The Many Faces of School Bullying: A Community Issue

Diane Sheffield

History of the Word Bully It's origins is in an old Germanic word meaning “lover”. In the 1500's the word Bully was used in a positive, romantic way. It meant lover and in 16th Century England, Bully was another word for sweetheart. The word gradually acquired the meaning of 'fine chap' and then 'a noisy rough fellow'. It was and still is used with the older generation as a often ironic and expression of admiration or approval. For example: I've finished all my homework, 'well, bully for you'. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary 2008 Oxford University Press) Before arriving at its present day meaning, the word was kind, soft and welcoming in a positive way. In this essay, I will focus on bullying in the school environment and the causes and effects. What is Bullying? I feel that bullying is a world wide problem that occurs around us everyday and every where. People experience some sort of bullying at some point in their lives, whether they are the victim or the bully. According tot he United States Department of health and human Services and the OLWEUS Bully Prevention Program, bullying is a wide spread and serious problem that can happen anywhere. It's not a phase people have to go through, it's not “just messing around”, and it's not something you grow out of. The reality of it is: bullying can cause serious and lasting harm and it often does. Most agree that bullying involves the following: 1. Imbalance of Power- People who bully use their power to control or harm, and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves. 2. Intent to Cause Harm-Actions done by accident are not bullying, the person bullying has a goal to cause harm. 3, Repetition-Incidents of bullying happen to the same person over and over by the same person or group. There are different kinds of bullying that can take many actions and forms. Some examples are: 1. Verbal: Name calling and teasing. 2. Social: Spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose and breaking up friendships. 3. Cyberbullying: Using the Internet, mobile phone, or other digital technology to harm others. 4. Psychological: Being threatened or being forced to do things you don't want to do. 5. Racial: Bullying based on a person's ethnicity, the color of their skin, or their family background. 6. Sexual: Bullying that abuses someone sexually by inappropriate contact, messages, looks and gestures. 7. Physical: hitting, punching, shoving, and having things taken away

Statistics on Bullying Some people may think that bullying is a part of life, and that it is not a health issue. According to the School Bullying Council, Make Beats Not Beat Downs, the following statistics prove other wise. It is estimated that more than half of school bullying (50%) incidents are never reported. Seventy-seven percent of all students in grades K through 12 have been bullied at some point in their lives. Of these students, fourteen percent claimed to have experienced severe reactions to their situation. One-third of all parents in the United States have fear for the safety of their children attending school. An estimated 160,000 children miss school every day due to dear of attack on intimidation by other students. Approximately ninety percent of children in grades 4 through 8 have reported incidents of being bullied. Over 280,000 student are physically attacked in secondary schools each month and approximately forty percent of middle and high school students don't feel they are safe when attending school. About one out of every ten students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying Effects of Bullying One student can make a difference, positive or negative, and the impact can be far greater than they realize. When someone who is being bullied and someone sees someone else being bullied, the experience has a negative impact on everyone involved, including bystanders. Bullying can change the feel and culture of the entire school. All students should feel safe at school, on the playground, and online, and at home. But when someone experiences bullying, they no longer feel safe, and they no longer feel comfortable doing daily activities such as going to school, playing sports, or chatting on social sites. Bullying can affect the individual physically and mentally, and these types of effects can last long into their futures. Students who are bullied may have effects of, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, patterns of withdrawal, shame or fearfulness. There may be unexpected or random bursts of anger, physical health problems, lack of appetite, loss of energy, poor grades or excuses to avoid school. Diminished social contacts and friends, suicidal thoughts, acts of suicide, drug or alcohol use, unexplained bruises or injuries and damaged or missing belongings, have increased among the students bullied. Students who intentionally bully others are also affected negatively. These students are also more likely than those students who don't to, get into frequent fights, steal and vandalize property, drink alcohol and smoke, have poor grades,carry a weapon and perceive a negative climate at school. Students who are bystanders that see bullying happen also may feel that they aren't safe and have effects of feeling, fearful, guilty for not acting, powerless to act and/or tempted to participate. When bullying continues and a school doesn't take action, the entire school climate can be affected in numerous ways. With a negative climate, the school develops an environment o fear and disrespect, students have difficulty learning, students feel insecure and don't like school. The staff have little control and don't care about the students.

