I used to get bullied, and
I didn’t know what to do
I wouldn’t want to come to school
I’d pretend I had the flu
But now things are so different
School’s a better place to be
Because of the peer mentors
And what they did for me.
Natalie is not alone in her experience with school bullying. In fact, thirty-six states have passed anti-bullying legislation which is indicative of the growing concern over bullying in schools.
The tipping point has been the school shootings in which three-fourths of the shooters’ school histories are indicative of being a victim or experiencing ongoing harassment. Additionally, 75% of students who carried weapons at school brought them to attack others because they felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or previously injured by others while at school. (Data from the Secret Service Safe Schools Initiative
On a related issue, 50% of boys and 30% of girls who admitted bullying others at school carried a weapon. Conversely, 36% of boys and 15% of girls who were bullied reported carrying a weapon.
Clearly, bullying has captured the nation’s attention. Research indicates that 30% of middle school students report being involved in bullying within the last semester. Victims make up 17% and perpetrators make up 19%. Forty-eight percent of elementary school students report being bullied within the last year.
What is bullying and how does it differ from fighting? Bullying has three components. 1. Negative behavior with the intent of harming. 2. Behavior repeated over the course of time. 3. A relationship in which there is an imbalance of power between the victim and bully. Boys’ bullying often takes on the look of physical bullying, including fighting, hitting, kicking or shoving. A common characteristic of the victim is that they have difficulty defending themselves.
Both girls and boys are victims and bullies. Girls type of bullying usually takes the form of non-verbal threatening and can look like isolation or exclusion from group activities or shun. A recent movie portrayed that behavior in a film called Mean Girls.
Bullying can have serious consequences for both victim and bully. Research indicates that victims can show signs of headaches, stomachaches, depression, misplaced aggression and difficulty with relationships and academics.
Bullies also suffer as a result of the socially unacceptable behavior going unchecked. Unchecked bullies are three times more likely as their non-bullying peers to end up with a criminal conviction by age 24. Research indicates that bullies are in desperate need of positive, pro-social role models including peers and adults.
Schools have wrestled with bullying programs for years. The next section will deal with schools and programs that work and those that don’t.