Tag Archives: bullying

Rude, Mean, or Bullying? Defining the Differences

by Signe Whitson, in HuffPo Parents

[for Orton -Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH, see below]

A few weeks ago, I had the terrific fortune of getting to present some of the bullying prevention work that I do to a group of children at a local bookstore. As if interacting with smiling, exuberant young people was not gift enough, a reporter also attended the event a wrote a lovely article about my book and the work I do with kids, parents, educators and youth care professionals. All in all, it was dream publicity and since then, has sparked many conversations with people in my town who saw my photo in the newspaper and immediately related to the examples of bullying that were discussed.

I have been brought to tears more than once since the article ran, while listening to parents share their feelings of outrage and helplessness over their kids’ experiences with bullying in school. One gifted but socially awkward middle school student blew me away with his articulate, poised, yet searingly painful accounts of relentless physical and verbal bullying on his school bus. An elementary school-aged girl described how she had to learn to shed her Australian accent within a month of entering U.S. schools because of how she was shunned by her classmates. The commonness of it all routinely astounds me with every new account; the pervasive cruelty makes my jaw drop every time.

It is important for me to begin this article by establishing that without doubt, many of the stories of bullying that are shared with me are horrifying and some are unspeakably cruel. But now, I also want to be honest and share that some of the stories are… well… really not so bad.

Take this story recently shared with me by an acquaintance who read about my professional work:

“Signe, I saw your picture in the paper last week. Congratulations! I didn’t know you worked with bullied students. It’s so important that you do — things have gotten so bad! Last week, my daughter was bullied really badly after school! She was getting off of her bus when this kid from our neighborhood threw a fistful of leaves right in her face! When she got home, she still had leaves in the hood of her coat. It’s just awful! I don’t know what to do about these bullies.”

“Was she very upset when she got home?” I empathized.

“No. She just brushed the leaves off and told me they were having fun together,” she said.

“Oh,” I answered knowingly, aware that oftentimes kids try to downplay victimization by bullies from their parents, due to the embarrassment and shame they feel. “Did you get the sense she was covering for the boy?”

“No, no. She really seemed to think it was fun. She said that she threw leaves back at him, which I told her NEVER to do again! The nerve of those kids.”

“Those ‘kids,’ I clarified. “Was it just the one boy throwing leaves or were there a bunch of kids all ganging up on her?”

“No, it was just this one boy that lives about a block from us,” she assured me.

“Is he usually mean to her? Has he bothered her after school before?” I asked, eager at this point to figure out what the bullying issue was.

“No. I don’t think so at least. That was the first time she ever said anything about him. It was definitely the first time that I noticed the leaves all over her coat. But it better be the last time! I won’t stand for her being bullied by that kid. Next time, I am going to make sure the Principal knows what is going on after school lets out!”

While I always want to be careful not to minimize anyone’s experience (it’s the social worker in me!) and a part of me suspects that the sharing of this particular story may have been simply this parent’s spontaneous way of making conversation with me in a store aisle, I hear these “alarming” (read: benign) stories often enough to conclude that there is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean and behavior that is characteristic of bullying. I first heard bestselling children’s author, Trudy Ludwig, talk about these distinguishing terms and, finding them so helpful, have gone on to use them as follows:

Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.

A particular relative of mine (whose name it would be rude of me to mention) often looks my curly red hair up and down before inquiring in a sweet tone, “Have you ever thought about coloring your hair?” or “I think you look so much more sophisticated when you straighten your hair, Signe.” This doting family member thinks she is helping me. he rest of the people in the room cringe at her boldness and I am left to wonder if being a brunette would suit me. Her comments can sting, but remembering that they come from a place of love — in her mind — helps me to remember what to do with the advice…

From kids, rudeness might look more like burping in someone’s face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade or even throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone’s face. On their own, any of these behaviors could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.

Mean = Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).

