The incidents of April 20, 1999 from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado put bullying into a new perspective. Two students, Dylan Klebold and Ryan Harris, who were, for all intents, intelligent and well adjusted went on a killing spree. They killed and injured several members of the school including a teacher. (Rosenberg, 2000) Then they turned the guns on themselves. Their plans were grandiose. After the massacre, they intended to flee the country. Once the furor had died down, new information showed that the two students were generally reticent, withdrawn and subjected to bullying by their peers, especially the physically stronger students. Klebold and Harris were emotionally and physically abused. Isolated, they developed a hatred for their fellow students. This manifested in initial thoughts of suicide and then murder. Stories abound about bullying turned to tragedy abound. The Columbine incident was the biggest and got the most coverage.
Bullying (or its less physical form, teasing) are forms of personal harassment. In this work, bullying (teasing) will be explored. Personal harassment is any behavior that is unacceptable to the recipient. Such behavior creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for work, study or social life. In trying to understand bullying and sexual harassment, it is important to realize that it may only be about the assertion of power. Bullying can come from physical manifestations of deep physical inadequacies.
Bullying is the misuse of power -- or in the case of classrooms, physical strength or vanity. Bullies abuse power physically, either psychologically, or sexually. Bullying manifests in criticisms and condemnations. This can be verbal or physical. No matter what the form, bullying is designed to humiliate and undermine. The victim becomes fearful. The victim also loses confidence. A victim's distress about an attack (verbal or physical) fuels a bully's sense of importance. It acts as a catalyst for future instances of abuse. For instance, bullying occurs to establish a pecking order. Academic bullying has been defined as: "asserting a position of intellectual superiority in an aggressive, abusive or offensive manner, threats of academic failure, public sarcasm." Among students in schools, bullying generally differs between boys and girls. Among boys, bullying is generally physical. The stronger more athletic types will prey on those who are seen as social misfits or those that pursue solely academic interests. Among girls, bullying is generally emotional. Girls will more often isolate the victim emotionally by spreading rumors and isolation. (NCES, 2000) Physical abuse is also known to occur among girls. The fine line between bullying and sexual harassment is often blurred when the bully is the boy and the bullied happens to be a girl. (Gropper and Froschl., 2000) Such bullying is generally in the form of unwanted physical contact. These attacks on the individual are normally sudden, irrational, unpredictable and usually unfair. Besides physical, verbal and emotional bullying, sexual bullying includes above as well as exhibitionism, voyeurism, sexual propositioning, sexual harassment, and abuse involving actual physical contact and sexual assault.
If left unchecked or unaddressed, bullying and teasing during childhood may develop into dysfunctional behaviors that are detrimental to society and to the person. It can lead the aggressor to a feeling of abused power, especially if the victims do not retaliate for fear of further aggression or for loss of financial or social status. Bullying and teasing are harmful to the classroom environment by hindering the delivery of instruction and the social development of students. Some attempts have been made to link bullying and teasing at the elementary school grades to sexual harassment behaviors during adult life, there is no solid evidence that sexual harassment is one of the resultant dysfunctional behaviors. (Yanez-Perez, 1999). Statistics indicate bullies identified after the age of seven are six times likelier than non-bullies to be convicted of a crime by age 24. The number decreases to about four times by age 30.
The bully's characteristics are borne more out of character and attitude than any attribute that is superficially obvious. A bully values aggression; because, for the bully it creates a sense of self. Bullies generally lack any kind of empathy for the victim. They also lack conscience. There is a firm belief that is common to bullies that the victim deserved the attack. A bully likes to dominate. Bullies often lack specific social skills such as seeing the point-of-view of other people, taking responsibility for their own actions, and accepting constructive criticism. Contrary to general belief, the bully is not insecure or anxious, and does not have low self-esteem. (Knoll, 2000)
It is necessary to identify the characteristics of two additional players in the bullying triumvirate. In addition to the bully, there is the target (victim) and the bystander. Victims can be passive or provocative. The former is generally more insecure; he or she lacks social skills and the ability to counter a bully. Passive targets often resort to crying. They withdraw. They are often lonely, depressed and emotionally fragile. The provocative target often provokes others. They are easily emotionally aroused. These children fight back. But their efforts are not effective because they are not naturally aggressive. Often, provocative target is more difficult to identify because they surround themselves with an aura of aggressiveness and show. Though, more often than not, they loose battles to the bullies. Research supports that students with learning disabilities are at greater risk of being targeted. All students, but particularly those who are targeted, might greatly benefit from life skills development to broaden their repertoire of responses in social situations and conflict.
The third group of children in bullying situation is bystanders. They choose not to take, often fear the attack will spread to them. They are often guilt ridden. Occasionally, they join in. 75-85% of students are not directly involved in bullying. They can be powerful forces in changing bullying behavior in schools. Teaching students to safely utilize the power of the "caring majority" is essential in engaging the whole school population in efforts to counteract bullying.
Parents or significant role models of bullies often model aggression. At home, punishments may be harsh and/or abusive. If not aggressive themselves, families may be permissive and tolerant of the children's aggressive behavior or inconsistent and/or unable to set clear limits. Without intervention, bullies establish patterns of antisocial thinking. They are unlikely to feel empathy toward others, and unlikely to recognize their own pain as well. Bullies have trouble expressing anger appropriately. They are frequently in need of disciplinary action for aggression, are more likely to commit other anti-social acts such as truancy, fighting, theft, intoxication, and vandalism, and drop out of school more frequently than their peers. In the United States, 20-25% of school children are directly involved in bully-target problems. In one Midwestern study, 20% of fourth through eighth graders reported academic difficulties resulting from bullying. Targets are far more likely to bring a weapon to school than children who are not targets. 29% of targets nationally have brought weapons to schools. Schools that address bullying effectively can create a more than 50% reduction in aggressive behaviors. These schools also see a decrease in other types of undesirable activity such as truancy, vandalism, shoplifting and underage drinking.
The Stanford Experiment was one such testament to the abuse of power. (Bleuel, 1973) Harassment arose from a power rush -- that a human being could be completely controlled, in mind and body.
As contradictory as it may sound, parents, teachers, and caregivers can play a role in fostering and encouraging bullying behavior. Parents who reward aggressive behavior and are unusually unfair disciplinarians produce a child that grows in a threatening environment (Goleman, 1995) Adults who use sarcastic and verbally abusive language when they talk to children are models for behavior, which is then reproduced by the children in their interactions. Most often, bullies seem to be children without positive reinforcement for displaying caring, empathic behavior. As is often the case, those who sexually or physically abuse have been at the receiving end of the same.
Sexual harassment is one form of bullying that has perhaps, the most serious and long-term consequences. Although large groups of both boys and girls report experiencing harassment, girls are more likely to report being negatively affected by it. 83% of girls and 79% of boys report having ever experienced harassment. The number of boys reporting experiences with harassment often or occasionally has increased since 1993 (56% vs. 49%), although girls are still somewhat more likely to experience it. 76% of students have experienced non-physical harassment while 58% have experienced physical harassment. Non-physical harassment includes taunting, rumors, graffiti, jokes or gestures. One-third of all students report experiencing physical harassment "often or occasionally." The statistics for "bullying takes the form of sexual harassment" are as follows: sexual rumors (75%); pulled off or down clothing in a sexual way (74%); allegations of homosexuality in both sexes (73%); forced to do something sexual other than kissing (72%); voyeurism in dressing rooms and shower rooms (69%). These statistics are specific to school situations.…