Teachers Bullied by Students: Forms of Bullying and Perpetrator Characteristics

By Kauppi, Teemu; Pörhölä, Maili | Violence and Victims, May 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Teachers Bullied by Students: Forms of Bullying and Perpetrator Characteristics


Kauppi, Teemu, Pörhölä, Maili, Violence and Victims


The focus of this study is on the forms in which the bullying of school teachers by students manifests itself, the characteristics of the students who engage in the bullying, and the manner in which the students who engage in bullying behave in their own peer relationships. The data was gathered from primary and lower secondary school teachers by means of an Internet survey. The answers of 70 teachers who had experienced bullying by their students are examined.

The teachers had been exposed to different forms of bullying by students. They had typically been bullied by male students. In most cases, the bullying had been perpetrated by an individual student or a small group of students. According to the teachers' assessment, the majority of the students who bullied them also bullied their fellow students.

Keywords: bullying; harassment; students; teachers; violence against teachers

A school is an institution where teachers and students work in cooperation to reach the educational objectives set for the students. The most important professional duties of a teacher include not only seeing to it that these educational objectives are met but also assessing the students' performance, maintaining order, and taking care of the well-being of the students. In addition to the well-being of students, the well-being of teachers has a central role in any school community. It can be assumed that teachers who feel comfortable in their position and are content with their working conditions have a better chance to succeed in supporting the work of their students. Correspondingly, teachers who are not comfortable in their work or lack a feeling of well-being may not be able to perform to their own satisfaction in the demanding position. The experience of being subjected to bullying at work forms a major threat to a teachers' well-being.

It has been discovered that for teachers, the four main sources of bullying are students (e.g., De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008; Terry, 1998), colleagues (e.g., Cemaloglu, 2007; Van Dick & Wagner, 2001), superiors (e.g., Blase & Blase, 2003; De Wet, 2010b; Van Dick & Wagner, 2001), and the parents of students (e.g., Benefield, 2004; Fisher & Kettl, 2003). One of the special features of teacher's work is that teachers can be subjected to bullying by people whose status within the institution is lower than theirs-that is, by students. This type of bullying relationship is quite special in nature.

Researchers have used various terms to describe mental and physical violence directed at teachers by their students. For example, terms such as bullying (De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008; Terry, 1998), harassment (Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009), victimization (e.g., Dworkin, Haney, & Telschow, 1988), and violence against teachers (Chen & Astor, 2009; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; Khoury-Kassabri, Astor, & Benbenishty, 2009) have been applied to cover this type of violence. In this article, we use the term bullying as an umbrella term to describe both mental and physical violence directed at teachers by their students.

The experience of being subjected to bullying at work is known to have a considerably detrimental effect on victims' health and well-being (Björkqvist, Österman, & Hjelt-Bäck, 1994; Hoel, Faragher, & Cooper, 2004; Leymann & Gustafsson, 1996; Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2004). It has been further discovered that bullying and violence have negative effects on the quality of teachers' work performance (De Wet, 2010a; Fisher & Kettl, 2003).

Earlier studies (e.g., Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009; Terry, 1998) have already provided some information on the prevalence of victimization of school teachers by students and on the most typical forms in which such victimization manifests itself. Both students' (e.g., Chen & Astor, 2009; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009) and teachers' (e. …

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