Bullying, Harassment and Violence among Students

By Stein, Nan | Radical Teacher, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Bullying, Harassment and Violence among Students

Stein, Nan, Radical Teacher


Our nation's elementary and secondary schools are filled with abundant examples of student-to-student gender-based harassment and violence. Despite requirements for compliance and monitoring articulated in state and federal laws, and continuing guidance issued by federal agencies and the federal courts on federal law Title IX, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 to eliminate sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance (nearly all public K-12 schools and all public and private universities/colleges), contemporary surveys attest to the ugly entrenchment of sexual and gender harassment in our schools (AAUW, 1993, 2001; Human Riuhts Watch. 2001; GLSEN, 2005). But sexual or gender-based harassment rarely show up in any of the standard analyses of school violence. Gender is missing.

This essay considers the erasure of gender- and sexuality-based harassment that occurs when schools frame all violence as bullying, under the current post-Columbine regime known as "zero tolerance." The zero-tolerance mania, which disproportionately affects students of color, is part of the pervasive punitive ideology and social policy that also includes trying minors as adults, deterrence theories, and mandatory sentencing. Educators now include bullying behaviors under the ever-broadening umbrella of zero tolerance. Schools proudly state that they will not tolerate bullies; there are bullybuster posters around school buildings and new rules to cover bullying, and eradicating bullies is all the rage with state legislators, school officials, and consultants. Bullying, a psychological concept, has evolved to include any act of meanness, exclusion (i.e. saving a seat for a friend, or even uttering preference for one person over another), threats of any sort, as well as physical assaults.

The zero tolerance approach has taken over the good senses of the educational and legislative establishments. What has gotten lost in this surge of attention and new laws that impose a rather expansive notion of bullying in schools are the rights of students to go to school in an environment that is gender-safe, and free from gender-based harassment and violence.

The extremely popular framework of bullying represents a problematic formulation of violence as it both degenders harassment and removes it from the discourse of rights by placing it into a more psychological, pathologizing realm. Objections to these antibullying efforts embodied both in the new laws and the training efforts that have accompanied them are multiple: (1) the laws largely do not hold school administrators liable in the same ways to resolve the problems that federal civil rights in education laws, like Title IX, require but instead put the onus of solving the problem on the victim; (2) most of these anti-bullying laws are overly broad and arbitrary, with the result that students are suspended or expelled from schools for a variety of minor infractions; and (3) sometimes egregious behaviors are framed as bullying when in fact they may constitute illegal sexual or gender harassment or even hazing or assault (Stein, 2003; Stein, 2005).

In the United States, the discourse around bullying is a relatively new phenomenon, in large part imported from Europe and research conducted there since the 1970s (e.g. Ahmad & Smith, 1994; Olweus, 1993). Prior to the emphasis on bullying as a new trend for U.S. educators and researchers, redress of injustices and wrongs were addressed through civil and constitutional rights (Whalen & Whalen, 1985). However, those linkages and legacies are now in jeopardy: the discourse of bullying may obliterate the rights discourse (Stein, 2003).


Psychologists seem to dominate the field of bullying research and seem largely unfamiliar with nearly 30 years of research from the fields of education, sociology, anthropology, and feminist legal scholarship.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Bullying, Harassment and Violence among Students


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?