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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 10/27/2010

Are we raising a generation of bullies?

By Valerie Strauss

There is a new poll getting a lot of attention that says half of students in our high schools admit to having bullied someone in the past year. That’s hard to believe.

The survey was conducted by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, and results were gleaned from answers to questions asked of 43,321 students. The margin of error is said to be less than 1 percent.

The teens were asked, according to the institute’s Web site, whether they had “bullied, teased or taunted someone (at least once in the past 12 months.)

Fifty percent said they had. Forty-seven percent said that they had been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. The institute’s president, Michael Josephson, was reported as saying that the study proves more bullying is going on in high school than previously thought.

Here’s the problem with the survey: The question about bullying asked students if they had “been a bully” at least once in the previous year. Bullying is not a single action. One fight on the playground does not qualify. Pushing someone in line once or twice doesn’t cut it either.

Here’s the definition, according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, developed by Dan Olweus, considered the father of research on bullies and their victims.

A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.

This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.


Bullying can take on many forms:
1. Verbal bullying including derogatory comments and bad names
2. Bullying through social exclusion or isolation
3. Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting
4. Bullying through lies and false rumors
5. Having money or other things taken or damaged by students who bully
6. Being threatened or being forced to do things by students who bully
7. Racial bullying
8. Sexual bullying
9. Cyber bullying (via cell phone or Internet)


A survey just released by the Olweus program, this one of 524,054 students in grades 3 through 12, 17 percent of the kids reported being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school semester.

Statistics on bullying are especially relevant now in the wake of a series of suicides of young gay men who committed suicide after being bullied.

The deaths prompted the Education Department on Tuesday to issue an advisory to schools on how civil rights law applies to bullying situations that in some cases have led persecuted students to commit suicide. President Obama is expected to help promote the initiative, my colleague Nick Anderson reported here.

The department could have started its campaign by calling for an end to corporal punishment, which still is legal in 22 states. Hundreds of thousands of kids get whacked by teachers or administrators a year.

Here’s the bottom line: If half of high school students really are bullies, which I distinctly doubt, then we have a bigger education crisis than we think. And we are doing exactly the wrong things to fix it.


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By Valerie Strauss  | October 27, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  bullies, bullying, bullying advisory, bullying definition, bullying survey, department of education, education department bullying, gay suicides, president obama, suicides, what is bullying  
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Comments

You're surprised the number is so high? Frankly, I'm surprised it's so low. Where did you go to school?

Posted by: jayyoung1 | October 27, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Bullying has always been a problem. I suspect that like may other things, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc., we are finally talking about it.

Posted by: MAS-NYC | October 27, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Bullying has been a problem since schools were created, and it starts in grade school. It's just that americans somehow felt that it was a right of passage.

There are 2 ways to stop bullying. 1) The parent should follow the kid to school and hopefully catch the bully in the act like I had to do. The bully never touched my kid again after the few words I had for him. 2) Have someone bigger than the bully catch him in the act and give him/her some of their own medicine.

A bully gets his attitude and behavior from home. Either he/she is being bullied at home or they may be watching someone else get bullied somewhere in the family.

Anti-bullying should be a regular part of a school's curricular. Adults are quick to say "kids can be so brutal" in their teasing of overweight kids or bullying smaller kids. Parents and Teachers should have been focusing on teaching them not to be mean to others. To treat others like you would want to be treated. Apparently that hasn't happened enough at home or at school.

Posted by: keedrow | October 27, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Really you believe it is too high. When is the last time you were actually in a school?

Kids bully each other all the time through social exclusion and words and as we have seen more recently in ways that can have dire consequences. I remember being a bullied as a kid, and I remember the one kid that even kids who got picked on could pick on. Everyone did it, the cool kids to look even cooler, the not so cool kids to try to improve their own self esteem. Even the teachers did a sigh of why do you bring this on yourself kind of bullying. This kid was a school outcast and were talking a pretty big school (graduating class 500).

So do I think the number is too high. No I think it is probably a conservative number.

Posted by: lucl74 | October 27, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

If we have bullies, then they have learned this behavior from their parents. It's much bigger than just an "educational" problem. It's that "bullying" is now accepted in place of civil discourse, in all parts of society.

Posted by: smudge101 | October 27, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Whatever is outside the school ends up inside the school. Teaching and modeling civility and how to handle oneself might help with some if this(I work where we have Olweus). Schools can be a powerful agent for social change. It helps if you can name each kid in the hall...which is harder at larger schools. John Halligan came and did a presentation at our school...it was pretty powerful and anyone in the room knew how powerful his message was. Highly recommended

http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.com/assemblies/assemblies.htm

Posted by: fishncville | October 27, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Bullying is prevalent. We need schools and policymakers to do what they can to stop it. But we can't wait for others to stop it. My son, Pete, will be presenting his short video at an inservice tomorrow morning for every counselor in Arlington County that coincides with their initiative about the power of the bystander.

Pete has Costello Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects almost every health system. He was featured on WUSA Channel 9 a couple of weeks ago.http://www.wusa9.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=636686916001


Posted by: PetesMom1 | November 1, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

When I read this I was not shocked by the statistics at all. Being in high school just two and a half years ago I remember how common bullying is. Physical bullying was not common in my school, but emotional bullying happened everyday. The sad thing about it was that the "bullies" were not a specific group of people, each group of friends would bully each other. It was friends against friends. I know that in my group of friends I was bullied on several occassions, I just never thought of it as being bullied until now. I think this is something we need to fix immediately, though it won't be easy. Adults need the kids help to fix this, it is not something adults can do on their own.

Posted by: Jaaamie119 | November 2, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Being that I was just in high school two and a half years ago I remember bullying very well. Bullying went on in my school on a daily basis, though it was not physical bullying, it was emotional. I went to an all girl school so it is easy to imaging how much emotional bullying there was going on in my school. There was not a specfic group of bullies, every group of friends had bullies inside the group of friends. It was friends against friends. I was bullied by friends of mine on several occassions, though I never considered it being bullied until I read this. Bullying is a serious problem we need to fix, but adults cannot do it alone. If adults think they can fix this problem alone they are mistaken, the kids help is extremely necessary.

Posted by: Jaaamie119 | November 2, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Parents need to take a more active role in their kids' lives. This behavior is taught from the home first. These kids go to school and bully other kids because parents no longer discipline their children. They might fear either their child hating them or getting in trouble for child abuse. Most schools cannot punish the students the way that would be most effective. These kids will continue to do whatever they want and get away with it unless their parents and schools work together.

Posted by: kgericke | November 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Parents need to take a more active role in their kids' lives. This behavior is taught from the home first. These kids go to school and bully other kids because parents no longer discipline their children. They might fear either their child hating them or getting in trouble for child abuse. Most schools cannot punish the students the way that would be most effective. These kids will continue to do whatever they want and get away with it unless their parents and schools work together.

Posted by: kgericke | November 2, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Parents need to take a more active role in their kids' lives. This behavior is taught from the home first. These kids go to school and bully other kids because parents no longer discipline their children. They might fear either their child hating them or getting in trouble for child abuse. Most schools cannot punish the students the way that would be most effective. These kids will continue to do whatever they want and get away with it unless their parents and schools work together.

Posted by: kgericke | November 2, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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