Bullying: A Social Issue That the School System Ignores
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself”. – Harvey S. Firestone The Issue
Strong, influential and cruel are just some of the words that come to mind when you hear the word bully. In American culture, bullying among children and teenagers has often been dismissed as a normal part of growing up. Little attention has been paid to the devastating effects of bullying, or to the connection between bullying and other forms of violence. Bullying in the American educational system is a significant social issue that it is steadily increasing. Many experts fear bullying has become so widespread and common; the general public is blinded to its destructive and sometimes deadly nature. According to the ‘Facts about Bullying’, “…one in seven students is either a bully or victim. About 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school, 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school, 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school. One out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school” (Borba, 1999). Bullying can be linked to several violent acts that have occurred in many schools across the country. Bullying is also being blamed for violent acts in institutions of higher learning i.e. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, but all involve a person or a group repeatedly trying to harm someone who is perceived to be weaker or more vulnerable. It can involve direct attacks (physical harm, intimidation, theft etc.) or more subtle, indirect attacks (such as spreading rumors or encouraging others to reject or exclude someone) (SafeYouth, n.d.). The newest form of harassment being used on today’s youth comes in the form of text messaging, emails and blogs; cyber-bullying has expanded bullying to a 24/7 problem that is rapidly getting out of hand. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “…children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. Some victims of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to endure such harassment and punishment” (AACAP, 2008). Many solutions have been offered to curb the violent acts that bullying can bring but the most simply solution comes in the form of speaking up and speaking out. Most bullying is dismissed because many children do not express their torment until it is too late or for many they never express it. Nature of the Problem
Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society; between 15% and 30% of students are bullies or victims. Between 1994 and 1999, there were 253 violent deaths in school, 51 casualties were the result of multiple death events (Canter & Cohn, 2003). Bullying is often a factor in school related deaths. Direct, physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant (Canter & Cohn, 2003). Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective; 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying or putdowns and consequently intervene in only 4% of bullying incidents (Canter & Cohn, 2003). Most victims are targeted due to physical or perceived differences than the social norm acknowledges, i.e. sexual orientation, ethnicity, social or economic status, mental or physical disabilities or even degrees of perceived attractiveness (tall, short, fat, skinny etc). Many school shooting and child suicide cases have been directly related to some form of bullying. The...