Bullying in Schools
Bullying has negative influences on children, consequently, need to be prevented in schools. Bullying is usually described as intentional abuse or intimidation having an aspect of actual or perceived strength imbalance and repetition over time (Nickerson, 2019 stated in Shamsi, Andrades & Ashraf, 2019). Bullying can be detrimental to a child’s health and well-being (US. National Centre for Statistics, 2001). Children who are bullied can end up depressed and have low self-confidence and self-esteem (Williams, Forgas & Von Hippel, 2013). However, further bullying can result in self-harm and suicide (Kim & Leventhal, 2008). A retrospective study showed that over 25000 children have been bullied during the school year (Egan & Perry, 1998, cited in Ribgy, 2003). Bullying has also resulted in absenteeism from school with 19% of boys and 25% of girls (Tritt & Duncan, 1997, noted in Rigby 2003).
Bullying is an emerging serious problem in schools worldwide resulting in physical and mental health problems in children (Shamsi, Andrades & Ashraf, 2019). The, types of bullying include physical bullying, verbal bullying and cyberbullying (Lien, Green, Welander-Vath & Bjertness, 2009, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019) and the incidence of bullying varies from groups to places. Bullying is firstly common in early childhood years and continues to top in the secondary school years (Gini & Pozzoli, 2009, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019). The incidence of bullying is common on the way to and from school, lunch breaks and locations such as playgrounds, cafeterias, toilets, hallways and even in the presence of teachers in classrooms.
The most frequent occurrence of bullying is outside the schools, which is 65.4%, whereas 32% occurs in school canteens, 25.5% happens in classrooms and 11.8% takes place in toilets (Konstantina & Dimitrus, 2010, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019). Bullying in the course of early childhood years can moreover persist into teen years and leave lifelong scars. Bullying can also lead to issues such as bed-wetting, stomach-ache, headache, low self-esteem and depression. Feelings of depression is the most common outcome for bullying, which 73.9% are reported, alongside with 69.6% of headaches, 68% of low self-esteem and 24.8% of suicidal thoughts (Shetgiri, 2013, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019).
Bullying in schools is consequently being recognized as an essential public health problem worldwide. Bullying is increasingly posing enormous challenges to the educational system inflicting a negative impact on academic performance, student health and well-being and safety (Lai, Ye & Chang, 2008, cited Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019). Therefore, teachers must continue to be at the frontline to deal with behavioural problem in children. This means that they must have considerable expertise of dynamics of school bullying for correct identification, intervention and prevention of such incidents. Research shows, that teachers’ ability to identify bullies and victims is influenced by means of the age of students, frequency of contacts with students, the nature or type of bullying behaviour, knowledge and understanding of the degree of bullying and their responsiveness towards children (Maunder, Harrop & Tattersall, 2010, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019).
Teachers should, therefore, be considered as useful resources in encouraging school and community-based healthcare providers to screen for health-related risk factors in victims of bullying (Konstantina & Dimitrus, 2010, cited in Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019). Regarding the definition of bullying 81% of teachers were able to answer correctly, which 84.3% of physical bullying was reported, alongside with 30.1% verbal bullying and 32% cyberbullying. They are placed in a position to recognize bullying early on and liaise with the healthcare providers for timely intervention. Healthcare providers help screen for physical and psychiatric illnesses, counsel families, and be convincing advocates for bullying in schools (Stephens, Cook-Fasano & Sibbalucca, 2018, cited Shamsi, Andares & Ashraf, 2019).
A range of meta-analyses exist that synthesise the findings of a significant number of evaluations of anti-bullying interventions. These meta-analyses include evaluations from a range of countries, and in both primary and high schools. They point out that anti-bullying interventions can be effective at reducing bullying in schools, although the findings are mixed. A number of clear themes emerge from the research that point out what types of strategies are likely to have the strongest effect on reducing and stopping bullying in schools. Evidence suggests that successful anti-bullying interventions: take a holistic, whole-school approach, include educational content that supports students to develop social and emotional competencies, and learn appropriate ways to respond to bullying behaviours, provide support and professional development to teachers and other school staff on how best to maintain a positive school climate, ensure systematic program implementation and evaluation.
The strategies that schools take to counter bullying can be classified as either ‘preventative’ or ‘responsive’. Preventative strategies aim to stop bullying from happening in the first place, whilst responsive strategies are the steps taken to resolve the problem after bullying has occurred. The two strategies are not completely distinct: responsive strategies also aim, for example, to prevent bullying behaviours from taking place again in future. Nonetheless, the two types of strategies are discussed one by one here for the sake of clarity.
In order to be effective, however, school anti-bullying policies need to be sufficiently comprehensive. A number of content analyses of schools’ anti-bullying policies suggest that there are gaps in many policies (Marsh, McGee, Hemphill & Williams 2011; Smith, Smith. Osborn & Samara 2008)
There are 9 points that school anti-bullying policies must address: whole-school, collaboratively developed policies, plans and structures for supporting safety and wellbeing, clear procedures that enable staff, parents, carers and students to document confidentially any incidents or situations of child maltreatment, harassment, aggression, violence or bullying, clearly communicated strategies for staff to follow when responding to incidents of student harm from child maltreatment, harassment, aggression, violence, bullying or misuse of technology, agreements for responsible use of technology by staff and students, regular risk assessments of the physical school environment (including off-campus and outside school hours related activities), leading to the development of effective risk-management plans, established and well-understood protocols about appropriate and inappropriate adult-to-student contact and interactions within the school context, effective strategies for record keeping and communication between appropriate staff about safety and well-being issues, a representative group responsible for overseeing the school’s safety and wellbeing initiatives, protocols for the introduction of casual staff, new staff and new students and families into the school’s safety and wellbeing policies and procedures (Australian Government Department of Education and Training 2016).
Bullying prevention is effective at reducing bullying in schools and other institutions. Bullying, especially physical can result in absenteeism from school, depression and eventually death. Intervention from pre-school years is designed to reduce bullying in all institutions. However, bullying prevention can be successful if anti-bullying packages are comprehensive. There is also evidence to suggest that bullying prevention aims to stop the occurrence of bullying in the first place. Importantly, the nine anti-bullying policies should be effective in either preventing or reducing bullying in institutions. Therefore, bullying be avoided in institutions, and comprehensive interventions are needed to prevent bullying from an early age.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training 2016, National Safe Schools Framework, Student Wellbeing Hub, viewed 23 May 2017, https://www.studentwellbeinghub.edu.au/ educators/nssf#/element/policies-and-procedures/characteristics.
- Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2017, Anti-bullying interventions in schools – what works? Viewed 22 September 2019
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- Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2009). Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 123(3), 1059-1065.
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- Williams, K. D., Forgas, J. P., & Von Hippel, W. (2013). The social outcast: Ostracism, social exclusion, rejection, and bullying. Psychology Press.
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