You are on page 1of 8

Christopher Ng

April 04, 2010

Master oI Teaching Program
SELA Curriculum Seminar
Dr. Jim Paul
Secrets of the Wooly Bully:
A Look Inside the Facts and the Fictions of School Bullying
A young boy, aged thirteen, walks down an empty school hallway, clutching a pile of
books to his chest. His eyes dart nervously back and forth as his sneakers squeak across the
linoleum tiles. A hand sei:es the boys neck from behind, shoving him up against the nearby
lockers. His books fall to the floor. A red haired boy, aged fourteen, fabs a finger into the other
boys chest.
'After school,` he whispers in the boys ear, 'youre dead.`
The red haired boy pounds the locker next to the younger boys head. He releases the
boys neck and walks away. The younger boy stands limp, staring vacantly down the hallway, his
scattered books completely forgotten.
Scenarios such as the one above are not as inIrequent as some schools would like to
believe. In Iact, the problem oI school bullying is an issue that has garnered a great deal oI
attention in recent years as a serious and legitimate concern in the education system. However, in
an issue that is both Iiercely debated and extremely wide ranging, it is sometimes diIIicult to
separate the Iacts Irom the Iiction. As such, this short essay will be a brieI analysis into some oI
the myths and realities around school bullying. Consequently, I will be discussing several
arguments pertaining to the above, such as what exactly is bullying, characteristics oI bullies and
their victims, the eIIects oI bullying, and the eIIectiveness oI bullying prevention programs. In
doing so, my aim is to clariIy some oI the more common misconceptions surrounding this very
complicated issue, as well as to add some additional insight regarding a topic that is very
pertinent to a public with a vested interest in its North American youth.

"So, bullying is.what, exactly?"

It would be slightly Iacetious to engage in a discussion on bullying without a more
precise classiIication oI what bullying is. In short, bullying can be deIined as the unprovoked
physical or psychological abuse oI an individual by another student (or group oI students) over a
certain period oI time, creating a chronic pattern oI harassment and abuse. In one study called
'Bullying: who does what, when and where? conducted by Fekkes et al., they report that 'more
than 60 oI the victims were bullied by children Irom their own grade in the same group |and|
almost 70 oI the boys were bullied by other boys. About 44 oI the girls were bullied by one
or several boys and almost 23 oI the girls were bullied by other girls (Fekkes et al., 2005).
The above evidence indicates two very important observations; Iirst oI all, the majority oI school
bullying occurs between peers oI a similar age and grade. Secondly, boys are the initiators oI a
signiIicant amount oI bullying Ior both boys and girls. In another article called 'Bullying
(Cohen, 2008), the author writes that school bullying can also be deIined using Iour basic
concepts. First oII, school bullying does not occur between peers who share an equal or similar
degree oI power. Instead, rather, there is always a 'stronger youngster intimidating a weaker
one. These imbalances can be caused by a number oI varying Iactors, such as physical size, age,
ethnicity, or popularity. Secondly, bulling is always deliberate; a bully intentionally aims to
cause harm or distress to his/her victim, and do not happen by accident. Third, bullying can
occur in a variety oI both direct and indirect Iorms. The most common (and easily recognized)
direct Iorm oI bullying is physical violence, which include actions such as shoving, hitting,
tripping, name-calling, teasing, and other Iorms oI verbal abuse. The other, more indirect Iorm oI
bullying is social exclusion, which can occur as a result oI spreading malicious rumors writing
oIIensive graIIiti, or encouraging others not to interact with a particular student. Finally, bullying
is continual, and entails a recurring pattern oI abuse oI the victim. Keeping the above deIinition

