Diagnosing and Preventing Schoolyard Bullying

Association of Educators
June 6, 2013 — 941 views  

Diagnosing and preventing schoolyard bullying has received renewed interest in recent years. A documented increase in bullying incidents, aided and abetted by the rapid rise of cyber bullying, has prompted professional educators and elected officials to invest in bullying research and prevention programs. Schoolyard bullying comes in many forms, including physical, verbal, emotional or sexual intimidation and abuse. Not only does schoolyard bullying negatively affect the general learning environment, the victims of bullying are often harmed psychologically and emotionally, even to the point of suicide.

Schoolyard Bullying

Schoolyard bullying has been recognized as a significant problem in the United States. The United States Department of Education documented a five percent increase in the number of reported bullying incidents between 1999 and 2003. The perpetrator or victim of a bullying incident can be either a male or female student. Males tend to emphasize the use of physical intimidation and violence. Female perpetrators prefer the use of emotional abuse or gossip to humiliate their victims.

The National Resource Center for Safe Schools has estimated that approximately five-million elementary and middle school aged students are either a bully or a bullying victim. Bullying generally involves the intentional and repetitious intimidation of a student that is unable to defend themselves or deter the verbal or physical aggressions of a perpetrator. Unfortunately, students with special needs are especially vulnerable to schoolyard bullying.

Diagnosing Schoolyard Bullying

Identifying and preventing schoolyard bullying requires the combined cooperation of educators, parents and community leaders. It is often difficult to determine whether a change in behavior on the part of a student is the product of a developmental phase or due to an incidence of bullying. Researchers J. E. Dimarco and M. K. Newman have identified the following warning signs that a student may have become the victim of bullying:

  • General anxiety related to school and school activities
  • Major changes in online activity
  • Frequent bouts of illness
  • Avoiding eye contact or looking down
  • Somber moods
  • Decline in grades and work habits
  • Eating less or more than usual
  • Dramatic change in sleeping habits or nightmares
  • Bouts of agitation or nervousness
  • Questions about home schooling or other unusual subjects
  • Reading or studying continuously in the presence of friends or family
  • Quieter in school than usual
  • Increased isolation, crying, fighting or depression
  • Avoiding sports and other activities

Preventing Schoolyard Bullying

The establishment of a positive learning environment that incorporates clear standards and decisive intervention strategies is an essential aspect of reducing the incidence of bullying and cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has the potential to influence a learning environment even though the bullying occurred at an off-campus location.

Teaching all students that any form of bullying is unacceptable is only the beginning of a prevention strategy. The use of peer mentoring, conflict resolution techniques and the active implementation of an effective bullying education and prevention curriculum can help promote the development of a respectful learning environment.

Diagnosing and preventing schoolyard bullying should be an important part of an educator’s professional development. There’s little doubt that bullying has a negative influence on the well-being of victimized students. 

Association of Educators