Bullying Behavior: What Is the Potential for Violence at Your School?

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research was to develop an instrument that might identify those schools that are more prone to the occurrence of violence. A secondary purpose was to identify a number of indicators or signs that might indicate that violence was likely to occur. A factor analysis revealed that the instrument has five factors. The authors conclude that the instrument provides useful data to assist school officials in developing a plan to reduce bullying behaviors. It identifies those behaviors that are potential problems and where and when bullying occurs. School officials are cautioned not to rely on survey data alone in dealing with bullying behavior. There are a number of indicators or signs that can be observed in the student body if the faculty is sensitized to the indicators. A list of these indicators is provided.

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Seventy-five percent of adolescents have been bullied while attending school (Peterson, 1999). Newspaper articles with similar statistics dealing with bullying behavior are becoming more commonplace. Beane (1999), in a book on the topic, stated that one in seven children is subjected to bullying behavior and that it affects about five million elementary and junior high students. Bullying behavior played some role in all the school shootings during the past two years. Not only do victims of bullying behavior bear emotional scars that can lead to violence, the victim of bullying behavior is frequently disliked by peers (Peterson, 1999). This double whammy, so to speak, of being picked on by a bully and ostracized by peers can have devastating consequences. According to Beale (2001), bullying behavior has detrimental effects for both the victim and the bully. Children identified as bullies are three times more likely to break the law by age 30. Victims on the other hand, suffer academically and socially with suicide being one of the most drastic repercussions.

Bullying behavior can take many forms. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual (U. S. Department of Education, 1999). School officials are quick to respond to physical bullying because it is usually visual and easy to see. Verbal and emotional bullying in the form of taunting, teasing, rejection, humiliation, etc. are often not seen and if seen sometimes tolerated. According to Brendtro (2001) hundreds of thousands of students are teased and taunted each day. He states that ridicule is a form of bullying behavior that is designed to make a person the object of scorn or derision. Further, he reported that teachers noticed and intervened in only one out of 25 episodes of verbal or emotional bullying behavior.

The death of a Georgia student in Cherokee County due to bullying attracted national attention to the issue of bullying in November of 1998. Recognizing the severity of the problem, state lawmakers in Georgia passed a law to deal with bullying behavior. The law went into effect on July 1, 1999 and bullying was defined as follows:

* any willful attempt to inflict injury on another person, when accompanied by an apparent present ability to do so; or

* any intentional display of force such as would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.

As a result of the law, all school district officials are to adopt policies that deal with weapons and bullying behavior. Further, three time offenders are to be sent to alternative schools.

The development of bullying behavior starts in elementary school, with the highest frequency of bullying behavior occurring in middle school. Bullying behavior somewhat decreases in high school, yet is sometimes given more attention due to the physical size of students and nature of some incidences to contain sexual harassment (Vail, 1999). Research indicates that if school officials want to protect students against acts of victimization by their peers, they will have to use a school-wide systemic approach to prevent and respond to bullying behavior (Clarke and Kiselica, 1997). …