The Situationist

Examining the Bullying Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 17, 2009

BullyingDr. Perri Klass recently wrote an interesting essay, titled “At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers),” for The New York Times on the situation of bullies and bullying.  Here are some excerpts.

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In recent years, pediatricians and researchers in this country have been giving bullies and their victims the attention they have long deserved — and have long received in Europe. We’ve gotten past the “kids will be kids” notion that bullying is a normal part of childhood or the prelude to a successful life strategy. Research has described long-term risks — not just to victims, who may be more likely than their peers to experience depression and suicidal thoughts, but to the bullies themselves, who are less likely to finish school or hold down a job.

Next month, the American Academy of Pediatrics will publish the new version of an official policy statement on the pediatrician’s role in preventing youth violence. For the first time, it will have a section on bullying — including a recommendation that schools adopt a prevention model developed by Dan Olweus, a research professor of psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway, who first began studying the phenomenon of school bullying in Scandinavia in the 1970s. The programs, he said, “work at the school level and the classroom level and at the individual level; they combine preventive programs and directly addressing children who are involved or identified as bullies or victims or both.”

Dr. Robert Sege, chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and a lead author of the new policy statement, says the Olweus approach focuses attention on the largest group of children, the bystanders. “Olweus’s genius,” he said, “is that he manages to turn the school situation around so the other kids realize that the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior, and the victim is someone they can protect.”

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By definition, bullying involves repetition; a child is repeatedly the target of taunts or physical attacks — or, in the case of so-called indirect bullying (more common among girls), rumors and social exclusion. For a successful anti-bullying program, the school needs to survey the children and find out the details — where it happens, when it happens.

Structural changes can address those vulnerable places — the out-of-sight corner of the playground, the entrance hallway at dismissal time.

Then, Dr. Sege said, “activating the bystanders” means changing the culture of the school; through class discussions, parent meetings and consistent responses to every incident, the school must put out the message that bullying will not be tolerated.

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How about helping the bullies . . . ? Some experts worry that schools simply suspend or expel the offenders without paying attention to helping them and their families learn to function in a different way.

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To read the entire article, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Bullying,” Dueling Stereotypes and the Law,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part III,” and “The Devil You Know . . . .”

3 Responses to “Examining the Bullying Situation”

  1. There is so much that needs to be done to help prevent bullying. I agree that it can no longer be looked at as something normal that kids do. I also agree with the comment that bystanders need to be activated. I work for a company, SchoolTipline, that help to do just that. They provide an anonymous reporting service that students can use to report bullying and other school crimes to administrators. It is time we all start working together to prevent bullying.

  2. […] post from The Situationist titled “Examining the Bullying Situation.” In recent years, pediatricians and researchers in this country have been giving bullies and […]

  3. Great post – tough topic…

    As a kid many tried to bully me, but I used to be really short-tempered and could not take much abuse from anyone. Usually I dealt with my bullies with some extreme physical “stunt” (I won’t name what I did – I don’t want to give ideas to others), but today if you get physical then both get in trouble – the bully and the bullied – and that’s really sad… at least in my opinion. Again, it’s a tough topic, but one that needs to be worked on with full steam…

    In my time -30+ years ago, bullying was not adressed by school staff – or just minimally – so it’s great that today there’s something being done about it. And I agree that the bully needs at least as much help as the bullied; after all, if we treat the “weeds” we’ll have a niceer “lawn” (except, in this case, let’s not expell these “weeds” but help them see the damage they do and help them change.

    Yes, it is possible. In 9th grade, we had a bully – a laaarge dude.. who kept terorizing us in all kinds of ways. Then when several of us complained about him, someone talked to him (I have no idea who and what they told him), but he turned into a “lamb” – so much so that some other kids started hurting him and he’d not fight back… I know, strange…

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