in mind, I will shiIt the discussion towards several common statements related to school
"Bullying isn't a problem.boys will be boys."
The unIortunate reality Ior teachers, administrators, parents, and students is that bullying
happens in every school, and it has a proIound impact on both the school and those involved.
According to a World Health Organization survey on Health Behavior in School-Aged Children
undertaken in 1998, approximately 30 percent oI students in grades 6 through 10 reported
bullying others, being the target oI bullies, or both (Bowman, 2001). The above data, which
indicates almost one third oI students are involved in bullying in some capacity, underlines the
punitive reality that bullying is in Iact a very large concern. Students who are victims oI bullying
tend to have lower selI-esteem, and oIten report Ieelings oI depression, loneliness, anxiety, and
insecurity at rates much higher compared to other 'normal students. As a result, bullying has an
invasive eIIect on the educational environment oI a school. Children need a saIe environment in
which they can maximize their learning potential without Iear oI physical, emotional, or
psychological danger. II students are aIraid oI being ridiculed, harassed, threatened, or
ostracized, these Iears will interIere with their ability to learn. Continual bullying can also lead to
problems such as dislike oI school, truancy, and dropping out, as well as an aversion to public
areas oI the schoolsuch as the playground or caIeteriawhere bullies might Iind them
(Whitted & Dupper, 2005). Furthermore, victims oI bullying tend to react in two very common
manners, either in a submissive or provocative Iashion. Submissive victims are Iar more
common, and react to bullying by withdrawing Irom types oI social interaction. Provocative
victims, on the other hand, exhibit behavior that irritates and Irustrates their classmates, which
can be seen as a combination oI anxiety and aggression, and may lead to Iuture harassment by
their bullies. Based on the above, it is extremely important to highlight the Iact that bullying is

indeed a serious problem in North American schools, and the Iirst step towards correcting this
problem is to acknowledge that there is indeed a dysIunctional component in the education
system that needs to be corrected.
"I can point out who the bullies and their victims are.easily!"
Contrary to popular belieI, the so-called identiIying markers used to recognize bullies and
the ones they terrorize are not as easily deIined as might be expected. In Iact, both bullies and
their victims surprisingly share a number oI common characteristics. According to Cohen,
children who come Irom lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to bully and be
bullied. In addition, children whose parents are divorced, authoritative, or abusive also tend to be
more vulnerable to incidences oI bullying (Cohen, 2008). However, Iurther complicating the
matter is a third category oI students called bully-victims, who are share traits oI both a bully and
a victim. They are, Ior all intents and purposes, simultaneously bullied by others, yet at the same
time also bullying others themselves. It is also interesting to note that while boys are also more
likely to either play the role oI bullies or victims, girls are most oIten the ones who both target
and are targeted by social Iorms oI bullying and sexual harassment.
As Ior traits that are not commonly shared by bullies and their victims, there are several
that cannot be ignored. In a study called 'Predictors oI Bullying and Victimization, Cook et al.
deIine the typical bully is someone who 'has both social competence and academic
challenges.possesses negative attitudes and belieIs about others.has trouble resolving
problems with others is inIluenced by negative community Iactors, and tends to be negatively
inIluenced by his or her peers (Cook et al., 2010). Bullies can also be deIined as opportunistic,
aggressive, impulsive, dominating oI others, and are not aIraid to use violence to achieve a
desired outcome. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the Iact that most bullies severely lack
empathy Ior the children they traumatize. This oIten stems as a result oI bullies being raised by

parents that use corporal punishment, are neglectIul, un-nurturing, and/or uninvolved in their
children`s day-to-day lives. Contrary to a very popular misconception, bullies do not suIIer Irom
low selI-esteem, and in Iact demonstrate a number oI characteristics to dispute this claim. In Iact,
bullies are typically average to above average in terms oI school popularity, have a very inIlated
sense oI ego, are overly conIident, and have below-normal levels oI anxiety and depression.
By contrast, victims oI bullying tend to have much poorer social skills, in addition to
Iewer Iriends than the more normal students oI their peer group. According to Cook et al., the
typical victim is someone likely to 'lack adequate social skills; possess negative selI-related
cognitions, experience diIIiculty in solving social problems; come Irom negative community,
Iamily, and school environments; and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers (Cook et al.,
2010). In other words, these victims diIIerentiate themselves in some way Irom their Iellow
peers, and oIten not in a positive manner. They may, Ior example, have a physical or
developmental disability, preIer a diIIerent sexual orientation, or belong to a visible minority
group. It is these diIIerences, or deviations Irom the norm, that oIten makes these students
victimizing targets Ior other Iorms oI persecution, social isolation, or violence.
"Bullying prevention programs are ineffective and a waste of money."
Although there is unIortunately some evidence to suggest that certain bullying programs
are not as eIIective as others, it would be Ialse to state that all such programs are ineIIective.
However, instead oI citing which speciIic programs have proven eIIective, such as The Olweus
Bullying Prevention Program, or 'BullyprooI, I will instead discuss several important strategies
that are key in the reduction and prevention oI bullying. First oII, any program or initiative that
attempts to combat bullying must have a whole school Iocus, that is to say, it should be
attempting to change the social dynamics oI the entire school. As Cook et al. describe, 'The
most promising programs are those that Iocus on intervening at the levels oI the individual, the

