Peters suggests that a no-nonsense and zero-tolerance approach to implicit tolerance and emphasizes the need to pursue complaints as far up the school administration chain of command as necessary to achieve results. Similarly, Peters confirms the conclusions of other researchers and experts in the field of school psychology that bullying affects victims profoundly and presents specific problems with regard to maintaining high academic performance and also with respect to positive self-image formation that often persist far beyond the school years.
Peters acknowledges that bullying behavior cuts across all ages and grades and affects both male and female students, but recommends different approaches to addressing bullying based in the specific forms that it tends to take between the genders.
Whereas boys tend to bully through physical intimidation and violence, girls are much more likely to perpetuate bullying through indirect social exclusion and ridicule. Peters offers suggestions that include modeling non-violence at home and greater sensitivity and empathy, respectively.
Peters also details the characteristics of both bullies and their victims, explaining that her research contradicts the conventional wisdom that bullies suffer from low self- esteem. According to Peters, polls of bullies actually suggest that many of them consider themselves to be leaders among their peer groups and that bullying behaviors are another form of conduct likely to increase their relative status and leadership. Conversely, Peters' characterization of victims of school bullying comports with traditional observations that students who are smaller, less attractive, socially unskilled, and those who suffer from obesity or any other apparent deformity or physical affliction or abnormality are the most likely to be targeted by bullies. Hutton (2006), a National School Boards Association staff attorney presents the results of extensive questionnaires of 50,000 high school students in 15 urban environments documenting the extent of school bullying. Hutton also reports that local school boards have finally begun the necessary shift from tacitly ignoring if not actually condoning school bullying to recognition of the potential damaging effect that school bullying has on its victims, particularly in the area of academic performance.
At the same time, Hutton reports certain objections encountered from administrators to the no-tolerance approach to school bullying out of concern that other forms of misconduct in school are much more serious and that blurring the lines between them presents a risk of minimizing more dangerous concerns. Hutton also raises the issue of constitutionally protected speech in the context of statements of religious objections to homosexual orientation, acknowledging that verbal abuse in relation to same-sex preference can be particularly vicious in schools.
Wright (2004) confirms many of the conclusions presented by Peters (2002), especially with respect to the empowerment aspect of bullying on the perpetrators and the fundamental characteristic differences between the direct forms of bullying instigated by boys and the indirect "reputational" forms of character assassinations often implemented by girls in the victim's absence. Wright departs from other researchers' conclusions only with regard to the behavior of non-participant observers who witness bullying incidents without becoming involved either as perpetrators or as victims.
Specifically, Wright suggests that non-participant observers are actually complicit in the bullying more often than they are victimized indirectly by observing bullying incidents involving other students. Wright maintains that bystanders are much more likely to provide at least passive encouragement or tacit approval to the bully than to come to the assistance of the victim by intervening or calling it to the attention of teachers or other adults capable of helping. However, as pertains to the detrimental effect on academic performance of the victims of school bullying, Wright absolutely concurs with the conclusions of Feller (2003), Jonsson (2004), Peters (2002), and Hutton (2006).
Feller, B. (2003) the Associated Press; U.S. Frames Bullying as Health Issue
Hutton, T. (2006) NSBA Leadership Insider: Practical Perspectives on School Law & Policy; No Rite of Passage: Coming to Grips with Harassment and Bullying.
Jonsson, P. (2004) the Christian Science Monitor; Schoolyard Bullies and Their Victims: The Picture Fills Out. Peters, R. (2002) Laying Down the Law: The 25 Laws of Parenting to Keep Your Kids on Track, Out of Trouble,…