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What is school violence?
What are the parameters of this problem?
What is peer harassment?
What are the known causes of peer harassment?
What is the bully-victim cycle?
How does being bullied affect victims?
Why has the issue of bullying been largely ignored as a serious social problem?
What are some of the other misconceptions about this problem?
Why are parents often the last ones to know about the problem?
What responsibility do the schools have?
What can schools do?
What does the Power of One Foundation consider a “safe” school?

What is school violence?
School violence can be many things, occurs on a continuum from verbal abuse and bullying to fighting and homicide.

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What are the parameters of this problem?
Please consider these statistics:
  • American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims (Dan Olweus, researcher, journal article of the National School Safety Center).
  • 76.8 percent of students in a Midwestern study say they have been bullied and 14 percent of those students indicated that they experienced severe reactions to the abuse (Study conducted by John H. Hoover, Ronald Oliver and Richard J. Hazler).
  • The National School Safety Center estimates that 525,000 "attacks, shakedowns and robberies" occur in an average month in public secondary schools.
  • It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day, due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. (National Education Association).
  • A survey conducted by the American Association of University Women reported that 85 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys have been sexually harassed in some form. Only 18 percent of those incidents were perpetuated by an adult.
  • Young bullies carry a one-in-four chance of having a criminal record by age 30 (study by Leonard Eron and Ronald Huesmann).
  • The National Education Association reports that every day, 6,250 teachers are threatened with bodily injury and 260 are physically assaulted.
  • One incident of peer harassment takes place every 7 minutes.
  • Aggressive behavior and bullying is even more common in elementary school than in junior and senior high. But as children get older their bullying behavior becomes more covert and sophisticated.
  • According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, the Secret Service found that most of the attackers in columbine and other school shootings and experienced severe and long-standing forms of bullying and harassment.
  • Adults intervene in less than 4% of all incidents.
  • Peers intervene in less than 11% of all incidents.
  • No one intervenes in over 80% of all incidents.
  • Over 95% of the incidents of bullying in the schools occur when the teachers and no adults can witness the action. The majority of abuse takes place in the hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms, and the playground/parking areas.
  • Mobile phones and the Internet often provide ways for bullying activity, for example, with insulting messages, and anonymous or threatening emails.

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What is Peer Harassment?
Peer harassment is described as a form of school violence, which can be an obvious act or it can be very subtle and covert negative actions taken by one or more students toward another student.

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What are the known causes of peer harassment?

Peer harassment is all about power and contempt. A child may be chosen as a target because he or she is seen as different from the accepted group norms. Often a target is singled out only because someone has decided to do so. Once a child has been labeled as a victim, bullying treatment is often perpetuated by other children.

Carole E. Watkins, MD, (2000) in an article for the Northern County Psychiatric Association says the following about victims:
  • Victims can be anyone. Sometimes it is an accident of time and place. Some people are more likely to become targets but this does not make it their fault.
  • Someone who is different by virtue of physical or cultural characteristics.
  • Someone who is envied by the bully for his talent.
  • Competing with bully for dominance in the social group.
  • Depressed individual with low self-esteem.
  • Rescuing or masochistic victim. Often an adolescent girl who feels that she must allow a sadistic boyfriend to humiliate her so that she can rescue him.

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What is the Bully-victim Cycle?
The bully-victim cycle is the cycle of behaviors the pushes the victim to defend himself and thereby become a bully. Research has shown that this cycle is fluid and kids can be both victims and bullies. Some experts believe that this is all the same problem and that bullies and victims should not be dealt with as separate problems.

Barbara Coloroso (2003) believes that the bully and the victim need to heal together for full restoration and reconciliation. In order of this to happen the structure must be in place within the system.

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How does being bullied affect victims?

Peer harassment is devastating and can be directly linked to:

  • Reluctance to go to school.
  • Sunday night "terrors."
  • Frequent vague illnesses such as headaches, and nausea.
  • Heading straight for the bathroom as soon as arriving home after school.
  • Anxiety and acting out exhibited in behaviors such as bed wetting, nail biting, loss of appetite, overeating, stomach aches, crying, stammering, stuttering, tics, exaggerated mood swings, etc.
  • Refusing to ride the bus or changing walking route to school.
  • Sleeping difficulties including insomnia and nightmares.
  • Physical or medical problems that are stress related such as TMJ, or back spasms.
  • Personal belongings that turn up missing or come home ripped or damaged.
  • Unexplained bruises, scratches or other injuries.
  • Suspicious happenings or anxiety associated with the telephone or PC chat rooms.
  • Vandalism or suspicious pranks to personal property outside of school campus.
  • Depression.
  • Has few friends, is rarely invited to parties or other social events.
  • Declining academic performance.
  • Avoidance of school and truancy.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Obsessing about appearance, weight, clothes, height, etc.
  • Has become aggressive in behavior toward others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Carrying or wanting to carry something for protection, such as a knife, gun, or box opener.
  • School dropout.
  • Talks about or tries to run away form home.
  • Delinquency.
  • Drug use.
  • Suicide or attempts to cut or injure self.
  • Homicide or other acts of violence to others.
  • Scars inflicted by bullying may last a lifetime.