The main distinction between “rude” and “mean” behavior has to do with intention; while rudeness is often unintentional, mean behavior very much aims to hurt or depreciate someone. Kids are mean to each other when they criticize clothing, appearance, intelligence, coolness or just about anything else they can find to denigrate. Meanness also sounds like words spoken in anger — impulsive cruelty that is often regretted in short order. Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down. Commonly, meanness in kids sounds an awful lot like:

• “Are you seriously wearing that sweater again? Didn’t you just wear it, like, last week? Get a life.”
• “You are so fat/ugly/stupid/gay.”
• “I hate you!”

Make no mistake; mean behaviors can wound deeply and adults can make a huge difference in the lives of young people when they hold kids accountable for being mean. Yet, meanness is different from bullying in important ways that should be understood and differentiated when it comes to intervention.

Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.

Experts agree that bullying entails three key elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse — even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop.

Bullying may be physical, verbal, relational or carried out via technology:

• Physical aggression was once the gold standard of bullying– the “sticks and stones” that made adults in charge stand up and take notice. This kind of bullying includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, tripping, hair pulling, slamming a child into a locker and a range of other behaviors that involve physical aggression.

• Verbal aggression is what our parents used to advise us to “just ignore.” We now know that despite the old adage, words and threats can, indeed, hurt and can even cause profound, lasting harm.

• Relational aggression is a form of bullying in which kids use their friendship–or the threat of taking their friendship away–to hurt someone. Social exclusion, shunning, hazing, and rumor spreading are all forms of this pervasive type of bullying that can be especially beguiling and crushing to kids.

• Cyberbullying is a specific form of bullying that involves technology. According to Hinduja and Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center, it is the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Notably, the likelihood of repeated harm is especially high with cyberbullying because electronic messages can be accessed by multiple parties, resulting in repeated exposure and repeated harm.

So, why is it so important to make the distinction between rude, mean and bullying? Can’t I just let parents share with me stories about their kids?

Here’s the thing; in our culture of 24/7 news cycles and social media sound bytes, we have a better opportunity than ever before to bring attention to important issues. In the last few years, Americans have collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before; millions of school children have been given a voice, 49 states in the U.S. have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids safe and dignified in schools and communities. These are significant achievements.

At the same time, however, I have already begun to see that gratuitous references to bullying are creating a bit of a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena. In other words, if kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying — whether to simply make conversation or to bring attention to their short-term discomfort — we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency as quickly as it rose to prominence.

It is important to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene. As we have heard too often in the news, a child’s future may depend on a non-jaded adult’s ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying.


Signe Whitson is a licensed therapist, national educator on bullying, and author of three books including Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Cope with Bullying. For more information or workshop inquiries, please visit www.signewhitson.com

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/bullying_b_2188819.html

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edward 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ Helping Girls Deal With Bullying (and Frenemies)

by Signe Whitson, in Psychology Today

The world of little girls begins as such a lovely place. Heart and rainbow doodles adorn notebook covers, best friendships are formed within seconds, and bold, exuberant voices carry squeals of carefree laughter and brazen delight. Happiness is worn on a sleeve, and anger is voiced with authentic candor.

Length-of-stay in this accepting, kindly world is time-limited for many girls, however. Seemingly overnight, sweet sentiments like, “I love your dress,” turn into thinly-veiled criticisms such as, “Why are you wearing that dress?” Yesterday’s celebratory birthday party becomes today’s tool of exclusion, as guest lists are used to enforce social hierarchies. Long before most school programs begin anti-bullying campaigns, young girls get a full education in social aggression.

What can adults do to help kids cope with inevitable experiences of friendship conflict and bullying?

To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

Adults often struggle with the question of, “Should I intervene in a child’s friendship problems?” The line between helicopter and hands-off can get confusing, as adults waver between wanting to protect young people from the pain of broken friendships and believing that bullying is an inevitable rite of passage. The bottom line is this; no child should have to find her way through painful conflict alone. Kids need adult support and insights when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of friendship, disguised as a weapon. Here are some fundamental ways parents can help:

Teach Her to Know it When She Experiences It

One of the things that makes relational bullying so insidious is its under-the-radar nature. It is things left unsaid and invitations not given. It is unexplained cut-offs in friendship. It is silence. This type of bullying is marked by crimes of omission that make it very hard for girls to put their finger on what they are experiencing in their friendships—yet the pain, humiliation, and isolation are unmistakable.

