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This article primarily concerns student-related bullying at school. For teacher-related bullying at school, see Bullying in teaching.
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Articles related to Abuse

Types of bullying

Forms of bullying


Related concepts

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Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development.[1]

School bullying is a type of bullying that occurs in connection with education.[2][3] Bullying can be physical, verbal, or emotional.

In schools, bullying occurs in all areas. It can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it more often occurs in PE, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and waiting for buses, classes that require group work and/or after school activities.[citation needed] Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who, in some cases, want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Targets of bullying in school are often pupils who are considered strange or different by their peers to begin with, making the situation harder for them to deal with.

One student or a group can bully another student or a group of students. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim. However, there is some research suggesting that a significant proportion of "normal" school children may not evaluate school-based violence (student-on-student victimization) as negatively or as being unacceptable as much as adults generally do, and may even derive enjoyment from it, and they may thus not see a reason to prevent it if it brings them joy on some level.[4]

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse (relational aggression or passive aggression), humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.[5][6][7]

Anti-bullying programs are designed to teach students cooperation, as well as training peer moderators in intervention and dispute resolution techniques, as a form of peer support.[citation needed]


Physical bullying

See also: Physical abuse

A female bully, portrayed in the 1917 silent film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Physical bullying is any unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim. This is one of the most easily identifiable forms of bullying. Examples include:[2][8]

  • punching
  • pushing
  • shoving
  • kicking
  • inappropriate touching
  • tickling
  • headlocks
  • school pranks
  • teasing
  • fighting
  • Use of available objects as weapons

Emotional bullying

Emotional bullying is any form of bullying that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being. Examples include:[2][8]

  • spreading malicious rumors about people
  • keeping certain people out of a "group"
  • getting certain people to "gang up" on others (It also could be considered physical bullying)
  • making fun over certain people
  • ignoring people on purpose - the silent treatment, also known as 'Sending to Coventry'
  • harassment
  • provocation

Verbal bullying

See also: Verbal abuse

Verbal bullying is any slanderous statements or accusations that cause the victim undue emotional distress. Examples include:[8]

  • directing foul language (profanity) at the target
  • using derogatory terms or playing with the person's name
  • commenting negatively on someone's looks, clothes, body etc. - personal abuse
  • tormenting
  • harassment
  • being laughed at


Main article: Cyber-bullying

Cyber-bullying is any bullying done through the use of technology. This form of bullying can easily go undetected because of lack of parental/authoritative supervision. Because bullies can pose as someone else, it is the most anonymous form of bullying. Cyber bullying includes, but is not limited to, abuse using email, blog, instant messaging, text messaging, websites, social networking sites, etc.[8]

Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying is "any bullying behaviour, whether physical or non-physical, that is based on a person’s sexuality or gender. It is when sexuality or gender is used as a weapon by boys or girls towards other boys or girls — although it is more commonly directed at girls. It can be carried out to a person’s face, behind their back or through the use of technology."[9]

As part of its research into sexual bullying in schools, the BBC Panorama programme commissioned a questionnaire aimed at young people aged 11–19 years in schools and youth clubs across five regions of England.[10] The survey revealed that of the 273 young people who responded to the questionnaire, 28 had been forced to do something sexual and 31 had seen it happen to someone else. Of the 273 respondents, 40 had experienced unwanted touching.[11] UK Government figures show that in school year 2007/8, there were 3,450 fixed period exclusions and 120 expulsions from schools in England due to sexual misconduct.[12] This includes incidents such as groping and using sexually insulting language. From April 2008 to March 2009, ChildLine counselled a total of 156,729 children. Of these, 26,134 children spoke about bullying as a main concern and 300 of these talked specifically about sexual bullying.[9]

Some people, including the UK charity Beatbullying, have claimed that children are being bullied into providing ‘sexual favours’ in exchange for protection as gang culture enters inner city schools.[13] Other anti-bullying groups and teachers' unions, including the National Union of Teachers, challenged the charity to provide evidence of this, as they had no evidence that this sort of behaviour was happening in schools.[13]