Roles of Bullying Bystanders may think that they aren't able to help someone who is being bullied, but they can! They can also hurt the situation. It's not very often that bystanders can remain neutral. There are two types of bystanders, hurtful bystanders and helpful bystanders who are up-standers! Hurtful bystanders start the bullying by encouraging the bully to begin, that encouragement could be cheering, laughing, or making comments. The bystanders can join in the bullying once it has begun. By watching and doing nothing, the bystanders are accepting the bullying and providing the bully with an audience. The bullies continue their behavior because the bystanders show silent acceptance. Helpful bystanders who are up-standers directly intervene by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from bullying. They will get help, by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to adults. The helpful bystanders will offer words of encouragement or positive messages to the victims. So why don't more bystanders become up-standers? They think that the bullying is none of their business or that telling adults won't help or will make things worse. They fear getting hurt or becoming a victim. They feel powerless to stop the bully, they feel that the victim deserves it or they want to be a part of the “popular” crowd. Bystanders who don't stand up to bullying can experience negative results like pressure to participate in the bullying. They may feel anxiety about speaking to anyone, powerless to stop bullying, vulnerability to become victimized, fear of associating with the victim, the bully, or the bully's pals, or guilt for not having defend the victim. Ages of Bullying and the Actions That Occurs In Elementary School, bullying the victims may experience name-calling, which may lead to lower self-esteem. The victims may also experience cyberbullying that uses many kinds of technology. Bullying can also take the form of playground, lunchroom, and bus fights; touts; or exclusion. In Middle School, bullying tends to peak. Boys tend to experience more physical bullying(being hit, pushed, punched, etc.), and girls tend to experience bullying by exclusion (not talking to certain people, not inviting them to events, etc.). Cyberbullying can also happen. In Teen Bullying, teens may continue to use the Internet and other technology to bully, including social media, text messages, and others. They may also resort to using gossip, trying to ruin the reputation of the victim. Sexual harassment may start during this age. 21st Century Bullying: Cyberbullying The term “cyberbullying” was first coined and defined by Canadian educator and anti-

bullying activist Bill Belsey, as “The use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.” Cyberbullying emerged as online technology become more accessible to teens. (Wikipedia) Cyberbullying may be more harmful than traditional bullying! It has become a huge problem! Almost fifty percent of teens have been harassed online, seventy-one percent of youth receive messages from strangers online and thirty percent of youth think about meeting those strangers face-to-face. Cyberbullying has to have a minor on both sides or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plan and simple cyber harassment or cyberstalking. Youth often change roles, the youth may be a cyberbully one moment, and then may become the victim the next. Cyberbullying is usually not a one-time communication, unless it involves a death threat or a threat of serious harm. Typically it happens over and over again. There are two kinds of cyberbullying, direct attacks (messages sent directly) and cyberbullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice's knowledge). Anyone can be a bully online, no matter what their size, strength, amount of friends, or other factors. This type of bullying doesn't end once school is over, or once a student leaves school. Cyberbullying can occur 24/7 since youth can be vitally connected via computers or hand-held devices. For example, a recent study by the American Educational Research Association shows that female bullies preferred the use of text messaging harassment versus face-to-face bullying by 2 to 1. Cyberbullying is a very difficult form of bullying to prevent and to police. To bully with out a face-to-face confrontation is a major difference between cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Because of the false feeling of being anonymous, teens feel like they are powerful, and they say things that they might not have said in person. Also, identifying a cyberbully isn't as easy as identifying the traditional big bad bully. Students can be careless in their security with user names and passwords, so messages can be falsely written by individuals and misrepresented. The long-term impact of cyberbullying is greater than with traditional bullying. Digital images, cell phones, and other electronic means can really let a bully's messages spread quickly. The cyberbullying can last very much longer and perhaps the greatest long term effect is the loss of home as a safe-zone. Cyberbullying enters into the home and is with the victim at all times. When the Bully Is the Teacher The current focus on the problem of “bullying” has produced a plethora of programs, legal actions, mandates, books, articles, and websites; but I don't believe that there is any research on the dangerous behavior of the biggest school bully of them all—the teacher who bully. Most teachers are caring and compassionate they become teachers in order to make a difference in the lives of their pupils. However, some teachers, for one reason or another, take a dislike to a student in their class and pick on them on a daily basis. Teachers who are bullies

