Bullying has historically had many different manifestations, views, stereotypes, and even names. Some views, including those of parents and teachers, have considered things such as “teasing” to be a “rite of passage” or something that they tell children will stop as those bullying children age and “grow out of it”. However, as research and reporting reflect, bullying is not a simple developmental “phase”, and, often, as those bullies progress in age, physical stature, and “popularity”, the bullying typically continues to expand and escalate. Ultimately, this can result in significant emotional and developmental trauma, and, unfortunately, as seen in current statistics, an increased risk for suicide and other forms of self-harm. Subsequently, it is important to understand what bullying is, and what it is not.
Dan Olweus is generally recognized for creating the seminal definition of bullying in 2010 – one that continues to be primarily utilized today to operationally represent the actions of bullies and those who are being bullied. Specifically: 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.
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
In his writings, Dr. Olweus is very clear that bullying is peer abuse that should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Today, an increasing number of States have adopted laws against bullying. This will be addressed later in the chapter.
In a comprehensive overview of current bullying prevention research conducted by governmental and higher education agencies, specifically, the National Bullying Prevention Center and the National Center for Education Statistics reported that:
· One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied.
· A higher percentage of male than of female students report being physically bullied (6% vs. 4%), whereas a higher percentage of female than of male students reported being the subjects of rumors (18% vs. 9%) and being excluded from activities on purpose (7% vs. 4%).
· 41% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they think the bullying would happen again.
· Of those students who reported being bullied, 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 13% were the subject of rumors; 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose.
· A slightly higher portion of female than of male students report being bullied at school (24% vs. 17%).
· Bullied students reported that bullying occurred in the following places:
o the hallway or stairwell at school (43%),
o inside the classroom (42%),
o in the cafeteria (27%),
o outside on school grounds (22%),
o online or by text (15%),
o in the bathroom or locker room (12%),
o and on the school bus (8%).
· The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation.
Additionally, statistics for a very vulnerable group – specifically, Tweens (9-12 years old) – indicated:
· One in five (20.9%) tweens has been cyberbullied, cyberbullied others, or seen cyberbullying.
· 49.8% of tweens said they experienced bullying at school and 14.5% of tweens shared they experienced bullying online.
· 13% of tweens reported experiencing bullying at school and online, while only 1% reported being bullied solely online.
Cyberbullying: Unique Characteristics
Cyber bullying is bullying through email, instant messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images send to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). Cyber bullying has some rather unique characteristics that are different from traditional bullying:
As bad as the "bully" on the playground may be, he or she can be readily identified and potentially avoided. On the other hand, the child who cyber bullies is often anonymous. The victim is left wondering who the cyber "bully" is, which can cause a great deal of stress.
Most children who use traditional ways of bullying terrorize their victim at school, on the bus, or walking to or from school. Although bullying can happen elsewhere in the community, there is usually a standard period of time during which these children have access to their victims. Children who cyber bully can wreak havoc any time of the day or night.
· Punitive Fears
Victims of cyber bullying often do not report it because of: (1) fear of retribution from their tormentors, and (2) fear that their computer or phone privileges will be taken away. Often, adults' responses to cyber bullying are to remove the technology from a victim - which in their eyes can be seen as punishment.
Most traditional bullying episodes occur in the presence of other people who assume the role of bystanders or witnesses. The phenomenon of being a bystander in the cyber world is different in that they may receive and forward emails, view web pages, forward images sent to cell phones, etc. The number of bystanders in the cyber world can reach into the millions.
The anonymity afforded by the Internet can lead children to engage in behaviors that they might not do face-to-face. Ironically, it is their very anonymity that allows some individuals to bully at all.
Common Forms of Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying can take many forms. However, there are six forms that are the most common.
· Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages
· Denigration: Distributing information about another that is derogatory and untrue through posting it on a Web page, sending it to others through email or instant messaging, or posting or sending digitally altered photos of someone
· Flaming: Online "fighting" using electronic messages with angry, vulgar language
· Impersonation: Breaking into an email or social networking account and using that person's online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others.
· Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone's secrets or embarrassing information, or tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information and forwarding it to others
· Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety (depending on the content of the message, it may be illegal)
Although no federal law directly addresses bullying, in some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it is based on race, national origin, color, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), age, disability, or religion. Federally-funded schools (including colleges and universities) have an obligation to resolve harassment on these bases.
When the situation is not adequately resolved, consider:
· Filing a formal grievance with the school district.
· Contacting the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division for help. How to file a discrimination complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (US Department of Education): https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html
At present, no federal law directly addresses bullying. In some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment, which is covered under federal civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice. No matter what label is used (e.g., bullying, hazing, teasing), schools are obligated by these laws to address the conduct when it meets all three criteria below. It is:
· Unwelcome and objectively offensive, such as derogatory language, intimidation, threats, physical contact, or physical violence;
· Creates a hostile environment at school. That is, it is sufficiently serious that it interferes with or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school; and is
· Based on a student's race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion
o Sex includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex traits. Sex also includes sex-based stereotypes and sexual harassment.
· National origin harassment can include harassment because a student speaks another language.
Further, federal civil rights laws cover harassment of LGBTQI+ youth. The Department of Education and Department of Justice have clarified that Title IX's prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.