According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying is a widespread problem in the United States. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey for 2013 found that 19.6 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 reported feeling bullied on school property, and 14.8 percent of students reported feeling bullied electronically (cyber bullied) during the 12 months prior to the survey. Although this survey was large and comprehensive, analyzing 13,583 questionnaires from students in 148 public and private schools nationwide, its estimates on bullying still differ from those of other surveys. This is not unusual.
According to the CDC, statistics on the prevalence of bullying in schools vary widely due to differences in definitions and reporting methods. Depending on the source, estimates of bullying range from 13 to 75 percent of the children surveyed. Despite the variation in estimates, the CDC reports that “these estimates consistently indicate that a considerable amount of youths are bullied.”
Although bullying can happen anywhere that children congregate, most of it occurs inside the school building, on school grounds, or on the bus. This means teachers and administrators have a primary responsibility to think of ways to prevent bullying. The cost of inaction allows bullying to spread and become more serious – even dangerous – for its victims. To keep bullying from becoming an epidemic, it is essential that teachers recognize the signs of bullying and take immediate action to stop this type of behavior.
Definition of Bullying
In order to improve the consistency and comparability of data on bullying, the CDC consulted with bullying experts to develop a uniform definition of this type of behavior. The resulting report, released in 2014, defines bullying as, “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another group or youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.”
Bullying differs from normal schoolyard teasing or other types of aggression in that the behavior is repetitive and contains a power imbalance favoring the aggressor. These factors may make bullying more damaging to the victim than a random, single act of aggression.
Stopbullying.gov reports that there are three types of bullying:
Physical — using force against another. Examples include:
- Taking or damaging someone’s possessions
Verbal — using verbal or written communication to harm the target. Examples include:
- Calling someone names
- Threatening to harm another
- Writing mean notes
Social — actions that harm the social status or relationships of the victim. Examples include:
- Spreading rumors about the target
- Persuading students to shun someone
- Embarrassing the target in front of other students
- Deliberately preventing someone from participating in games or activities
Negative Effects of Bullying
Bullying behaviors have negative effects on both the victim and the perpetrator. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that children and adolescents who are bullied are at increased risk of:
- Social problems
- Adjustment problems at school
- Physical injury
Bullies are at an increased risk of:
- Substance abuse
- Poor academic performance
- Violence toward others in adulthood
Teacher’s Role in Preventing and Stopping Bullying
Research shows that bullying does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is heavily influenced by community and school norms and by the reaction of adults and children who witness the behavior, as well as the characteristics of the individual bully and societal factors. The actions teachers take after witnessing a bullying incident can have an enormous effect on the outcome. Teachers need to be equipped with ideas on how to prevent bullying in schools.
Creating a Safe School Environment
A safe environment starts with your school’s culture. A safe and supportive school environment is crucial in preventing bullying. It is essential to develop a school culture of respect for others, one that welcomes all students. One of the best ways to do this is to publicly post rules and policies for the student body and educators to follow. Some methods include:
- Setting up a reward system for students who show kindness and respect to peers and teachers
- Posting a code of conduct that clearly outlines the positive behaviors expected of students
- Writing a mission statement describing the school’s commitment to a learning environment free from violence, discrimination and bullying
Here is a sample mission statement from Stopbullying.gov:
“[Name of School] is committed to each student’s success in learning within a caring, responsive, and safe environment that is free of discrimination, violence, and bullying. Our school works to ensure that all students have the opportunity and support to develop to their fullest potential and share a personal and meaningful bond with people in the school community.”
Building a Non-Bully Zone in the Classroom
If you are a teacher, you can stop bullying before it happens by building a non-bully zone in your classroom. Here are some tips on how to stop bullying in school:
- Create and follow rules that support school policy.
- Treat students with respect, showing them by example how they should treat others.
- Always give directions in positive terms. Instead of telling students what not to do, tell them what to do.
- Support and encourage students to be the best they can be.
- Focus on a student’s positive behaviors rather than negative ones. Although negative behavior must be addressed, a teacher should give four or five acknowledgments of good behavior for every one reprimand for bad behavior.
- Give students negative feedback in private, never in public.
- Make sure students understand expectations. If they do not, patiently clarify the relevant points.
Although implementing these policies and procedures may take a lot of planning, they are not difficult to implement, and they will go far in making school a safe and happy learning environment for all students.