have the same characteristics of other bullies. They are petty, sadistic, gaining self-esteem through the humiliation of others. In the school environment, a teacher-bully will shame a student in front of classmates, often using their position of authority in abusive ways. There many different ways that a teacher can bully students. For the students, they will suffer in silence, don't say anything and may fear retaliation by the teacher if they say anything about what is happening. Because the teacher-bully is a figure of authority, students think that there is nothing that can be done if the teacher acts inappropriately. This is a very traumatizing experience for all students to go through. The most current case locally of teacher-bullying, is the thirteen year old Rochester eighth-grade 'A' student, Jada Williams, who did an essay assignment that her school had asked the students to do. The essay was on the book Narrative of the Life, by Frederick Douglas, which was provided by the Rochester City School District. The students were to read the novel and expound on what they had read and their feelings in an essay. Jada read the novel over the 2011 Christmas break and wrote her essay drawing comparisons between Frederick Douglas' experiences and that of African American city school students and turned her essay in. Jada Williams began to be harassed by teachers who said they were “offended” by her essay and she reported their behavior to her parents. Within a week of turning in her essay Jada Williams, an “A” student, began to see her grades fall from As to Ds. Her parents begin to receive negative reports from her teachers, implying that Jada is a problem student ans she would be put in In-School-suspension. Prior to the writing of the essay, Jada was receiving consistent praise and great reviews from the same teachers who began to bully her. The parents pulled her from the school for her safety. The student was bullied by a gang of Rochester City School District teachers, her story went national and she appeared on the Glenn Beck Show and received an award from the Frederick Douglas foundation of New York. Nothing was done to the teachers who did the gang bullying of this thirteen year old A student name Jada Williams. Why Should We Be concern About Bullying? We should care because all forms of bullying have become an epidemic and is affecting the environments of all schools. This isn't just an Inner City or Urban issue, because it's an Urban, Suburban, Rural and County wide problem that must be talked about, understood and assessed. Bullying isn't something that is going to reduce, stop or go away on it's own, it requires involvement from participants on all levels. Putting a stop to bullying, is everyone's responsibility. Bullying isn't “just a part of growing up”, or playful behavior. Students, parents, school personnel, neighborhoods, community agencies, local/state/federal officials, law enforcement and church leaders all have a role to help to stop this horrible, serious, disease that's affecting so many. If bullying isn't prevented or stopped, there can be threats to school safety at an alarming rate. So, how do we, as a society, decrease the amount of bullying that goes on? Prevention of bullying needs to happen at the schools, in the classrooms and at the individual level. As well, bullying can be prevented at home. At the school level there needs to be better supervision of the students' activities. There are many things students and teachers can do. Having activities that encourage well-being, and make class rules against bullying. Meetings between the teachers, parents and students can help prevent bullying. At home, discussion groups can be formed for parents, bullies, and victims, this is where community agencies

would have a role. Having a physically attractive and stimulating school environment seems to reduce the risk of bullying. A school environment which has a lot of involvement from adults, many positive interests, and warmth, would have less bullying occurring than nonattractive schools. Intervention with the bullies and victims, parent awareness campaigns are anti-bullying programs that are effective. These are just a few of many ideas and ways to stop and prevent bullying. Having a bully-free school and community would promote the following: *A safe school climate, which can improve achievement *Helping the community at large *students feeling that they belong *Increase of attendance and appreciation and pride in school *Increased graduation rates *Better student-teacher-parent relationships *Less youth entering the justice system *Healthy social and emotional behaviors It would be great to live in a city where students don't have to worry about what is going to happen to them , achieving this will take collaborating, support and team approach for success to happen. References: www.minorityreporter.net -March 2012 www.noys.org - National Organization for Youth Safety www.cybersafetyacademy.com www.stopbullying.gov www.bullyingstatistics.org www.olweus.org/public/bullying.page www.makebeatsnotbeatdowns.org/facts_new.html www.eyesonbullying.org/bystander.html www.cdc.gov www.stopbullynow.hrsa.gov/kids/ www.safekidszone.com