More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
School bullies: A problem that cannot be ignored
by Jayne Matthews, Baltimore Times

Bullying is more than a troubling school problem. Given its potential to leave physical and mental scars, some researchers consider bullying to be a major public health concern. Virginia Robinson, in an article dedicated to addressing emerging school health issues writes about a hidden, but equally insidious consequence of bullying.

?Rarely discussed is the role of bystanders?students or teachers?who watch bullying take place and do nothing to intervene. The students, in particular, may be 'secondary victims,' says psychologist Linda Jeffrey. The psychology of peer bystanders can be complex, Jeffrey points out, ranging from guilt, distress, fear, anxiety, discomfort, indignation, and anger to indifference or even enjoyment.

When the passive bystanders include teachers, the message is that bullying is condoned as a part of school life. In any case, she notes, by failing to intervene the bystander has passively supported bullying. Adults?teachers and school administrators?who see bullying or to whom it is reported have little training in how to respond and many prefer to take the view that bullying is a part of life, possibly even character building.

'What's the big deal?' was one teacher's response to a researcher seeking information about his school's experiences. Intercession by faculty or administrators, unless it is part of a school-wide emphasis on inclusion and bullying prevention, is widely believed to make things worse for the victim, not to stop the victimization.?

This teacher's response not withstanding, bullying is a big deal. It accounts for an alarming number of school absences. ?As many as seven percent of America's eighth graders stay at home at least once a month because of bullies?, says Dr. Dan Olweus. Internationally regarded as the ?founding father? of research on school bullying, Dr. Olweus acknowledges that kids picking on other kids is not a new problem.

However, he is very concerned by the growing number of students who have been assaulted by their classmates and the increasingly violent nature of the attacks. Research shows nearly 20 percent of students either are bullied or will have participated in bullying behaviors before they complete middle school. ?Direct bullying seems to increase throughout the elementary years, peak in the middle school years, and decline during the high school years.?

In order to begin to decrease the number of school attacks, it is important to dispel some of the myths of bullying. It may surprise parents and educators to learn that Dr. Olweus has found that ?bullies appear to possess strong self-esteem.? He says ?there is little evidence to support the belief that they [bullies] victimize others because they feel bad about themselves.?

His research also reveals, ?School size, racial composition and school setting (rural, suburban or urban) do not seem to be distinguishing factors in predicting the occurrence of bullying. Physical characteristics such as weight, dress or wearing eyeglasses do not appear to be significant factors that place a child at an increased risk of being victimized.?

However, there are some traits commonly found in bullies. ?Studies indicate that bullies often come from homes where physical punishment is used, where children are taught to strike back physically as a way to handle problems. They seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control; they appear to derive satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering on others. Often a bully will defend their actions by saying that their victim provoked them in some way.?

Children who are victims of bullying also fit a recognized profile. ?Typically they are anxious, insecure and cautious children who suffer from low self-esteem. Rarely do they defend themselves when confronted by students who bully them. Bullied children may lack social skills and tend to be close to their parents. The major defining physical characteristic of victims is that they tend to be physically weaker than their peers are.

These days bullying can be very dangerous and more than a child can be expected to handle without adult intervention. What can parents do if their child is a victim of bullying at school? Cindi Seddon, co-founder of the Bully B'ware program, is a teacher and school principal; she offers the following suggestions:

  • Contact your child's school, anonymously, and ask if there is a bullying policy.
  • Then, if assured your child will not be exposed to greater risk, inform them of the events that transpired, including a date, time and place.
  • Follow up with school authorities. Ask what action has been taken and how your child will be kept safe if his identity has been exposed.
  • Insist and expect that action be taken.


Just over 18 years too late..for me...and I discovered recently that someone in my old secondary school recently attempted suicide after bullying there. apparantly my old school has a really bad reputation for bullying. it started when I was there. although I was pretty much the only one. THE target. 10 whole years this group of 20+ girls got away with it. the teachers even did nothing when they were hurling wooden chairs across the classroom at me. and flicking ink all over me/my shirt....

I defended myself once, and then got all the blame.
I never tried again.

Noone ever tried to help me build confidence or self esteem. I existed in the shadows..

There are many anti-bullying programmes in UK schools, but they don't seem to work.

Uh, yeah, I get kind of fired up about this..
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