Bullying and How Schools Are Responding

Updated on November 25, 2018
Al Greenbaum profile image

Al believes in a zero tolerance attitude to bullying and advocates clear policy guidelines in schools.


The Problem

A girl is in a hospital to have cosmetic surgery; the operation she undergoes has complications, leaving her with a crooked smile. The children in her school taunt her mercilessly—she takes her own life. Another girl is gang-raped, and the incident is recorded on a cell-phone and uploaded to Facebook. The girl commits suicide. A hardworking student is taunted for years for not being part of “the gang.” Feelings of helplessness overcome him, and he hangs himself.

In a class of thirty students, six are likely to be bullied. They will be bullied because of their appearance, their weight, their ethnicity, their perceived sexual orientation, or just for being different.

Bullying Stories

How People Wrongly Justify Bullying

To explain bullying some people try to diminish its effect by putting it down to a normal process that kids go through.

It is Part of Growing up.

It is not a rite of passage to endure harassment and in some cases campaigns of hatred against you. It doesn’t make you “tough” to put up with being ostracised, criticised, attacked and abused.

Boys Will Be Boys /Girls Will Be Girls

Being bullied is not inevitable. Children do not have to act in an anti-social way toward classmates they perceive as being different. Bullying will only thrive where it is given the tacit approval of those who observe it.

Some Students Have Victim Written on Their Foreheads

Students have the right to feel safe and secure in a school environment. It doesn’t matter if they are seen to be moaners or a little effete or bookworms or loners. If that is who they are, they can be that way if they want to. There is no compunction on them to be anything other than who they want to be.

Dealing with Bullies Toughens You Up

Having to put up with bullies every day of your life is exhausting. It saps your strength, makes you have a negative image of yourself and leaves you feeling depressed. Lifelong scars can be the only result of bullying.

My friends would shout at me and leave me out when they did things. One was racist to me and my other friend told me he was going to sexually harass my girlfriend

— Male 12, Annual Bullying Survey 2017. DitchtheLabel.org

What Do Schools Do About Bullying?

Schools have been under pressure in recent years to bring down bullying rates and make schools safe for all who attend.

Actions that may be taken include,

  • Escort of a student being bullied between classes by a teacher or older child.

The implicit message is that students are not safe at the school and the administration can do little about it. So, vulnerable students are taken into “protective custody” in between classes.

  • Increased number of teachers on recess and lunch duty.

This one does make some sense as recess or lunchtime is a prime time for kids who want to bully others.

  • Counselling of the bully and the bullied student.

The “no-blame” model involves working with both the bully and the bullied and parents, if necessary, to come to some resolution through discussing the issues involved and coming to more appropriate levels of interaction.

  • In school suspension/ Out of school suspension.

Depriving a student of interaction with classmates may work for some infractions like disrupting class but will it really stop the bullying behaviour when so many tacit behaviours like witnessing it and saying nothing are often displayed by other students and even some teachers, make harassing vulnerable students seem acceptable.

  • School expulsion.

This would be a bold move. Such actions would be categorical in saying where the blame lies but could lead to such a decision being contested in the courts. It is also doubtful that the bully would have his/her behaviour changed. They could easily go to another school and continue to harass others.

  • Creating a whole school policy that students, teachers and parents must follow.

This involves getting all students, teachers and parents to sign up to an agreed code of conduct that specifies the outcomes of well-defined bullying behaviour. For example, racial, sexual, ethnic or religious slurs would not be allowed on campus in any form. A prescribed list of outcomes for transgressions would be made clear. Teachers and administrators would be obliged to carry out the stages of enforcing the code of conduct. Students would be regularly reminded of what non-compliance would mean.

I think this is the most effective way of dealing with bullying. To make clear what bullying is and what will happen if you engage in it leaves no doubt. If teachers and administrators are proactive and do not ignore infractions I think this method of dealing with bullying has a very good chance of succeeding.

But I think there also needs to be an addition to all school’s mission statement, that all students are different and that diversity in religion, sexual orientation, appearance, ethnicity and other things are not just accepted but celebrated. There is no fear in being proud to be a Muslim, or being gay or black or tall or thin or fat. People are who they are and do not have to live up to laid down behaviours that are “acceptable”.

Why Do Kids Bully?

Research suggests that Bullying is a form of “social combat” in which those who bully feel that their actions will fast-track them to a position of social superiority within the school. But evidence also shows that it is a misconception. Students may be afraid of a bully and want to stay on his/her good side, but they will never trust them enough to be friends. The main feedback that bullies get is the momentary feeling of superiority, of being in control.Bullies lack social graces. They do not know how to behave in a group situation. To try and gain acceptance, even if it is through fear, they act aggressively towards others.

(click column header to sort results)
Why Do Teens Get Bullied?  
Being LGBT
Being shy or socially awkward
Having learning or emotional difficulties
Having low self-esteem
Posing a threat

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied

Nobody has the right to make your life miserable. Don't accept that being a victim is your fate.

