Bullying Info and Facts
Defining Bullying Behavior
What is bullying? At first glance, many people might think this behavior is easy to define. Their first image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate. While that can still be considered bullying today, parents need to know that bullying behaviors can be much more complex and varied than the stereotype.
For example, harmful bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on the Internet, causing emotional damage.
As a starting point let’s consider a few other features that have been included in definitions of bullying. Although definitions vary from source to source, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
- The behavior hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally.
- The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them, and struggle to defend themselves.
- Many definitions include a statement about the ”imbalance of power”, described as when the student with the bullying behavior has more “power”, either physically, socially, or emotionally, such as a higher social status, is physically larger or emotionally intimidating.
Many definitions also include:
- The types of Bullying: The behavior can be overt, with physical behaviors, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, with emotional-social interactions, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose.
- Intent of the part of the student with bullying behavior: “It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm,” but there is some controversy with this statement as some assert that not all bullying behavior is done with intent or that the individual bullying realizes that their behavior is hurting another individual.
- Distinction about amount and duration: Many definitions indicate that the bullying is “repeated”, but the reality is that bullying can be circumstantial or chronic. It might be the result of a single situation, such as being the new student at school, or it might be behavior that has been directed at the individual for a long period of time.
- The implications for all students: It is also important to note that bullying is not just about the implications for those targeted by the behaviors, but that the behavior can impact all students in the school, including those who witness the behavior and those that engage in the behavior.
- Additional factors: these can include; the differentiation between bullying and harassment, enumeration of protected classes, statements around the use of technology, how the behavior impacts educational performance and the physical locations that would fall under the jurisdiction of school sanctions.
A basic guideline for your child is this: Let the child know that if the behavior [of another student] hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, it’s bullying.
Defining “Harassment” Including Harassment based on Disability
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also be considered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.
Harassing behaviors may include:
- Unwelcome conduct such as: Verbal abuse, such as name-calling, epithets, slurs
- Graphic or written statements
- Physical assault
- Other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating
Students have protection under federal laws.
NEW! On August 20, 2013, ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance to educators and stakeholders on the matter of bullying of students with disabilities. This guidance provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities to ensure that students with disabilities who are subject to bullying continue to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, States and school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive FAPE in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This guidance explains that any bullying of a student with disabilities which results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit is considered a denial of FAPE. Furthermore, this letter notes that certain changes to an educational program of a student with a disability (e.g., placement in a more restricted “protected” setting to avoid bullying behavior) may constitute a denial of FAPE in the LRE. Learn more
Know the Laws
Many states have laws that address bullying. The content of each law varies considerably. This interactive map from the STOP BULLYING.gov website contains information on each state’s bullying and harassment laws.
The Impact of Bullying
Bullying was once considered a simple, harmless rite of childhood experienced by many students. Today, research shows that bullying has significant short- and long-term effects that impact education, health and safety.
1. Education - Bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education and lead to:
- School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism
- Decrease in grades
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in academic achievement
- Increase in dropout rates
2. Health - Bullying can also lead to physical and mental health problems, including:
- Headaches and stomachaches
- Sleeping problems
- Low self-esteem
- Increased fear or anxiety
- Post traumatic stress
3. Safety – Bullying also impacts student sense of well-being, such as:
- Increased aggression
- Self-harm and suicidal ideation
- Feeling of alienation at school
- Fear of other students