Views on bullying

bullying image 2

Everyone agrees that bullying needs to stop.   However it seems like it just seems to be getting worse.   Bullying is sometimes seen as the problem of the educational system.   But it affects society at large as well.   People do not always outgrow bullying.   Bullies can become perpetrators of domestic violence or child abuse. Bullying is also sometimes seen as an individual problem.   In years past, students have been encouraged to solve the problems with their fellow students themselves. But bullying has gone too far for this to be a viable solution.   A student is no longer equipped to handle the forms of bullying prevalent in society today. In fact, it is dangerous to do so.

Education is the key to fight any social injustice, including bullying. In For a Better World: Reading and writing for Social Action, Bomer and Bomer (2001) discuss how to guide students to internalize concepts about social justice in a democratic classroom.   The principles of the democratic classroom discussed in this book would be an excellent approach to tackle the issue of bullying.

Students need to develop empathy for those who are in a marginalized position.   Reading stories and news articles about groups of people who are victimized in our society would help them develop a broader perspective. They can compare the social injustices committed in the outside world to the microcosm of the school environment. Students can be led to “notice” injustices in their everyday lives. This can lead to thoughtful discussions within the community of the classroom.

There is no better way to get students moving against bullying than to put students in charge of a class or school wide campaign. Students can create the agenda and policies needed to enforce it. Teachers can lay the groundwork. They can be there to support, guide, and bring relevant issues to light.   But ultimately I believe that only by involving students can bullying be stopped.

Bomer, Randy. Bomer, Katherine. (2001). For a better world: Reading and Writing for Social           Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


2 thoughts on “Views on bullying

  1. What about Bullying?

    When I was being harassed daily by another student in the eighth grade, I had never heard the term “bullying”. A lot of people back then thought kids should be left alone to work these issues out themselves, a concept I never bought into. Perhaps that’s why I promptly informed the vice-principal of the incident. At the very next occurrence, the vice-principal appeared out of nowhere, tapping the perpetrator on the shoulder and sternly leading her away. It never happened again.

    I also didn’t realize as an eighth grader that bullying is a struggle over power. The aggressor has an advantage over the victim physically, mentally, socially, or emotionally and attempts to increase his or her own power, while decreasing the power of the victim. It can occur in any social setting where there is a potential for a power struggle, including school, home, or workplace. It is usually brought on by an intolerance of perceived differences among the involved parties which can include things like race, social status, gender, religion or physical characteristics.

    From teasing to rumor-spreading, physical aggressiveness, exclusion, threats, theft of belongings, cyber bullying, and sexual harassment, bullying takes many forms. Most sources report that about a third of 6-12th grade students admit to being bullied. Responses vary also. Victims can become passive, withdrawn, and isolated, finding it difficult to trust or confide in others or they can lash back with anger, aggressiveness, or violence, becoming bullies themselves. They are also at greater risk for low self-esteem, depression, and suicide. Sadly, these students often do not experience school as an optimal learning environment.

    But what about the aggressors? Who are they? Here are some facts that I found interesting, some even surprising. Often, bullies have been the target of aggressive behavior themselves and may, in fact, have a positive viewpoint of this type of behavior. Bullies have little empathy for others because they have not been taught to do so. They may be physically bigger or stronger than others. Having little regard for rules, they prefer that others conform to their wishes. A bully could be the popular kid, who likes being looked up to or the unpopular kid who feels a need to fit in. They are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs or alcohol, and exhibit criminal behavior.

    I often wonder if schools are doing all that they can to stop bullying. A high school student recently told me that when he was enduring daily verbal taunting by another student, he informed the school counselor and was told that there was nothing they could do about it unless the harasser in some way physically harmed him. If this were to occur, the school offered the student little recourse other than to run away or stand and take a beating, since school policy stated that both parties involved in a fight would be suspended from school, regardless of who was at fault. The student tried talking to the person who was harassing him, but to little avail. The incident finally escalated to a point where there was a confrontation and both of them ended up being suspended. This incident underscores the fact that it is usually not productive for students to try to handle bullying issues on their own, and in today’s world, it can be unsafe to do so.

    Bullying is a complicated issue and solutions must be multi-faceted as well. But there are a couple of things I feel should be at the forefront. First, parents can and should be a part of the solution by having discussions with their children about what bullying entails, why it occurs, and how to respond. Parents should receive a copy of the school’s policy on bullying, which explains the school’s definition of bullying, what measures are taken by the school if an incident occurs, and what help is available for victims of bullying.

    Students and teachers should also be involved. In their book, For a Better World: Reading and writing for Social Action, Bomer and Bomer (2001) discuss how students can be guided to internalize concepts involving social justice. Teachers lay the groundwork by supporting, guiding, and bringing relevant issues to light. This broad perspective helps students to compare the social injustices committed in the outside world to the microcosm of the school environment. Students can be taught to “notice” the injustices in their everyday lives, leading to thoughtful discussions within the community of the classroom. The primary goal should be for students to develop tolerance for individual differences and empathy for those in a marginalized position. The process should culminate in some sort of social action on the part of the students, either collectively or individually, so that knowledge is transformed into involvement.

    Parent and classroom education and awareness are not the only steps that should be taken, but they are key components in a very complex issue. Students, parents, and schools need to be involved in the process of bullying prevention. Students need protection and they need tools. Students who have shown aggressive behavior in any manner need access to qualified counseling and they need to learn how to deal with anger in a productive manner. Here are some excellent resources that provide more information and helpful strategies:
    (10-Best practice strategies for bullying prevention in schools)
    (Government sponsored guidelines)
    (A prevention program that can be adopted by schools)

    Bomer, Randy. Bomer, Katherine. (2001). For a better world: Reading and Writing for Social Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Bullying Statistics. (2013). School Bullying. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from Bullying Statistics: The Movement Against Bullying. (2014). Bullying Statistics 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from

    WebMD. (2013). Bullying- Characteristics of Children Who Bully. (Healthwise)
    Retrieved October 14, 2014, from WebMD:

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