Some Thoughts On Bullying

Cross-posted on the Burlington High School Principal’s Blog

There’s no doubt that the release of the documentary Bully will lead to some deeper discussion on bullying and what we can do to reduce the number of incidences of bullying in our schools and communities.  Discovery News posted a great article on the topic last week titled Why Do People Bully? and I think that this a question that we miss sometimes after hearing the horrific endings to some cases of bullying on local and national news.

While the uproar leads to a renewed focus on punishing bullies, I think it moves us further away from the solution.  In order to reduce bullying, we need to see what causes it and ensure that our schools educate students and establish cultures of care which do not tolerate the mistreatment of any student.

Here are a few of the excerpts from the Discovery article that we need to keep in mind:

  • “But now we’ve shown that there is a peer socialization process — that bullies tend to have more friends,” said bullying expert Dorothy Espelage, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • experts agree that peer influence is crucial in accounting for bullying. “If your peer group says that pushing and shoving and spitting on people or spreading lies is O.K., even though you may have been taught differently in your home, you lose your moral compass,” Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the United States, based in Clemson, S.C.. 
  • Indeed, experts agree that peer influence is crucial in accounting for bullying. “If your peer group says that pushing and shoving and spitting on people or spreading lies is O.K., even though you may have been taught differently in your home, you lose your moral compass,” Snyder said.

Finally, the most important statements from a district-wide or community-wide perspective are the following:

  • “The reality is we’re not talking to kids early enough and long enough about bullying and healthy relationships,” Espelage said.
  • Snyder emphasized that the definition of bullying is important: “It is not just kids being kids,” she said. “A person who bullies intentionally picks out someone that they know is weaker than themselves so that they can intimidate, harass or humiliate them to do their bidding. It is a misuse of their power. This behavior is usually repeated and of course this power differential is there.” 

All this reminded me of a great anti-bullying video (below) I saw called “The Price of Silence.” While my initial thinking was that I would be proud to have a playground occurrence like this happen in Burlington, the real victory would be if we never had to have a student actually stand up to a bully!

 

4 comments for “Some Thoughts On Bullying

  1. Jan
    April 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    There is so much research regarding peer influence as in this article. We have used a social norms strategy that empowers student influence (different from student leadership)in over 60 schools and communities that is showing great results. Instead of students implementing just another adult’s good idea, this stragtegy is totally student created, student-led and only adult-facilitated. Campaigns are youth-centric and harnessing the untapped power hiding in plain sight!

  2. kharris
    June 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    It is essential to allow students to take part in developing programs amd making decisions regarding their well-being. Students become more involved and take ownership. Early intervention is important. Punishment is a temporaty fix, and the root cause needs to be determined. In-depth research needs to focus on socialization, development, and behavior patterns that may lead to bullying and even being a victim of bullying.

  3. Dominic
    July 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    As was stated in the article, peer influence is a major contributor to bullying. That is why early intervention meaning starting in the early years JK and SK and all the way through to high school is imperative. The goal should be that peer influence stops any potetial acts of bullying. Teaching young children why bullies bully might help stop people from bullying in the first place.

  4. Jeremy
    November 22, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Until we begin to address heteronormativity in schools and begin to truly teach acceptance of all, we will always have bullying in schools. From the top down, we must say out loud that being different is OK.

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