Can Schools Really Stop Bullying?

When I was ten I moved schools because of bullying.  And not your typical every day “You’ll get over it” kind of bullying either, but a viscious concentrated effort to isolate me from my peers and get me into as much trouble as possible.  I was left in a closet.  My best friend was banned from speaking to me at school and children refused to be my partner.  I was the victim nearly every day, often going home in tears, faking illnesses to not have to go to school and begging my mom to please move me.  My bully was not another 5th grader, not the cruelty of a child’s mind, but instead the product of an adult; my bully was my classroom teacher.  A woman that I trusted and l
loved like only a child can adore their teacher, someone who was supposed to protect and guide me as I grew as a learner.  Instead she made it her mission to make me feel like the freak (her words) and bad influence (again her words) that she saw me as.

My mom did the right thing, she contacted the principal.  She held me when I cried.  She spoke to other parents.  She fought for me, but in the end with the Danish school system being so that you have the same classroom teacher from 1st through 9th she knew that this was a losing battle.  So in the middle of 5th grade, I hugged my teacher (yes, really) and said goodbye to all my friends to start a school in a different city.

I speak of my bullying experience as I find myself wondering whether schools can truly prevent and protect children from bullying.  While my case was an extreme one, usually teachers do not bully their own students, it still followed a pattern of hidden targeting and isolation   My teacher was very good at making it look like she didn’t hate me and so when we spoke to the principal he mostly thought we were making it up.  She messed up though when she started contacting other parents telling them to keep their children away from me outside of school.  She messed up when she kept all of the girls in the classroom behind to have them share how much of a bad influence and terrible friend I was.

But most of our students, when they bully, are very good at keeping it secret.  Perpetrators are often those students that know how to manipulate teachers into believing that they would never do such a thing.  Ask any parent and they will tell you that they know that their kid is probably different at school than they are at home.  I know Thea has done stuff at daycare typical of a 4-year-old that I still have a hard time believing she would do.  So we don’t often see the bullying happen and rely on testimony that turns into he said/she said discussions.  We wring our hands, trying to see through the chatter and try to figure out what really happened.  We document, of course, and pass on to the powers that be.  We contact parents and keep a paper trail trying to find patterns, but for what?  Often, if the bullying is bad enough students don’t report it.  Perhaps they fear further retaliation or escalation.  Perhaps they assume that we as a school cannot do much.  Perhaps they don’t think they will be believed.  And so it continues and we can truly do nothing for the unreported.

Yet, if we look at what we can do as a school it is depressingly little; we can scold, we can discuss, we can take away recess.  We can take away privileges, we can threaten and guilt, we can suspend.  We can try to mend relationships and we can try to educate.  But is all of that enough?  Can we truly as a school protect kids from bullies?  Or can we only hope that all of the effort we put into preventing it is enough?

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6 thoughts on “Can Schools Really Stop Bullying?

  1. Thank you for this honest, question-filled post. My class and I looked at the same question in the midst of our preparation for Anti-Bullying Day in February and struggled with feeling ineffective, like nothing we did as students and teachers would actually solve the problem. This was our blog post on the topic: http://sdevries.edublogs.org/2013/02/26/preparing-for-anti-bullying-day/Despite feeling innefective it was a great discussion to have together.Sharon deVries

  2. The best and most obvious way to stop bullying in schools is for parents to change the way they parent their children at home. Schools and parents must educate children about bullying behaviors; it will help all children feel safe and secure at school.

  3. You really experienced something like that from a teacher? Wow! I wonder what set that off. I cannot help but be curious as to what would cause a teacher to go to those links to destroy a child. As far as the issue, there is not a lot schools can do. Teachers are overwhelmed already, and they can barely control what goes on inside their classrooms. Those who believe that schools can and should be able to do and be everything for kids are truly fooling themselves.

  4. I was bullied by a teacher too, in the 4th grade, and while I did not have to continue with her as my teacher, the stigma still made me an outcast among other students (as well as my natural geeky nature, which is cool now, but was uncool then). Have been bullied, I agree with you that I feel next to powerless to stop it in the schools. I have even had to fight it when my own son was bullied last year by a kid who didn't want him to have any friends. I agree with Belmont Schools, it has to be at home. I have done my best to reinforce kindness and understanding in my home, and my son and I discuss bullying at length. I have tried to teach him that kindness to others and being a good person is the highest goal he can pursue. I hear stories from his teachers that he stands up for other kids, so I have hope that it's been enough.Perhaps we can educate parents? Hard to do, though, if they don't want the help or don't have time for it.

  5. Women are more frequently bullied than men. In fact, a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 62 percent of bullies were men and 58 percent of targets were women. The survey also revealed that the majority (68 percent) of bullying is same-gender harassment and that women bullies target women 80 percent of the time.

  6. Pingback: Homework Meme Here I Go | Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension

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