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Bullying behaviors in school remains a major issue even today. Behaviors such as physical aggression, taunting, teasing, name-calling, threatening, social exclusion, and harassment have negative effects both socially and academically for students engaging in the behaviors and those targeted. They may become anxious and depressed, isolate themselves from peer groups, or even avoid school for fear of being bullied. Prevalence estimates suggest that bullying behavior is not limited to an isolated few students, but occurs across all strata and subgroups in most schools (Bradshaw & Waasdorp, 2011). Male students are more likely than female students to engage in these bullying activities and there is a rise in bullying during transition periods such as moving from middle school to high school. Children and youth who engage in bullying behavior may have a physical advantage, higher social status, or power in numbers, whereas those who are targeted by bullies are likely to be smaller in stature, poor or of different culture.
There have been many programs suggested over the years to help prevent bullying behavior. One of these approaches to prevention is to build a positive environment for all students and to teach constructive responses. Holding school assemblies with speakers who highlight the harmful effects of bullying and to teach students how to identify bullies, then follow up with a focus on catching these students in the act and providing increasingly severe punishment. Additional programs may include conflict resolution, peer support systems, or working with individuals identified as bullies. Often, anti-bullying programs are implemented as a response to an already significant bullying problem. However, aggressive behavior developed at a young age tends to endure and escalate as the individual moves into late childhood and adolescence (Berthold & Hoover, 2000; Kellam, Rebok, Ialongo, & Mayer, 1994). Once these patterns of behavior become established in schools, intervention can be difficult. Schools respond to bullying by implementing more rules and applying more severe consequences, and if that does not work, the response is to make consequences more severe.
Bullies often hold negative opinion of others, have difficulty resolving problems, and come from a hostile family associated with poor parental monitoring and authoritarian discipline styles. Bullies who observe these aggressive acts tend to view violence positively and model a need for power with enjoyment in hurting others. Thatís why as teachers, beings a key influence in a studentís life, need to place a key focus on understanding the underlying problems of why these students are acting the way they are. Too often, school personnel focus on unwanted behaviors, and provide punitive consequences when these behaviors are observed. Rigby and Bagshaw (2003) found that approximately 50% of the adolescent participants perceived that teachers were more likely to yell at the bullies, a response that reinforces the same techniques used by the bully. When school policy is designed to punish unwanted behavior, students may not know what behavior is desired, and long-term behavioral change may not occur.
Bullying often occurs when supervision is lacking, such as on the playground. Yet, even with greater attention to supervision and monitoring, teachers and other school personnel often do not recognize bullying incidents or the frequency of this behavior. Also, they do not always accurately identify the bully, often lack confidence in their ability to deal with a bullying situation, and tend to underreport these incidents. When educators dismiss bullying behaviors and do not intervene, it appears as if they support aggressive behaviors. Thus, when students believe that the school culture is one that ignores bullying, they are less likely to seek help. That is why we must pay close attention and make sure we have interventions ready to go when these kinds of issues arise.
Bullying is a social concern and schools have an obligation to be active to prevent bullying behaviors. Collaborative approaches amongst teachers, school counselors, and families bring about a positive attitude in which the skills of educators support one another for the benefit of the students. We share school-wide considerations for bullying policies, and how school counselors, educators and parents can all lend their expertise to encourage and advance young adolescent development while also teaching and learning preventive strategies to reduce bullying behaviors in schools.
ē Heinrichs, R. R. (2003). A Whole-School Approach to Bullying: Special Considerations for
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Abuse, Social psychology, Persecution, Bullying, Aggression, Youth, School bullying, Workplace bullying
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