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Why Has the Issue of Bullying Been Largely Ignored as a Serious Social Problem?
  • Bullying is so widespread and so common that the "Rite of Passage" myth has blinded us to its extensive harm.
  • Because bullying involves children, it is seen as a minor issue on the horizon of adult crisis.
  • Since children are viewed as powerless in our society, adults are often oblivious to the insidious power structure that is part of bullying.
  • Western culture maintains certain unwritten codes of behavior that dictate silence, shame, guilt and blame for the victim, admiration of power, athletic prowess and privilege, and desensitization to violence.
  • Adults believe that kids need to "toughen up," ignore it or fight back.
  • Experience tells us that the prevalence of a problem does not bring about change until concerned citizens take action.
  • There is a history of abuse denial in our society that has prevented us from acknowledging child, spouse, and elder abuse.

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What are some of the other misconceptions about this problem?

  • Scientific studies show that bullying in an international problem that affects all schools. Bullying is a problem all over the world.
  • The National Education Association has launched the National Bullying Awareness Campaign. They state that bullying is not just child's play. It can no longer be explained away as a normal part of growing up.
  • Adults have been known to say things like "I was bullied as a kid, and I'm stronger for it! Everyone goes through it."
  • Hurtful teasing is never innocent. The teaser immediately consoles the target that has misunderstood the intention.
  • The excuse that the target "asked for it" or "deserved it" is not legitimate although aggressors use it frequently. In the past, adults have been more concerned with "being fair" than intervening in peer harassment.

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Why are parents the last to know about this problem?
  • There is a prevailing unspoken and unwritten code in many cultures that cause us to feel ashamed of being a victim. Kids often don't tell because they are ashamed that there was something so repulsive about them that their peers have singled them out to be victimized. (Kids believe that they are responsible for being bullied).
  • Parents often will not seek help for themselves, their families or their children because they are ashamed to admit to another adult that they are having this kind of problem.
  • Kids are often afraid of retaliation, and rightfully so. When follow-up is handled poorly, retaliation is frequently the result for the victim.
  • Children think that no one can help them.
  • Kids may believe what adults have told them, that bullying is part of growing up.
  • They may see that adults are bullies, too.
  • The unwritten code of silence makes them believe that telling an adult about the problem is tattling or "ratting" and therefore is taboo. We have all learned that tattling is unacceptable and immature behavior.

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What responsibility do the schools have?
Tonja Nansel, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that the dangers of bullying in schools still are not being taken seriously enough, despite the fact that some prevention strategies are being tried in some schools. "Schools really need to acknowledge bullying is a problem." There are still some administrators saying that their school doesn't have a problem.

Parents assume that teachers and school systems are experts in educating children. They expect that their children will be safe while they are at school. They would never knowingly entrust them to the care of someone who accepted limited responsibility or ability for the welfare of their children. This is a reasonable expectation. If schools do not recognize the existence of a problem, they will do nothing to fix it.

In a 1999 study Espelage states that adults should step in to stop bullying behaviors because "kids don't have the skills to stop it. They also fear that if they try, attention will turn to them."

Stop Bullying - Guidelines for School, an organization based in New Zealand emphasizes that schools need to have anti-bullying policies in place. "A school's failure to deal with bullying endangers the safety of all its pupils by allowing a hostile environment to interfere with learning. There is clear, unambiguous evidence that school action can dramatically reduce the incidence of bullying."

A number of states (Colorado, for instance) are looking at legislation that would force schools to implement anti-bullying programs and policies.

School rules and policies are specific for each school district and school. They are often not enough. Schools are not always consistent or effective in enforcement of their policies. In addition, harassment can be so subtle that most adults do not see it. This makes harassment difficult to identify. Peer pressure and retaliation are so powerful that few will report it for fear of becoming a victim themselves.

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What can schools do?
Children distracted and stressed by bullying and harassment are not ready to learn. Adults working in education have the duty and moral responsibility to provide a safe school environment for all students. And the foundation believes we must work toward establishing a social climate where all forms of aggression, bullying, and harassment are not tolerated.

Adults must learn to "see" bullying and harassment when it takes place. They need to know effective ways to intervene. They need to take the responsibility to set boundaries for respectful behavior and they need to consistently require from the students in their charge. Faculty must know that school administration will support them in their efforts to take action against all forms of violence including bullying and harassment.

Schools can adopt and enforce a policy against bullying and all forms of harassment. Implementing and giving support to an effective Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment program and plan can do that.

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What does the Power of One foundation consider a “safe” school?
We believe schools should be a place where kids are free from all forms of harassment and violence, and still are nurturing, caring, and respectful of everyone.

We believe schools should be a place where students can feel safe while learning about respect, tolerance, and acceptance.

Social and character development is as important as academic achievement for a successful life.

We believe that safe schools are places where children feel safe enough to let down their guard. And that they feel welcome and they are ready to learn and that they belong.

We believe schools should promote social justice and enhance the self-esteem of all. (Dash, 1995).

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