Adults play a critical role in keeping an open dialogue with young people and making them aware of the typical behaviors that mark this cruel form of social aggression. Knowledge is power; when girls know what relational bullying looks and feels like, they are better able to make a conscious choice to move away from friends who use these behaviors.

Some of the most common bullying behaviors that adults can make kids aware of include:

1. Excluding girls from parties and play dates

2. Talking about parties and play dates in front of girls who are not invited

3. Mocking, teasing, and calling girls names

4. Giving girls the “silent treatment”

5. Threatening to take away friendship (“I won’t be your friend anymore if…”)

6. Encouraging others to “gang up” on a girl you are angry with

7. Spreading rumors and starting gossip about a girl

8. “Forgetting” to save a seat for a friend or leaving a girl out by “saving a seat” for someone else

9. Saying something mean and then following it with “just joking” to try to avoid blame

10. Using cell phones and/or social media to gossip, start rumors, say mean things, or forward embarrassing posts and photos

Help Her Make Friends with her Anger

“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” —Lyman Abbott

Anger is a normal, natural, human emotion. In fact, it is one of the most basic of all human experiences. And yet many girls, from a very early age, are bombarded with the message that anger = bad. Young girls face enormous social pressure to be “good” at all costs, a standard that makes it difficult for young girls to stop and say, “Hey. I don’t like the way you are treating me right now. I’m feeling angry about what you just said/did/pretended not to do, and I’m not going to let you treat me that way anymore.”

Adults who teach their children how to be angry effectively—by role modeling assertive communication skills and by accepting anger when it is respectfully expressed—fortify girls with the confidence to walk away from toxic friendships.

Encourage Her to Show Strength

As a social worker, I am all about teaching young people that it is okay to feel sad, or hurt, or angry, and that it is a good thing to talk about their emotions with others. Yet, when it comes to facing off with a frenemy, my best advice to caring adults is to teach young girls how to show resolute strength. Mind you, strength should not come in the form of physically or verbally aggressive responses that up the ante and escalate hostilities, but rather young people show strength when they use humor to deflect a situation and they stand up for themselves whenever their feelings are disrespected. A simple “Knock it off,” or “Tell me when you get to the funny part” is a simple, powerful signal that a girl will not allow herself to be treated poorly.

As for the “talking about their emotions” part, adults should make themselves available as a sounding board for kids whenever possible. Kids need to have a safe place to be vulnerable—to vent, to talk about their friendship frustrations, and even to cry. Parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, and other caring adults are ideally suited to provide this safe place.

Teach Her to Know What She is Looking For

For school-aged children, friendships create a powerful sense of belonging. We want our girls to feel accepted and embraced by their peers—never to be used as pawns in someone else’s popularity game. Fostering discussions and careful consideration of the values involved in making and maintaining healthy friendships is one of the most important things adults can do to help girls choose friendships wisely.

Around the dinner table, after class, during carpool, or anytime the mood is right, strike up a conversation (or, better yet, a dozen ongoing dialogues) about the values kids should look for in a real friendship. Make it into a finish-the-sentence game with a starter like, A Real Friend is Someone Who… Hopefully, the end of a young girl’s sentence will sound something like:

• Uses kind words

• Takes turns and cooperates

• Shares

• Uses words to tell me how she feels

• Helps me when I need it

• Compliments me

• Includes me

• Is always there for me

• Understands how I feel

• Cares about my opinions and feelings

• Stands up for me

• Is fun to be with

• Has a lot in common with me

When kids understand how a healthy friendship should look and feel, they are best equipped to extricate themselves from friendships that are toxic and damaging.

The friendships that are so easily formed between girls during their youngest years quickly become complicated as early as the elementary school years. Adults play the key role in teaching kids about healthy friendships and supporting them through the inevitable pains of toxic ones.