Decide What You Want To Happen

Sometimes, bullying happens when a friendship breaks down. Do you still like someone, deep down, who is bullying you? Could things get back to where they were before? In that case, you might consider mediation. Perhaps your school counsellor could help with this by bringing you both together and trying to sort out the breakdown of your friendship. Maybe it was a complete misunderstanding that caused your split. Sometimes, malicious gossip can cause friends to break up. With help from someone else, somebody at school, a parent or even another friend, things could be improved.

If you see no way back and you haven't had a relationship with your tormentor anyway, you need to think again. Do you want your school to punish the bully? In that case, you had better be sure about what the school policy about bullying is. Usually, you can find details on the school website or at the local education department offices.

Although it may sound a little uncaring, you must have details of the bullying you suffered. Dates, times and the nature of the event(s) should be carefully written down. Go with your proof to the staff member at your school who is responsible for dealing with such matters. Explain what has happened and the effect it has had on you. Say what you want to happen. It may be that you just want it stopped. Alternatively, you could prefer for your bully to face consequences for his or her actions.

There should be a reasonable time allowed for the matter to be investigated, and then you should receive some feedback as to what is going to happen next. Make sure you are totally comfortable with what is proposed to deal with the matter. If you are not, say so and allow the school to moderate their actions.

A lot of schools have tightened up considerably with their policies regarding bullying. But, if you feel you have not been treated fairly, you have right of appeal. If he or she is not dealing with your problem directly, you can tell the Principal you need more support. If you are disappointed in the response given, you may take your case to the school governors.

If the matter is resolved quickly with a high degree of finality, all well and good. If it takes a little longer, tell the school you want support while the problem is being solved. This could mean older students keeping an eye on what is going on during breaks and lunch as far as you are concerned. It could also be that teachers are alerted to the possibility of problems while your situation is being reviewed and asked to follow certain procedures in order to stop further bullying occurring.

Remember, it is your right to feel safe and secure at school. You do not have to suffer because others want to single you out. As a student, you are just as valuable as anyone else.

Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.

— Dosomething.org

What Can You Do To Help Someone Being Bullied?

Sit with them at lunch.
Walk to class with them between lessons.
Invite them to play games like football with you
Make them feel that they are not alone
Talk to them.

Why Does Bullying Continue To Blight Our Schools?

There are still many schools, even those who have a written anti-bullying policy, who seem reluctant to get involved with cases of bullying. One can only speculate as to why this is so.

Perhaps they feel dealing with the harassment of students is just too difficult and may reflect on them if they take the side of a bullied student. They may also fear a lawsuit if they act against a bully. It might be a feeling that things have been exaggerated and that it was just “teasing” and everyone must learn to take a joke.

One of the saddest scenes in the excellent “Bully” (2012) was when a boy, Cole, is coming back from recess, closely followed by a flustered Vice-Principal and his victimizer. The lady talks to Cole and asks him to shake hands with the bully. As if just the mere shaking of hands will solve the problem. I am sure the poor woman could not help the fact she had nothing to offer in the way of sorting out the problem except for shaking hands. She clearly had no training in how to deal with bullying. She tried her best but she made things worse. My pity went to the bullied boy who, through streaming tears, told the administrator what he had endured from the other boy. Being called “a pussy”, being threatened and generally being pushed around, even though he tried to avoid his attacker as much as he could.

To deal with bullying in schools is not easy. The problem must be dealt with sensitively but at the same time, it must be made clear that the victimisation of any student, for whatever reason, is not acceptable. A School is somewhere students, teachers, parents and administrators are happy to interact with others who may not have the same life experiences they are used to. Diversity is not tolerated, it is celebrated. Although a common code of conduct of acceptable behaviour is adhered to in terms of civility around the school, there is no pressure on students to adhere to an “unwritten code” among fellow students of an acceptable way to act. Students are free to be who they are, not who people want them to be.

Anti-Bullying Resources


Bullying UK





BBC Resources







Telephone 0800 1111


For gay students



Stop Bullying


No Bullying


American Psychological Association

Help for LGBT students


The Gay Centre



Submit a Comment
  • John Dove profile image

    John Dove 

    19 months ago

    Good thoughts. I particularly like your statement about an inclusive and good social and educational environment as being so important for stopping bullying in schools.

  • Al Greenbaum profile imageAUTHOR

    Al Greenbaum 

    19 months ago from Europe

    I agree. Schools need to take the matter of bullying very seriously and have policies about what will happen if someone is bullied so there is a clear message as to where educational institutions stand. Too often, those bullied feel they have no redress and must somehow manage the situation themselves. If a school has a good social and educational environment, which is totally inclusive, bullying is much less likely to occur.

  • John Dove profile image

    John Dove 

    19 months ago

    I like your thorough and comprehensive overview of bullying in schools. Bullying is a terrible thing and does lasting damage to the "bully-ee". Schools need to take it seriously and take actions to prevent it from happening.


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