Bullying is a topic that is often in the news in recent months. It is a concern for parents, schools and the community. Children who are bullied frequently have more absences from school and are more distracted and less able to focus on their schoolwork. They may have greater trouble in succeeding in school and later in life.
A recent survey of students in several local school districts provided some data on bullying locally. One in five students in grades four through 12 reported on the survey that they had been physically bullied at least once in the past 30 days, and two in five students reported that they had been verbally bullied at least once in the past 30 days. Thirteen percent of the students surveyed reported that they had physically bullied another student at least once in the past 30 days, and 24 percent reported that they had verbally bullied another student during that time frame.
Other interesting information found on this survey comes in the form of student attitudes about bullying. Twenty-eight percent — more than one in four — students believe that bullying often helps the bullied person by making him or her stronger. Two out of three students believe that most of the teasing that they see is done in fun and not to hurt someone’s feelings. Of the students surveyed, two out of five believe that the bullies are usually more popular than other students at their schools. When asked what they do when they see a student being bullied, four out of five students would sometimes or usually seek immediate help from an adult. When this information is broken down by elementary, middle and high school grades, the number who would seek help from an adult increases as the students get older. Three out of four students report that they would try to stop the bully, and a similar number would offer the bullied student support or assistance. The majority of students surveyed believe that both students, and teachers and administrators could do more to stop bullying. The percentage of students who believe this is higher in the lower grades.
Bullying is not something that happens in other places but not here. It is not just the problem of the schools. It has an impact on the entire community, and is something about which all members of the community should care. Not all children who are bullied show signs that it is happening. Children who are being bullied often do not report it because they want to try to handle it on their own, they do not want to be seen as a tattletale, they fear backlash from the bully, they do not want to be judged by adults as being weak, and they may already feel socially isolated and do not want to be further rejected by their peers. There are, however, some signs that may point to bullying. According to www.stopbullying.gov, some signs that a child is being bullied are:
- Unexplained injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books or electronics
- Changes in eating habits
- Trouble sleeping
- Increasingly poor school performance
- Decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behavior
It is important to remember that the bully may also have some issues that need to be addressed, not necessarily just through punishment. Signs that a child may be bullying other children are:
- Participation in physical and verbal fights
- Friendships with known bullies
- Increased aggressiveness
- New belongings that parents do not recognize
- Increased suspensions or trips to the principal’s office
- An inability to accept responsibility for their own actions
Adults in a community can all participate in stopping bullying. Youth workers, such as coaches, recreation staff, after-school providers, Scout leaders and others can reinforce anti-bullying messages. All adults can work with others in the community to give positive messages to children and to let them know that there are caring adults with whom a child can feel free to talk if something is troubling him or her. Different organizations that have existing partnerships can collaborate to help form a community strategy against bullying. If members of a community can develop a shared vision about bullying and its impact, it will be easier to form a shared vision for how to combat it.