Signe Whitson is a school counselor and author Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Aged 5-11 to Cope with Bullying. For more information, activities, and Mother-Daughter workshops, visit www.signewhitson.com.    Follow Signe on Twitter @SigneWhitson.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

+ Report from Cyberbullying Center

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The 2010 survey done by the Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that over 20% of students from 4th through 12th grade have been victims of cyberbullying.

Over three quarters of the nation’s teens admit that they have little to no parental supervision while online.  And 81% of polled teens admit their feeling that cyberbullying is “funny” to do.

And it’s not just high school and middle school kids: elementary students are being increasingly bullied by their peers.  Students are exposed to social sites and online interactions at earlier and earlier ages and the increase in bullying is seen not only in the classroom but online as well.

Unfortunately, since anti-bullying programs target upper elementary and middle school levels, the youngest students are often confused about what is — and what is not — bullying.

TEACHING TIP:  Establish a task force at your school to deal with issues of bullying and cyberbullying,  When an incident comes to the school’s attention, the team meets with the children involved, reviews what occurred, and makes recommendations for change including disciplinary action if needed.

Bullying laws have been in eefect for years in most states but unfortunately, cyberbullying is slow to catch up, with only 15 states currently including it as a punishable offense on its own.

Parents, teachers and community leaders must give children tools to help them protect themselves.

One of the best ways to do that is to share examples of inappropriate incidents that can happen online.  Role-playing is by far the most effective way to address the problem, especially in elementary grades where students need concrete examples and hands-on learning.

In the classroom, encourage students to come up with ideas for actions that would qualify as inappropriate.  Do a short skit with the class.  Sometimes hearing and seeing concrete examples from their friends and classmates can be more effective than anything else.

Two Free Online Minicurriculums

From the Anti-Defamation League: http://www.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/cyberbullying/Elementary%20Handouts.pdf?roi=echo3-13754072808-10217543-5dac5ecbcf50b0f96d2f4496d177e0d5&utm_source=bluehornet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EML10000527

From Common Sense Media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/cyberbullying-toolkit?roi=echo3-13754072808-10217544-570c2ffaf91ea4796af24b27f529f416&utm_source=bluehornet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EML10000527

For the entire report from  the Cyberbullying Research Center: http://www.cyberbullying.us/research.php?roi=echo3-13754072808-10217536-7b1cd383c0a6efc5e86065a7ea3508c4&utm_source=bluehornet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EML10000527

Source for this post: an email from http://www.reallygoodstuff.com.  Sign up to receive valuable information and resources!

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Bullying: The Power of Peers

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Philip C. Rodkin wrote a version of a government report on bullying for the September 2011 Issue of ASCD’s publication Educational Leadership.

Rodkin first explains the use of the words peer and bully, which at first glance, don’t appear to belong together.  

A “peer” means someone of the same standing, a social equal. A “bully” is seizing power  in a social situation.

It’s this sense of inequality, abuse, and unfairness — and of a peer culture valuing all the wrong things — that makes bullying incompatible with the democratic spirit; all youth should be free to learn in peace and safety, making the most of their talents and goals.

Children and youth (and some adults) use bullying to acquire resources and to demonstrate to an audience that they are the ones who dominate.  This is where peers come into the picture.  Bullies can’t succeed unless witnesses play along.  If they ignore the bullying, or intervene to stop the action, the bully is deprived of his objective.

Presumably bullying at school occurs under the watchful eye of responsible adults, so how peers and adults act in response to bullying is crucial.  And it is even better if these others can anticipate the bullying in advance of the event.

Research has informed parents and  educators about the structural situations in which bullying occurs.  But more is needed to determine how to use this information effectively in making our schools a safe place for kids. 

Bullies Live in Two Social Worlds

Tom Farmer and colleagues wrote a recent article on the “two social worlds” of bullying: on one hand marginalization, and on the other, connection.

Socially marginalized bullies, they say, may be fighting against a social system that keeps them on the periphery.  Socially connected bullies use aggression to control others and garner power.

