Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Why Bullying May Never End

By Peter DeWitt — December 06, 2011 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“It’s like hearing the same song too many times on the radio. After a while people turn the station.”

The word “bullying” is used on a daily basis. We usually hear it for the first time when we’re watching the news in the morning as we get ready for work or school. There are sad stories from around the nation about children who are being bullied by their peers. The media often focuses on the worst stories of bullying because those are the ones that make the headlines. However, there are millions of more stories happening every day that hopefully will not have the same tragic endings but they are just as serious.

Bullying is targeted behavior on the part of one or more people toward one person. Bullying does not just happen in schools, it happens in neighborhoods where children live, the workplace, on television and even at home from a parent, sibling or another family member. As viewers, we are actually exposed to bullying by the turn of a channel. It involves one victim and one or more bullies. It can be from student to student, or adult to student and adult to adult.

Bullying has always been around but there is an increase in coverage because of 24/7 media outlets. It has shifted to include 21st century tools (i.e. social networks, e-mail, blogs, etc.). In these days of economic crisis and high unemployment we seem to be seeing a new level of anger in our country. People create anonymous blogs and spew hatred on a daily basis only to hide behind the screen because they lack the character to say anything in person.

It sometimes seems disingenuous that the media portrays schools in such a negative light where bullying is concerned considering that many students who bully get their ideas from the media. The very networks that focus on bullying are the same networks that exploit the subject through reality television where bullying is commonplace and accepted.

News outlets cover stories where people are guilty until proven innocent. It doesn’t matter when the trial is or what the real information may be, with good editing and some great photos of people with guilty body posture (i.e. facial expressions, etc.), we send a message to kids that what we see on television is really the whole truth. They never get a chance to hear all of the information, just the news that will sell the story.

If we really want to see the end of bullying, we should probably focus on getting rid of that kind of television or at least air it on when most children are in bed. Unfortunately, we have to really look within ourselves to ask why those types of shows are so popular. If all adults really don’t like bullying, why are those shows popular? The reality is that not all adults take bullying seriously.

All Around Us
As we continue our days we continue to hear the word bullying used throughout the day. However, most times it is used incorrectly. As children mature, they tend to have issues with one another. Many times these are one time issues where they have an argument or say something mean to one another. This is not bullying. This is an issue that needs adult intervention so the students can learn how to get along with one another. Kids say mean things from time to time and that needs to be addressed. It becomes bullying when it doesn’t stop and the kids start to involve other friends.

The misuse of the word bullying will be harmful to when bullying actually does happen. When parents, students, teachers or administrators misuse the word bullying there is a risk that they will miss when the issue of bullying actually does happen. Many times a victim never speaks up because they feel nothing will be done about it. They worry that the bullying will only get worse. That is the true meaning of victimization when a child or adult cannot escape the bullying and are constantly in fear that it will get worse.

Many schools are working hard to end bullying. They have brought in bullying programs, trained teachers and administrators on how to spot bullying, and they have worked hard to change the school climate to be more inclusive. The reality is that schools will never be able to do enough about bullying until every student feels safe in school.

However, there are also schools where parents and students do not feel comfortable going to a teacher or administrator to report cases of bullying. That is clearly a communication problem that needs to be addressed. Parents and the children who are actually being bullied should feel comfortable going to the school to report the problem.

In the End
Bullying is a serious issue that needs the attention of the educators within a school as well as parents at home. There are serious consequences to bullying, and this does not mean the discipline the bully may face when they get caught. The real consequences are the ones where the victims take their own lives or spend the next forty years remembering what it was like to be a victim and that the school did nothing to stop it.

Children and adults should be allowed to be who they are without the fear that they will be harassed or abused. There is absolutely no reason why a child has to fit into one mold and not be able to share their unique characteristics. We have enough “one size fits all” legislation in the school system that we should not have to worry about that when it comes to the personality of a child.

The following questions come to mind where bullying is concerned:
• How can we teach children to be an upstander (bystander who intervenes) when the adults around them won’t stand up?
• How often have you seen an adult talk about another adult or child on Facebook? If you have, how many “friends” comment negatively about the situation that they really know nothing about?
• How often, as an adult, have you not intervened in a situation because you didn’t want the bully to make you or your child the next victim?
• How often as a teacher or administrator, have you asked the victim to change their behavior so they will not be bullied?

Bullying is quite a popular word. 24/7 media focus on the worst cases, which is important because it provides viewers a glimpse into how, even the smallest of bullying issues, can end. However, this constant focus on the part of the media, although important, can lead many adults and children to take the issue less seriously. It’s like hearing the same song too many times on the radio. After a while people turn the station.

If we’re going to talk about bullying, then we need to make sure that we are focusing on real bullying issues and it will take more than just the school system to tackle this problem. Bullying is an issue that takes parents, schools and the media, and given the amount of mixed messages all of those groups send students, we may never see an end to the problem.

Follow Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP