Term Paper: Bullying in Schools Across United States

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bullying in schools across United States is a common problem. It would be difficult to ascertain the exact prevalence of bullying because researches and studies on the subject produce varying results depending of the type of measures used. But it is unanimously agreed that bullying is commonly and regularly practiced in schools across America. (Espelage, Bosworth, & Simon, 2000) in another study on bullying patterns among junior high and high school students from mid-western cities, it was found that 88% of students had observed bullying during their school years while 77% admitted to having been bullied. (Hoover et al., 1992).

It was reported in a study of younger students that 25% of in grade 4 to grade 6 had bullied another students during the 3-month period before the commencement of this study. (Limber et al., 1997). In another highly informative and comprehensive study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (Nansel et al., 2001) showed the gravity of the problem by surveying 15,686 students across U.S.. These students belonged to grade 6 to grade 10 and it was found that 29.9% of students had been involved in bullying. 13% of admitted to bullying, 10.6% reported of being a victim while 6% fell in the category of a bully-victim.

The major problem in assessing bullying and its prevalence results from lack of consensus on definition of the issue. Three of the most commonly cited definitions in literature are as follows:

person is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students. (Olweus, 1993, p. 9) student is being bullied or picked on when another student says nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. It is also bullying when a student is hit, kicked, threatened, locked inside a room, sent nasty notes, and when no ever talks to him. (Smith & Sharp, 1994, p. 1)

Bullying is longstanding violence, physical or mental, conducted by an individual or group and directed against an individual who is not able to defend himself in the actual situation. (Roland, 1989, p. 143)

While there may not be a commonly accepted definition, bullying is unanimously seen as a form of aggression. This aggression can be both proactive and reactive. But in most cases of bullying, it was found that bullies were proactive and sought their victim at slightest or no provocation (Dodge, 1991).

Two important empirical research articles were studied in this connection namely "Bully Busters: A Psycho-educational Intervention for Reducing Bullying Behavior in Middle School Students" by Dawn Newman-Carlson and Arthur M. Horne. The second one is "Observations of Bullying in the Classroom" by Atlas and Pepler. It is important that observations made by Atlas and Pepler are first summarized before we proceed to discuss the methods for reducing bullying in schools.

In Atlas and Pepler study, rate of incidence and type of bullying behavior were examined through observations made in the classroom. The study used "a systemic-developmental model of bullying and victimization" twenty-seven students from a public school in Toronto were selected for participation in the study.. Participants were drawn from 1 public school in metropolitan Toronto. These children were chosen on the basis of their teachers' assessment of their aggressive or non-aggressive behavior and came from eight classrooms. Their behavior was recorded through video filming and remote audio techniques. Girls and boys exhibited similar bullying patterns and the rate of bullying were not gender-exclusive.

The study reported the direct and indirect incident of bullying some of which made use of an object as a weapon for attack or defense. "A bully used a pen to destroy another student's work; in the other case, the bully hit another student. Victims were not observed using objects in defense in any of the bullying episodes." Peers were seen intervening to protect the victim. In 14% of incidents, peers intervened and teacher intervention was noticed in 11% of cases. In most cases, students did not bully another child when the teacher was in close proximity but did so when teacher was away or had his/her back to the class. While boys were found to be victims in more cases compared to girls, the frequency with which bullying took place was not different for girls and boys. "There were no differences associated with the frequency of bullying. Boys and girls were equally likely to bully at a rate of approximately two episodes per hour."

In the other study by Dawn Newman-Carlson and Arthur M. Horne, intervention methods were studied with the purpose of reducing bullying in schools. The program Bully Busters has been developed to counter bullying problem in American schools keeping in view the culture and educational conditions of the U.S. The study indicated an urgent need for such a program since studies have found weaknesses in training provided to teachers for tackling bullying. This bully-buster program which aims at providing teachers with right set of resources to handle conflict was first developed in 2000 and is largely based on the research findings from a vast body of literature.

The method involved choosing participants i.e. teachers from a public school in southeastern U.S.. "Participants were sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade middle school teachers employed in a public school in a school district in the southeastern United States." The program was divided in seven modules and teachers were provided training through lectures and training material. Teachers were assigned Bully Buster teams to work as their support group. The program borrowed from Olweus (1994) training program. But it has been adapted to the unique conditions of U.S. classrooms since the program had originally been developed for schools in Norway. While the program was found to be effective and the teachers who received training gained much-needed skills to counter bullying behavior, the training did not alter teachers' assessment of their own skills and power to handle bullying.

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development might help us explain bullying. Since bullying begins normally when a child reaches the age of six and above, it can be tied to concrete operations stage of development. It must be understood here that while this stage lasts till the age of 12, any involvement in bullying after this age indicates retarded development or slower cognitive process. A bully is stuck in concrete operations stage if he fails to give up bullying behavior at the onset of adolescence. In the concrete operations stage, children are still too young for logical or abstract reasoning. They see things as black or white and hence their development is at a stage where they understand things in concrete symbols. Any so-called wrong action by a peer might provoke bullying and when a child is being bullied, the bully himself fails to think logically or apply moral reasoning to the situation. He is acting on impulse and this is all that he understands. Children who intervene and try to stop bullying are actually at a higher stage of cognitive development than others. Similarly those who are not provoked easily exhibit similar maturity of reasoning faculty.

The research and discussion above indicate that bullying is a common problem, which must be actively stopped. Children who undergo bullying may experience signs of posttraumatic stress disorder in adulthood and thus this can have dangerous impact on child's psyche. Bullying can be reduced with the help of teacher training programs and by identifying the places where bullying commonly takes place such as the lunchroom, playground and on outer premises of school. These areas must be carefully monitored and students must know that their actions and behavior will not go unnoticed. Awareness of the involvement of school authorities in reduction of bullying can keep bullies away from engaging in anti-social behavior. This can act as a serious deterrent. Apart from that,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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