Bullies who are marginalized and unpopular are often shunted into peer groups with other bullies.  These marginalized bullies (more often boys than girls) often have a host of problems, and the bullying behavior is only one manifestation.  Bullying in their case may stem from an inability to control their impulsive actions, or it may be due to a desire to gain an elusive status. 

On the other hand, “connected” bullies belong to highly networked and integrated social worlds; they don’t lack for peer social support. 

These socially connected bullies are evenly divided between boys and girls.  They have a variety of friends.  Some but not all of those friends are bullies themselves.  These bullies strengths may  include social skills, athleticism, or physical attractiveness. 

Socially connected bullies tend to be proactive and goal-directed in their aggression.  They often have years of experience with peers, sometimes since as early as their day-care groups.

They incorporate prosocial strategies into their behavioral repertoire (e.g. reconciling with targets after conflict, or becoming less aggressive after they’ve established dominance).

Bullies who are socially connected are under-recognized as seriously aggressive.  They are frequently popularized in the media.  Of them, one group of researchers uses the words”popular, socially skilled, and competent.”

Bullying peaks in early adolescence, but the two social worlds of bullying exists through all the early grades, sometimes as early as kindergarten. 

Rodkin says

As light can be both wave and particle, aggression can be maladaptive or adaptive depending on why the aggression occurs; the time frame (that is, adaptive in the short run, but maladaptive in the long run); the consequences of the aggressive act; and one’s perspective.

Educators and parents need to ask of any bullying situation why the bullying works — from the perspective of the bully.  It is necessary to establish what goals are being served by the bullying behavior: they will differ for each child in each different situation.   

The Bully-Victim Relationship 

Criminologists always establish first the relationship between any victim and the perpetrator.   In any bully/victim situation the question is rarely asked.  We know very little about what is built in to any bullying event.

The focus has traditionally been on identifying “bully,” “victim,” and “bully-victim” categories. Time is spent determining such things as “prevalence rates,” and “behavioral characteristics” of bullying incidents.

Bullies and victims therefore are put into separate boxes, and their separateness is spotlighted.  The implication is that there is no known relationship between a bully and a victim — that the targeting is random.

But the reality is more complex.  Bullies and victims often have a previously existing relationship that lead up to the incidents. 

If these facts had been made clear, knowledgeable adults might have been alerted to the trouble spots.

Reciprocated dislike or animosity is one clear predictor of trouble.  Potential bullies  — particularly socially connected bullies — turn their angry thoughts into aggressive behavior.  The direct that behavior then toward low-status peers whom they already dislike (and who almost certainly dislike them as well).

Time frames can be  predictable.  Socially connected children choose same-sex bullying as part of their struggle for dominance, particularly in the beginning of the school year, or between transitions from one school to another (when the social hierarchy is in flux) and it is easy to target unpopular children.

In a disturbing number of cases, aggressive boys harass girls.  Sixty percent of 5th to 7th grade girls in one study reported being bullied by boys.  Unpopular, rejected, aggressive boys are most likely to harass girls. 

In another study, 38 percent of girls who experience sexual harassment “say they first experienced it in elementary school.”

Socially connected bullies tend to demonstrate within-sex bullying and dominance behavior against unpopular targets.

“Bullying is a Social Event”

Studies show that even one good friend can help assuage the harmful consequences of harassment. 

Adults should be aware that in addition to implementing violence reduction therapies and social skills trainings, social ties of marginalized bullies should be spotlighted.  Broaden these networks, where feasible, to include a greater variety of peers.  

Rodkin says he refers to socially connected bullies as “hidden in plain sight.”  Because these types of bullies affiliate with a wide variety of peers, there is an unhealthy potential for widespread acceptance of bullying. 

Debra Pepler and colleagues call this the “theater of bullying,”  which encompasses not only the bully-victim dyad, but also children who encourage, reinforce  and silently witness the abuse. 

Pepler says “Bullying is a social event in the classroom and on the playground.” In almost 90 percent of observed cases there was an audience of peers.

This silent, mocking audience grows exponentially, in frightening anonymity, with cyber-bullying.  Thus the problem of bullying is also a problem of the unresponsive bystander, whether that bystander is a classmate who finds harassment funny, a peer who sits on the sidelines afraid to get involved, or an educator who sees bullying as just another part of growing up.

One report finds that socially connected bullies target children who will likely not be defended. 

Peers who do intervene in bullying can make a real difference.  While studies show that a defender may be  successful in more than 50 percent of such attempts,  bystanders appear to stand up to the aggressor in only 20 percent of incidents.

In addition

[o]ne good friend can make a crucial difference to children who are harassed.  Victims who are friends with a non-victimized peer are less likely to internalize problems as a result…for example, being sad, depressed or anxious.

Even 1st graders who have a friend but who are otherwise socially isolated seem to be protected from the adjustment problems that other isolated children may suffer.

Surprisingly, one study found that intervention which involves peers (using students as peer mediators, engaging bystanders to disapprove and offer support to the victim) were found to be associated with increases in victimization.

In fact of 20 program elements included in 44 school-based programs, work with peers was the only program element associated with significantly more bullying and victimization.  (There were significant and positive effects for parent training and school meetings in reducing bullying.)

For peer mediation to be effective, students who are chosen to be mediators should probably be popular and prosocial.

The most innovative, intensive, grassroots uses of peer relationships to reduce bullying (one is the You Have the Power! program in Montgomery County, Maryland) have not been scientifically evaluated.  This work must be undertaken.

Teachers should ask what kind of bully they face when dealing with a victimization problem.  Is the bully a member of a group?  Is he or she a group leader?  How are the bullies and victims situated in the “peer ecology”?

Educators who exclusively target peripheral, antisocial cliques as the engine of school violence problems may leave intact other  groups that are more responsible for mainstream peer support of bullying.

Educators should periodically talk with students and ask about their social relationships and whether bullying is present.

Charles Payne makes the point in his book “So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools,” that even the best, most rigorous and most validated intervention may not be successful: weak social infrastructure and dysfunctional organizational environments must also be taken into account.

The task ahead is to help educators recognize, understand and help guide children’s relationships.  We must determine ways that bullies and the children they harass can be folded into the whole social fabric of the school.

With guidance from caring, engaged adults, youth can organize themselves as a force that makes bullying less effective as a means of social connection or as an outlet for alienation.

sole source: Philip C. Rodkin’s article in ASCD’s September 2011 issue of Educational Leadership.  Visit http://www.ascd.org

The full report from which this article was taken was commissioned to be presented to the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, which met on March 10, 2011. 

The conference brought together President Obama, the first lady, members of the cabinet, as well as youth, parents, researchers, school officials and other groups.  The goal was to craft a national strategy for reducing and ending bullying in schools.

tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com  

+ Teachers: Reach Out to Parents of Bullied Students

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An article in ASCD  Express by Allan Beane and Michelle Law has offered numerous tips for parents of bullied students.

They write

As educators, you probably requently have parents contact you because their child is being bullied…

First, you should assure them that you will immediately investigate their child’s situation.  Then, you should discuss what might help their child be safe from bullying while you investigate.

They suggest that perhaps the child needs to avoid certain areas on school property at certain times; perhaps the school might increase supervision in high risk areas where this child needs to be.  Tell parents to make sure the child talks to an adult, such as a supportive teacher, every day.

Adults, both parents and teachers, need to stay vigilant.  Look for the following warning signs and symptoms and address problems quickly.


  • Note that for a behavior to be labeled bullying, it must be persistent (repeated over time); it must be intentionally designed to hurt or frighten the child.  and the bully must have power and control over your child.
  • Let the child know that NO ONE deserves to be bullied.
  • Stay calm.
  • Be sensitive; your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Determine what happened, who was involved, when and where it happened.  Importantly, keep a log of this information. 
  • Express confidence that everyone — you, the adults at school, and the child himself — will be able to find a solution.
  • Ask the child to write her thoughts and feelings down in a journal or notebook.  This is a great way to discharge emotional pressure and anxiety.
  • Explain that bullies want to hurt and control.  So it is best — even though difficult — not to show that the behavior hurts.
  • Let him know that it is perfectly normal to feel hurt, fear and anger.
  • Avoid being a “fix-it” parent.  Don’t call parents; it’s usually not effective. 
  • Don’t tell your child to retaliate.  It’s against the rules, and retaliation frequently makes the bullying worse and more prolonged.  And bullies are usually more powerful than their victims.
  • Don’t tell your child to ignore the bully; that doesn’t usually work.
  • Teach your child to be assertive but not aggressive.
  • Don’t promise not to tell anyone.
  • Ask for a copy of the district’s anti-bullying policy.
  • Report all physical assaults to the school and to police.
  • Take pictures of all injuries.  Hold a ruler next to injuries to show their sizes.  Keep a record of all medical treatment, including counseling, expenses and related travel expenses.
  • Be patient; some situations take more time to investigate and stop than others.
  • Involve your child in activities inside and outside school.  High-quality friendships can blossom when a child is involved in activities she enjoys.
  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts and his friendships.
  • Involve your child in discovering solutions to her bullying situation.
  • Watch for signs of depression and anxiety; don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling.
  • Ask an older student with good morals to mentor your child.
  • Don’t give up.


Some of these warning signs are very serious.  Pay attention.

  • Sudden decreased interest in school (wants to stay home).
  • Sudden loss of interest in favorite school activities (band, swim team…)
  • Sudden decrease in quality of schoolwork.
  • Wanting a parent to take her to school instead of riding the bus.
  • Seems happy on weekends, but unhappy, preoccupied or tense on Sundays before school the next day.
  • Suddenly prefers the company of adults.
  • Frequent illnesses, such as headaches, stomach aches.
  • Sleep issues: insomnia or nightmares.
  • Comes home with unexplained scratches, bruises or torn clothing.
  • Talks about avoiding certain areas of the school or neighborhood.
  • Suddenly becomes moody, irritable, or angry; begins to bully others (siblings or children in the neighborhood.
  • Seeks the wrong friends in the wrong places (drug users, cult-like groups, gangs).
  • Talks about being sad, anxious, depressed or having panic attacks.
  • Wants to stay home at night.
  • Wants to stay home on weekends.
  • Self-mutilates.
  • Talks about suicide.

Source: Article on ASCD Express (Vol. 6, No. 13) by Allan L. Beane and Michelle Law.  Beane is founder and CEO of Bully Free Systems LLC, a program that is used in schools and districts nationally.  The Bully Free Program also offers books and resources.  Law is a special education teacher in Woodward, OK. She is a coordinator of the Bully Free Program at Cedar Heights Elementary.

ASCD was formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  It is a membership organization that develops programs, products and services essential to the way educators learn, teach and lead.  Visit http://www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.

Tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com .

+ Bullying Studies Tackle Playground Gossip

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An article by Sarah D. Spark in Education Week, reports that emerging research suggests ‘relational bullying’ may hold the key to changing an aggressive culture in schools.

Of the three major types of bullying — physical, verbal and relational — relational aggression has been the least studied. 

It may be that it involves less visible, immediately dangerous behavior.  And it may also be because it involves nuanced relationships among all concerned: the bullies, the victims and the bystanders.

According to Stephen S. Leff, director of the Children’s hospital of Philadelphia, and editor of a special issue on bullying in School Psychology Review, the shooters at Columbine and other school shootings were often victims of relational aggression. 

Leff feels there is a growing recognition that emotional scars are real and we need to create interventions to address those scars and prevent them from happening.

In one four-year study of American middle and high school students, researchers found that students considered by their peers to be the most popular were not the same as those most liked.

In addition, it was found that students perceived to be popular were the most likely to engage in gossip and social manipulation over time.

The Dark Side of Popularity

“It’s the dark side of popularity,” says Antonius H.N. Cillessen, professor of developmental psychology at Radboud University in the Netherlands.

For the practice of education it’s pretty important, because the popular bully gets a lot of peer reinforcement.  As adults we can say this is bad, you shouldn’t do this, but among peers, bullies have power.

In addition, he states that it is a difficult challenge for intervention research: it means you can’t work only on the individual bully or victim.  It means researchers need to address all possible roles a person can play.

A randomized study of 610 3rd- through 6th-grade students in Seattle, led by Karin S. Frey at the University of Washington, found relational aggression on the playground was “semi-public.”  Episodes could go on for quite a while, even when adults were present.  From an article in School Psychology Review,

A student or students would speak negatively about a third-party that was not among the listeners.  Group members would laugh, gesture, or look ‘meaningfully’ in the direction of an isolated, unhappy-looking student.

Says Frey, it’s both parallel and a step on the path to physical and verbal abuse.  For example, rumors often allege a boy has flirted with or had sex with another boy’s girlfriend, leading to fights.

Hill Walker is a professor of special education and co-director of the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior at the University of Oregon. 

Walker feels that the need to understand and address relational aggression is becoming more urgent, especially as students interact more often online, away from even minimal adult supervision.

Ways to Intervene

An anti-bullying program called Steps to Respect teaches bystanders how to avoid feeding the bully’s energy by watching, laughing, and spreading rumors, says Ms. Frey.  Students learn to comfort and support the victim without encouraging him or her to retaliate, which escalates problems.

If you’re the victim and you’re surrounded by people watching, you don’t know what people are thinking.  They may be enjoying the spectacle, or they may be feeling really uncomfortable.  But if they don’t say anything, it feels like they are all against you.

After the Steps to Respect program was instituted in the Seattle area, researchers found “malicious gossip” dropped 72 percent. 

The program trains teachers to identify relational aggression and encourage bystanders to stand up for children who are ostracized.

Another program, being developed by Mr. Leff, is called PRAISE (Preventing Relational Aggression in Schools Every Day). 

PRAISE includes training for teachers on ways to recognize more subtle bullying, as well as how to explain to students the difference between normal social interaction and harassment. 

sole source: Sarah D. Spark’s article in Education Week, February 1, 2011.  To read the entire article, visit http://www.edweek.org .  When you subscribe to Education Week, you will receive a monthly newsletter for educators full of  useful information, as well as  great benefits.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Bullying Summit Yields Results

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From LDA Newsbriefs, September/October 2010 issue, we learn that real work is being done on bullying, as a result of the first ever federal National Summit on Bullying.

They have launched bullying information site at


The site allows for an easy, more centralized and accessible one-stop site for federal resources on bullying. 

The Office for Civil Rights has been reinvigorated; this means complaints of bullying and harassment will be vigorously investigated.

In addition, the collaboration between federal agencies (the departmensts of Education, Justice, Heanlth and Human Services, Agriculture, Defense and Interior) will continue.

According to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan,

As educators, as state and local officials, and at the federal level, we simply have not taken the problem of bullying seriously enough.  It is an absolute travesty of our educational system when students fear for their safety suffer discrimination and tauns because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or a host of other reasons.  The fact is that no school can be a great school until it is a safe school first.

The US Department of Education has stepped up its efforts to address bullying to include a new $27 million Safe and Supportive Schools (S3)grant program.  This pilot will enable states to measure school safety at the building level, and provide federal funds for interventions in those schools with the greatest needs.

In addition, the Department’s blueprint for reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act calls for a dramatic increase in funding for its Successful, Safe and Healthy Students grants program, an expansion of the Safe and Supportive Schools pilot.

Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, says

The bullying summit exceeded our highest expectations as our partners came prepared with brilliant ideas and boundless imagination.  We will compile those ideas and use them as a framework to map out a national anti-bullying strategy in the coming weeks and months.  As 2010-2011 school year begins, we want to get resources into the hands of educators, families, students and concerned community members so they can help put an end to bullying.  The new Website puts all of our resources in one place, so folks can use them immediately as schools open.







source: LDA Newsbriefs, September/October 2010 issue.  http://www.LDAamerica.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com