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Bullying in the Schools: Occurrence and Implications

What is bullying?

  • The repeated and ongoing negative action toward one or more students
  • The victim, typically someone viewed as powerless & not retaliatory, is sought out by another, who is characteristically seen as physically powerful or dominant
  • The act of constant aggression toward another individual who lacks the same power
  • Different types of bullying – Bullying can be direct or indirect
    • Verbal or physical aggression (name-calling, threatening others, hitting, kicking, beating someone up)
    • Facial or other body gestures
    • Cyberbullying (bullying someone through the Internet/technology)
    • Intentional exclusion or refusal tcomply with another person’s wishes
    • Derogatory speculation about sexual orientation may be seen as bullying

Who is bullied?

  • Studies show that between 15%-20% of students are bullied
  • Bullying increased by 5% between 1999 and 2001
  • Most students who are bullied are seen as weak (physically and/or socially)
  • Boys and girls are equally at risk of being bullied (middle school boys are more often bullied than others)
    • Boys are more likely to be physically bullied
    • Girls are more likely to spread rumors or to exclude other girls

What does someone look like who is being bullied?

Signs that someone may be bullied:

  • Comes home from school with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or belongings
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, or scratches
  • Few (if any) friends with whom he or she spends time
  • Lost interest in doing schoolwork, suddenly begins to do poorly in school

Mental health symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Isolation
  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Violent or self-destructive behavior
  • Lack of hope
  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of hurting/killing self
  • Sleep difficulties/Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite

Physical symptoms (if frequent):

  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Other physical ailments
  • Academic problems

School behavior:

  • School refusal (fear of going to school or riding school bus)
  • Staying away from hallways or restrooms
  • Switching schools without obvious reason(s)
  • “Hanging out” in the office, other classrooms, or a secret corner during lunch and/or break time(s)
  • Scoping out a map of the school and taking the same route every day through “safe havens” tavoid being bullied

Other things to know about kids who are bullied

  • Most students who are bullied do not tell anyone
  • Aggressive students who are bullied are more likely to become very violent (i.e., shooting a gun, starting a fire, becoming a bully)
  • These students also are more likely to start engaging in self-harmful or self-destructive behaviors (i.e., smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, taking drugs)

How to get help if you or someone you know is getting bullied

Talk with someone as soon as you suspect bullying!

  • Parents – Talk with your child or child’s school (even if you just suspect)
  • Kids – Talk to your parent, teacher, or a trusted adult
  • Don’t fight back – calmly tell the bully to stop (or say nothing then walk away)
  • Use humor to neutralize the bully’s mean comments
  • Try to avoid places where bullying is more likely thappen
  • Don’t show anger or fear
  • Seek out local mental health services, as necessary

How to start a conversation with your child if you suspect he/she is being bullied

  • “I’m worried about you – are there any kids at school who are picking on you?”
  • “Are there any kids at school who leave you out on purpose?” 
  • “Do you have any good friends at school this year? Who do you hang out with?”
  • “Are there any kids at school who you don’t like? Why don’t you like them?”

How to talk to your child’s school if you suspect he/she is being bullied

  • Set up an appointment to talk to your child’s teacher & share your concerns.  “How does my child get along with other students in his/her class?” “With whom does my child spend his/her free time?”  “Have you noticed or ever suspected that my child is being bullied by other  students (give specific examples)?” 
  • Ask your child’s teacher to talk with other people at school, or set up an appointment to talk to the guidance counselor or principal to discuss your concerns.

Selected Online Resources for Families (listed alphabetically)

Center for the Treatment & Study of Traumatic Stress
Summa St. Thomas Hospital
444 North Main Street Ambulatory Building,
Suite 420 Akron, OH 44310
Ph: (330) 379-5094
Fax: (330) 379-5095