peer ecology, and the broader contexts in which children and youth are nested (Cook et al.,
2010). In short, any attempts at bullying prevention must be either multi-tier or multi-level rather
than merely addressing one or two exacerbating Iactors oI bullying.
Secondly, an assessment oI the school should be undertaken in order to determine the
extent or severity oI its bullying problem. Schools require a very strict policy that explains what
types oI conduct and behavior can be deIined as bullying, as well as what the consequences are
Ior those involved (primarily those acting as the aggressors). Furthermore, school administrators
and teachers should be given training on how to neutralize, halt, and prevent bullying. According
to Whitted & Dupper, once teachers understand the nature oI school bullying problems, they are
more capable oI integrating anti-bullying content into their classroom and lessons in order to
Iurther educate students on and prevent Iurther incidents oI bullying (Whitted & Dupper, 2005).
II the school administration and staII clearly outline the rules Ior what is acceptable, it is vital Ior
them to model proper behavior to set an example Ior other students, and to have a signiIicant
presence on school grounds at all times during school hours. As noted by Fekkes et al., levels oI
bullying tend to be lower in schools were there are relatively more teachers present and on
supervision during recesses and lunch breaks (Fekkes et al., 2005).
Finally, students themselves should be educated on what to do iI they are bullied, or told
how to react do iI they are witnesses to an occurrence oI bullying. Too oIten, students act as inert
bystanders to incidences oI bullying, and by doing so, they passively give their consent to allow
the bullying to continue. II students are made aware that they can make a diIIerence in regard to
the preventionsometimes even interventionoI bullying, the number oI bullying instances
will likely decrease. However, any intervention program attempting to reduce bullying must
create an environment where there is more open communication. This can include students
reporting incidences oI bullying to their teachers, school administration, parents, or any other

adult who has a vested interest in these occurrences. Communication between teachers and
parents (oI both the bully and the victim) are also important in order to identiIy the problem and
discuss potential solutions. (Fekkes et al., 2005). Most importantly, however, in order Ior an anti-
bullying program to be eIIective, all parties involved must be willing to participate and willing to
do their utmost to reduce incidences oI bullying Ior the betterment oI all those involved.
So.what does it all mean?
The complicated subject matter oI school bullying is oIten bogged down by a quagmire
Iact and Iiction that cannot be easily sorted. As a result, Iragments oI Ialse inIormation are oIten
mixed in with the harsher truths regarding both bullies and their victims. There are numerous
issues involved regarding causation Iactors, as well as its negative consequences and eIIects.
However, bullying is not a problem that any school, or school district, has to passively accept.
Instead, rather, there are a number oI available options Ior bullying prevention programs and
interventions that have proven to be eIIective in reducing the incidences oI bullying. For victims
oI bullying, the implementation oI such programs signiIies that they no longer have to suIIer
quietly and dread coming to school, but can instead Ieel saIe in an environment where they will
have an appropriate social support structure to assist them. However, the sole manner in which
such will occur is by making the public more aware oI the problems oI bullyingas well as its
solutionsand to dispel the myths surrounding the realities oI this complex issue.

Bowman, D. H. (2001, May 2). Survey oI students documents the extent oI bullying. ducation
Week on the Web. Retrieved March 31, 2010, Irom
Cohen, A. L. (2008). Bullying. $ #esearch $tarters, 1-6.
Cook, C. R., Williams, K. R., Guerra, N. G., Kim, T. E., and Sadek, S. (2010). The predictors oI
Bullying and Victimization in Childhood and Adolescence: A Meta-analytic
Investigation. $chool Psychology Quarterly, 25(2), 65-83.
Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F. I. M., and Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2005). Bullying: who does what,
when and where? Involvement oI children, teachers and parents in bullying behavior.
Health ducation research, 20(1), 81-91.
Juvonen, J. (2005, March/April). Myths and Facts About Bullying in Schools. ehavioral Health
Management, 36-40.
Whitted, K. S., and Dupper, D. R. (2005). Best Practices Ior Preventing or Reducing Bullying in
Schools. hildren & $chools, 27(3), 167-175.