Bullying and Violence Issues in Children's Lives: Examining the Issues and Solutions
Harlin, Rebecca P., Childhood Education
Today's children may be exposed to violence in their environment, through the media, at home, and in school. Some children live in countries at war, while others survive in neighborhoods where street gangs prevail. Most parents and children used to assume they could depend upon schools to be safe places, free from abuse and violence. Now it seems that schools are not the safe places we thought them to be, and so it is not surprising when the media turns its attention to school violence and bullying. These news stories do make parents and the general public wonder, "Who is responsible for our children's safety at school?"
Accounts of Bullying in the Media
"Young and Abusive--Bullies Rule," the title of an article in The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, reported that in a study of 3,000 students, one in five had experienced "psychologically damaging levels of bullying in Sydney schools" and that "some teachers had failed to report serious cases to police" (Patty, 2006). The article included an account of one student, hospitalized three times as a result of bullying, who sued the New South Wales Department of Education and won. The teachers failed to report these incidents as bullying (as required by law); instead, they noted them as "fights" when making out their reports.
"Bully Victim's Suffering Payout," posted online by the BBC News (2008), gave an account of a 23-year-old Welsh woman's lawsuit regarding the bullying she received at school from ages 4 to 11 that caused her to attempt suicide at age 9 and leave regular school at age 14, suffering from depression. Another BBC News (2008) online article, "Attack Schoolgirl Wants to Return," reports that a 12-year-old girl's face was slashed by another girl and 30 stitches were required to close the wounds. While this was not the gift's first encounter with her assailant, this particular attack was believed to be motivated by the victim's intervention in a bullying situation the previous day. Yet most bully prevention programs encourage students not to be passive bystanders, but rather to take action when they witness bullying. In this victim's case, she took the right action, but faced serious consequences for doing so.
"Family Pushes Back--In Court" provides an online account of twin 12-year-old girls' yearlong physical and verbal bullying ordeal, for which they accused the Kentucky school district of negligence in ignoring its own bullying policy (Croyle, 2008). The gifts' abuse went unreported by the teachers, and no action was taken to stop the bullies, even after a series of incidents involving name calling, tripping, hair pulling, slapping, and finally being knocked unconscious. Consequently, both gifts left public school and now attend private school. These four media reports might seem like isolated, sensational incidents. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Incidence of Bullying in Schools
Research studies and statistics on bullying and violence of schoolchildren show that the above incidents are not unique, and that aggressive acts are neither uncommon nor restricted to a few countries. Making comparisons of statistics across countries can be difficult, since definitions of bullying and legal requirements vary (Ananiadou & Smith, 2002). A 2001-02 cross-national survey of 162,000 children ages 11, 13, and 15, in 35 countries, conducted by the World Health Organization of Europe, published these findings: overall bullying at school, 34 percent; repeated bullying, 11 percent; countries with the lowest rates of bullying--the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Sweden (Craig & Harel, 2004). The Education Guardian reported a study of bullying among secondary students of differing backgrounds in Europe that showed first-generation immigrants attracted negative attention due to their language, dress, skin color, racial differences, and religion (Lipsett, 2008). When children were asked whether bullying was a problem in school, the responses in the affirmative for each country were as follows: Italy (33 percent); Portugal (35 percent); Netherlands (16 percent); UK (48 percent); Belgium (21 percent); Scotland (43 percent); Wales (32 percent); Germany (29 percent); and Spain (22 percent). …