Whether you call it harassment, intimidation, or bullying, this form of violence affects many school children each day as they enter their classrooms. Bullying is defined as having three essential components: (1) aggressive behavior that involves unwanted negative actions; (2) a pattern of behavior repeated over time; and (3) an imbalance of power or strength (Olweus, nd). Bullying is not a new phenomenon in schools. It has been prevalent for decades, but the recent reports of suicide amongst bullied children, as well as school shootings as “pay back” for the torment, is rising in alarming rates. Physical taunting, such as hitting and spitting, along with verbal name calling and malicious threats, turn school environments into a climate of fear and terror for these children.
Psychologically, children are affected when they are socially excluded, have vicious rumors spread about them or are humiliated daily (Ericson, 2001). The impacts of bullying follow these children into adulthood, leading to depression, mental health issues and physical problems that affect the healthcare system. Programs that recognize, intervene, and prevent bullying must be implemented in schools to prevent the long-term health issues that will arise in coming years. As a community, a clear message must be sent to ensure that bullying will not be tolerated in schools, consequences will be executed for those defying the programs and that a safe, risk free environment will be provided for all children. The former mentality of “kids will be kids” will no longer be tolerated.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can be seen in a variety of behaviors. Dan Olweus, a pioneer in the study of bullying and the author of The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus, nd), defines various types of bullying that affect the health and welfare of school-age children. The nine most prominent are:
1. Verbal bullying including derogatory comments and bad names;
2. Bullying through social isolation;
3. Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving or spitting;
4. Bullying through lies and false rumors;
5. Having money taken or things damaged by students who bully;
6. Being threatened or forced to do things by students who bully; 7. Racial bullying;
8. Sexual bullying;
9. Cyber bullying including cell phones and Internet (Olweus, nd).
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found that 17 percent of surveyed children responded to having been bullied by others sometimes or weekly, 19 percent had bullied others sometimes or weekly, and 6 percent had both bullied others and were bullied themselves. The survey, the first nationwide research on bullying in the United States, questioned 15,686 public and private school students in grades six through ten. Through this research, it was found that 1.6 million children were bullied at least once a week and 1.7 million children bully others just as frequently (Ericson, 2001).
Effects of Bullying
The American Medical Association recognizes bullying as a public health problem that leads its victims to suffer from healthcare issues. Forums are held by researchers and healthcare professionals to combat the effects and problems associated with bullying. Among the hindrances identified by researchers and experienced by those who are bullied are headaches, sleep problems, stomach troubles, low self-esteem, depression, loneliness, and thoughts of suicide (Fleming & Towey, 2002).
Researchers have found that as many as 160,000 students stay home from school on any given day for fear of being bullied (Fleming & Towey, 2002). Students have a right to feel safe in school and receive the stress free education they deserve. The AMA recognizes that bullying is not just an educational problem or strictly a problem to be addressed by schools and parents. It is understood that this is a healthcare issue that must also be taught to be recognized in medical and nursing schools alike (Fleming & Towey, 2002).
Currently forty-five states have anti-bullying laws. The state of South Carolina adopted anti-bullying legislation in 2006. Current legislation mandates each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying at school. The school district must involve parents and guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators, and community representatives in the process of creating the policy (National Association of State Boards of Education, 2009).
Most states have suitable laws that reflect what bullying is, how it affects the victim and what school districts must do to decrease the harassment. While this anti-bullying legislation looks perfect on paper, what many school districts lack is enforcement of these regulations within their schools. In January 2010, 15 year old Phoebe Prince from South Hadley, Massachusetts, hanged herself after being harassed and bullied for months from students at her high school. School officials failed to stop it, even though the bullying was “common knowledge” for months. Phoebe’s mother twice complained to school staffers, and some bullying was witnessed by teachers (Hampson, 2010).
Goals and Recommended Solutions
The goal is not only to design effective school policy on bullying but to make it crucial to implement and impose its content. A zero-tolerance disciplinary policy must be adopted which would enforce expulsions for fighting, bullying, and violent behaviors (Almond, 2008). Evaluating the policy’s effectiveness to assess the safety and security of the school and identify actions that can make improvements can be accomplished through student and parent surveys. Reports of bullying from victims and teachers will heighten community awareness and will determine whether changes in policy or law must be initiated. It is also necessary to have everyone on the local level involved.
Not only school officials and educators, but janitors, lunchroom workers, school nurses, and parents must be willing to make bullying education part of the school curriculum and eager to contribute to the programs. Keeping abreast of current anti-bullying information is essential. Web sites like www.bullyinginfo.org and www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov provide current data and resources associated with bullying (Rudolph, 2010).
In October 2010, the South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) initiated the Bullying Prevention Initiative through a federal grant (Long, 2010). They are selecting four pilot schools in the state to execute the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which is known to decrease bullying by 25 to 50 percent if properly instituted. The training is not mandated by state law and costs about $2000 dollars per elementary school (Long, 2010). Many school officials are hesitant to begin the program because of the cost, but how can we put a price on the safety and health of children? Conclusion
To allow bullying to take place in any school is a travesty. The devastating effects may impact children for their entire lives. Healthcare providers, educators, local government, and parents must work together to bring this healthcare issue to a halt. Enforcement of policies must be taken seriously and consequences enforced. This problem affects thousands of students daily and can no longer be tolerated. Suicide and health implications do not occur from “child’s play.” Bullying is a form of terrorism, and those who oppress and torment others must be disciplined for their actions.
Almond, L. (2008). School Violence. (pp 19). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press. Ericson, N. (2001). Addressing the Problem of Juvenile Bullying (Vol. 27). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Fleming,M and Towey, K,( Eds.) (2002). Educational Forum on Adolescent Health: Youth Bullying. Chicago: American Medical Association. Retrieved from
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/39/youthbullying.pdf Hampson, R. (2010, April 4). A Watershed Case in School Bullying. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-04-04-bullying_N.htm Kaiser, C. (2009, May 29). Call bullying what it is: terrorizing. Philadelphia Health Care Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/health-care-in-philadelphia/call-bullying-what-it-is-terrorizing?r Long, M. (2010, October 26). Educators introduce new