Society is now becoming immune to the word “Bullying”. It is critical that we take a hard look at which groups of adolescents are being targeted by bullies, and why they are being victimized. At the 2013 Mental Health and Addiction Conference: ‘Coming Together for a Healthy Ohio’, Robert Salem, JD, clinical professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law, identified types of bullying in a workshop presentation. Salem offered 10 Best Practices to help teachers and school administers prevent bullying.
Salem started off the workshop with photos of six adolescents and three additional stories of teens that all had completed suicide due to extreme bullying. He noted that even though these adolescents died because they were targeted by bullies, NOT all victims attempt or complete suicide. Suicide is a known risk factor of being bullied, but there are other risks also associated- such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, and others. The U.S. Secret Service did a study which looked at 37 schools where there have been school shootings. Nearly three fourths of the attackers had felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident.
Many groups are being targeted and bullied. The LGBT population is one with the highest percentage among bullied groups, and significantly bullied in the adolescent age group. This group reports being verbally and physically harassed and assaulted. Salem said the LGBT group reported feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. Many in this group miss school, because they feel unsafe.
Bullying is defined as intentional, including repeated attacks, and there is a differentiation in the power dynamic. The target (victim) lacks power and perspective, and does not possess the skills to overcome what is going on.
The first type of bullying Salem explored, was ‘Physical Bullying’, also considered “classic bullying”. This type of bullying is more common in boys. The bully hits, kicks, and/or pushes their victim. The second type of bullying is ‘Verbal Bullying’. Both genders participate in these types of behaviors, which include name calling and teasing. The third type of bullying is identified as ‘Indirect Bullying’. This type of bullying is found in younger girls. The bully spreads rumors, and uses social isolation to cast the victim out of the social group.
The last type of bullying is one of the most lethal forms of bullying. Cyber bullying involves 24/7 access. The bully attacks his/her victim through emails, texts, and social media. Bullies feel empowered by their audience, or the bystanders who are gained through negative and hurtful attention toward the victim. A cyber bully feels empowered by how many hits he or she receives on status updates, or views of YouTube videos.
Being able to create a Best Policy to empower victims, teachers, administration, and parents is critical for Bullying Prevention and positive progression. Salem identified the following 10 Best practices in his presentation:
“1. Focus on establishing a positive school climate. Encourage students and teacher to treat one another with civility and respect.
2. Assess bullying at your school. Create a survey for students with a focus on how they view bullying at their school. Have them identify their school experience; include all staff and family.
3. Obtain staff and parent “buy-in” and support. Having administrative support is critical. Report the finding of your survey to school staff and parents.
4. Form groups to coordinate the ‘Bullying Prevention Activities’. Include representatives from multiple groups.
5. Provide ‘Bully Prevention Training for Staff’. The training should focus on the following key points:
• Results of the bullying survey.
• The nature of bullying and its effects.
• How to recognize when bullying is occurring.
• How to respond if bullying is observed.
• How to work with others at school to help prevent bullying.
Salem stressed the point of changing the language associated with ‘telling on the bully’, to that of ‘empowering the bystander’. He focused on using new, more positive and helpful language so using the word ‘reporting’ is not viewed as negatively. Placing responsibility on the bystander to report or safely prevent bullying builds safe communities and learning environments.
6. Establish communication and enforce school rules and policies to bullying. According to the law, every state except Montana has policies and mandates re. bullying. Every school district in the state of Ohio must have an anti-bullying policy, and is mandated to report any incidents of bullying on the school website.
7. Increase adult supervision in “Hot Spots”. You can identify hot spots through the bullying survey you gave to students.
8. Devote class time to bullying prevention. Model desired attitudes and behaviors.
9. Intervene consistently and appropriately.
10. Continue efforts. Do not have ‘end dates’ for bullying prevention actives.”
Salem said, “It may not be possible to end bullying, but it is possible to decrease the attention the bully gets from bystanders and the increased harm and embarrassment the victim feels. Empowering staff, victims, bystanders, parents, and following best policies when dealing with issues of bullying will ultimately promote prevention and civility and respect in our school systems.”
For assessment tools and more information visit the Ohio Safe Schools Website:
[Photo credit: Stop the bullying poster created by Pomegranate Teens in residential treatment.] Reporting of the OACBHA workshop contributed by Candice, Customer Relations Specialist.