Matthew Lynch: Combating Bullying in America’s Schools

Bullying is a common problem in schools. Every child either has been bullied or has known someone who has been bullied.  Bullying behavior was once considered normal for kids and was not treated seriously. Now however, teasing and bullying are seen as serious issues that can cause psychological damage in those on the receiving end.

Matthew Lynch

These bullying incidents include being made fun of, being the subject of rumors, being pushed, shoved, tripped or spat on, being threatened with harm, being excluded from activities on purpose, being made to do things they did not want to do, and having their property destroyed on purpose.

Other forms of bullying may include name-calling, demanding money or personal belongings, and serious physical assault.  Students in a position to easily exert power over another, such as greater physical size or higher social status, commit these acts.  Both boys and girls bully others, although generally in different ways.  Boys tend to be more physical, whereas girls tend to engage in social and psychological bullying.

Bullying is also no longer confined to the school playground, cafeteria, hallways, or the walk home from school.  The newest form of bullying is cyber bullying, which is bullying through the use of electronic media and devices, such as email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Internet chat rooms.  The online environment is a place where students often have threatening messages sent to them, or embarrassing things said about them. It is easy for the bully to hide their identity so the victim never knows who is behind it. Cyber bullying can cause the same results as traditional forms of bullying, such as low self-esteem, depression, feelings of shame and embarrassment, and even suicide.  It can also escalate to levels that are considered criminal by U.S. government legislation on computer crimes and online harassment

Bullying is extremely hard on children. Their grades can suffer, as can their physical and mental health.  Many children, who are bullied on a regular basis, become afraid to go to school, and find any excuse to stay home.  Some children have committed or attempted to commit suicide when bullying became too overwhelming. Bullies generally do not get to see the consequences or comprehend the effects of their actions.

Whether teachers are dealing with traditional forms of bullying, cyber bullying, or a combination of the two, it is crucial that they understand the issues involved.  When it comes to cyber bullying, teachers need to understand the technology used for cyber bullying and how it works.  It is essential to bring the problem of bullying into the open where it cannot be ignored.

Another method used to decrease bullying is civility training, which instructs students with compassion, kindness, empathy, and community building.  This is often done through historical examples of positive behaviors, and teaching how it feels to try to walk in “another’s shoes,” by spending a day in a wheelchair, for example. Sadly, in some schools, bullying goes unreported by victims and witnesses.  Students are more likely to come forward in schools where there is a strong sense of community. Teachers can play an instrumental role in the progression toward safer schools for all children by teaching children behaviors that facilitate a strong sense of community.

Dr. Matthew Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Education at Widener University. Dr. Lynch is the author of three books; It’s Time for Change: School Reform for the Next Decade (Rowman & Littlefield December, 2012), A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories (Routledge February 26, 2012), and The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching (Pearson 2013). Please visit his website at www.drmattlynch.com for more information.