could have mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. They could miss or skip school to avoid seeing the bullying situations. By implementing the antt-bullying or intervention programs, many of the children affected by bullying would experience less of the above effects.
Anti-bullying or bullying intervention programs have been introduced into several schools and have been proven successful, but many believe that implementing these programs is more of a problem than benefit. Those who believe that are stating that there is no time or space for the anti-bullying programs to be implemented in the school curriculum. Others would argue that by actively involving students in these programs would backfire and not work as intended.
“Many teachers and administrators in American schools are reluctant to embrace whole-school interventions because they either believe that there is not enough time and space in the curriculum or that developing anti-bullying attitudes is primarily the responsibility of parents.”
(Graham, 2016) Even though there may not be time or space for anti-bullying programs in the curriculum, the importance of having administrators make room is great. “The importance of teacher knowledge and skill development and the willingness to intervene in bullying situations are important factors in decreasing aggression and bullying behaviors in schools. When teachers show a willingness to use interventions to help victimized youths, there is less peer victimization and greater willingness to help other students. Increasing awareness about bullying and teaching methods to intervene better prepare teachers and staff to prevent or decrease the interactions that are hurtful to children.” (Letendre, 2016) The argument that the parents should be responsible for their children’s anti-bullying attitudes is reasonable, but not every family dynamic can do such. There is a vast amount of reasons why children bully others. Some children are abused at home and they take their anger out on someone smaller or less fortunate than they are.
Another argument was that implementing anti-bullying programs would backfire and not work as intended. “Recent meta-analyses (Merrell, Gueldner, Ross, & Isava, 2008; Ttofi & Farringotn, 2011) of research on anti-bullying programs provide evidence of the effectiveness of schoolwide approaches. The effects are modest at best. When the outcomes were actual reductions in incidents of bullying, only about a third of the school-based interventions included in the Merrel et al. (2008) meta-analysis showed positive effects. A few even revealed negative effects (e.g., increased bullying), suggesting that the intervention may have backfired.” (Graham, 2016) Although there are some cases that may have backfired or proved ineffective, there are several reasons that an anti-bullying program would have been ineffective. Among those reasons are, inconsistency in the degree to which programs conformed to the principles of good intervention and relying heavily on student self-reports of bullying. “It would be premature to dismiss whole-school interventions as ineffective, because some of the more recent programs not included in previous reviews are showing promising results.” (Graham, 2016)
By implementing anti-bullying or bullying intervention programs in Arizona schools it can reduce aggressive behaviors, create a safe learning environment for students and potentially reduce school shootings and suicides. Bullying has become a public health issue and has captured media attention nationally and internationally. Many children are affected, whether they are the victim, the bully, or the bystander. Bullying leaves an emotional and sometimes physical scar no matter what role you play.
Bullying | Disability and Safety | NCBDDD | CDC. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandsafety/bullying.html
Bullying Definitions in State Anti-bullying Statutes. (2012). Retrieved June 26, 2018, from Cdn-files.nsba.org
Graham, S. (2016). Victims of Bullying in Schools. Theory into Practice, 55(2), 136-144. DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2016.1148988. Retrieved on June 26, 2018, from the Academic Search Premier database.
Letendre, J., Ostrander, J., & Mickens, A. (2016). Teacher and Staff Voices: Implementation of A Positive Behavior Bullying Prevention Program in An Urban School. Children and Schools, 38(4), 237-245.
The World Book Inc. (2015). The World Book Encyclopedia (p. 453). Chicago.
What Is Bullying. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html
Wolbert Burgess, A., Garbarino, C., & Carlson, M. I. (2006). Pathological Teasing and Bullying Turned Deadly: Shooters and Suicides. Victims and Offenders,1(1), 1. DOI:10.1080/15564880500498705