In 2005, The Code of Virginia was amended to address bullying, harassment, and intimidation. The new legislation states (1) character education should address the inappropriateness of bullying, (2) each school board code of conduct should include prohibitions against bullying, (3) stalking is added to the incidents that must be reported to the superintendent and principal, (4) the principal must notify parents when their child has been the victim of an act that may constitute a criminal offense, and let them know that they have contacted local law enforcement and can obtain further information from them, and (5) school staff who report bullying or other crimes against others are not liable for civil damages.
Questions and Answers
- What is bullying?
- What are the different forms or kinds of bullying?
- What are the facts?
- What about the role of character education in preventing bullying?
- Why shouldn’t we use conflict resolution or peer mediation to address bullying issues?
- Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength. It is repeated over time and the person being bullied has a difficult time defending him or herself. Bullying can take many forms such as: hitting or punching (physical bullying); teasing or name calling (verbal bullying); intimidation through gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal or emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages via the internet (cyber bullying).A commonly used definition is: a person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself (Dan Olweus, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do).
- There are several different forms of bullying – direct and indirect forms. In direct forms, bullying involves relatively open attacks, usually in a face-to-face confrontation. Typical examples of direct bullying include verbal bullying with derogatory comments and nasty names, and physical bullying with hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting. In indirect bullying, the aggressive acts are more concealed and subtle, and it may be more difficult for the bullied student to know who is responsible for the bullying. Typical examples include social isolation, intentionally excluding someone from a group or activity and spreading lies and nasty rumors. Several forms of cyberbullying may also be considered indirect in the sense that nasty messages are delivered from a distance and not in a face-to-face way.
- Fifteen to twenty-five percent of US students are bullied with some frequency while 15-20% report that they bully others with some frequency (Melton et al., 1998; Nancel et al., 2001).
- Males were more likely than females to be both perpetrators and targets of bullying.The frequency of bullying was higher among 6th through 8th-grade students than among 9th and 10th-grade students (JAMA, April 25, 2001).
- Verbal bullying is the most frequent form of bullying experienced by both boys and girls.Boys are more likely to be physically bullied by their peers (Olweus, 1993; Nansel et al., 2001); girls are more likely to report being targets of rumor spreading and sexual comments (Nancel et al., 2001).Girls are more likely to bully each other through social exclusion (Olweus, 2002).
- Children who are bullied are more likely than other children to be depressed, lonely, anxious, have low self-esteem, feel unwell, and think about suicide (Limber, 2002; Olweus, 1993).
- Children and youth who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to get into frequent fights, be injured in a fight, vandalize or steal property, drink alcohol, smoke, be truant from school, drop out of school, and carry a weapon (Nansel et al., 2003; Olweus, 1993).
- Bullying creates a climate of fear and disrespect in schools and has a negative impact on student learning (NEA, 2003).Bullying has an impact on other students at school who are bystanders to bullying (Banks, 1997).
- Seventy percent of teachers, in one study, believed they intervene “almost always” in bullying situations; only 25% of students agreed with this assessment (Charach et al., 1995).
- A high quality and integrated character education program can be an important asset to create an effective, safe and welcoming school for all students. Elements of character are expressed through words, actions and within the overarching spirit of the school. Generally speaking character education should promote civility which includes respect for all individuals. Standards of civility create the same expectations of behavior for everyone regardless of who they are or where they come from.
- One of the main characteristics of bullying is an imbalance of power, it cannot be considered “normal” relational conflict between two students. Bullying is a form of peer abuse, and the student who is being bullied needs to be protected from such victimization. Because of the difference in power between the student or students who bully and the student who is being bullies, conflict resolution or peer mediation strategies should not be used to address bullying problems. Here are more reasons why:
- a. Peer mediation/conflict resolution programs assume there is a bit of both right and wrong on both sides. These programs work toward a compromise that, in the case of bullying, could mean further victimization of the student who has been bullied.
- b. Another common assumption is such programs is that both parties have about the same negotiating power. This is usually not the case in bullying situations where there is an imbalance in power in favor of the student(s) who bully.
- c. In peer mediation/conflict resolution programs, the mediator is told not to take a moral stand on the issue at hand. In the case of bullying, it is very important that the adults take a moral stand and clearly communicate that bullying is not acceptable.
- d. Conflict resolution/peer mediation programs leave most of the responsibility for solving bullying problems to the students. Such problems are often complex an difficult to handle.