Homophobic bullying

Main article: Homophobic bullying

Doctor Melinda Gentry Executive Director of an Atlanta Based Non-Profit created a task force that addressed the issue of bullying as it relates to sexual orientation. "After working in Atlanta Publics Schools, Atlanta, Georgia, I experienced bullying first hand. Due to my sexual orientation my co-workers rallied to have me demoted so that I was not in charge of them. I was told that I was not wanted or welcomed in the school. I was hired to empower children and as a resort I was demoralized. There was no support in the community. People need to be represented, I am an advocate for Human Rights of LGBT individuals in the community. These individuals pay taxes, raise articulate citizens and they love and respect others; they deserve receprocity. I know from my own experience that bullying takes place in elementary and secondary schools. People in positions of authority do not always respect diversity. The House of Pink Inc is working to create strategies to combat school bullying. It is unacceptable for adults and/ or children to be bullied in schools based on the premises of their sexuality. Schools need a unified system that strategically addresses issues such as bullying and violence. "These issues are often minimized but have a very long lasting effect on the individuals involved. Victims of bullying become victims of domestic violence in the future. Bullying is a precursor for other acts of civil and criminal violations. The studies on the number of children and adults who become suicidal or murdered in hate crime acts are ridiculously high and there needs to be something done now" Doctor Melinda Gentry.

In the United Kingdom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission reported in 2010 that "Homophobic bullying is widespread in British secondary schools. Nearly half of all secondary schoolteachers in England acknowledge that such bullying is common, and just 1 in 6 believe that their school is very active in promoting respect for LGBT students."[14]

High school bullying

According to Tara Kuther, associate professor of psychology at Western Connecticut State University, "...bullying gets so much more sophisticated and subtle in high school. It's more relational. It becomes more difficult for teens to know when to intervene, whereas with younger kids bullying is more physical and therefore more clear cut".[15]


Bullying is a common occurrence in most schools. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately "40% to 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point during their school careers".[16] Regardless of the grade level, socioeconomic environment, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, bullying can happen to anyone. However, various studies point out that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more bullied than students from higher socio-economic backgrounds.[17] Most children experience bullying at some point in their academic careers. The following is a list of statistics that illustrate the severity of bullying within classrooms:[16]

  • 20-40% of bullying victims actually report being bullied
  • 70% of middle school and high school students experience bullying in school
  • 7-12% of bullies are habitual and pose a serious threat
  • 23% of 9th graders have carried a weapon to school recently[18]
  • 5-15% of students are constantly bullied
  • 27% of students are bullied because of their refusal to engage in common sexual practices
  • 25% of students encourage bullying if not given proper education and support in anti-bullying techniques[15]

Due to the low numbers of students who actually report incidents of bullying, teachers need to have a certain level of awareness that will thwart any potential problems. This awareness starts with understanding bullying.

Short-term and long-term effects

Dombeck says that as a forty-year-old man, he still feels the effects of the bullying he received as a ten-year-old. Every day, he would dread riding the bus home from school because he was bullied by the older children on the bus. Dombeck defines some common short-term and long-term effects of bullying. These include, but are not limited to:[19]



School shootings

School bullying is a major cause of school shootings. 71% of the attackers were motivated by being bullied and picked on. School shooters that died or committed suicide left behind evidence that they were bullied, including Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Nathan Ferris, Edmar Aparecido Freitas, Seung-Hui Cho, Wellington Menezes Oliveira, and Jeff Weise.

Complex dynamics of a school bullying culture

Parsons identifies school bullying cultures as typically having a web of dynamics which are much more complex than just considering bullying amongst students. These dynamics include:[20]

  • some students bully other students; some of these student bullies are themselves bullied by other student bullies; some of these student bullies bully teachers
  • some teachers bully students; some teacher bullies bully other teachers; some teacher bullies bully parents
  • some office staff bully teachers, students and parents
  • some principals bully teachers, office staff, students and parents
  • some parents bully teachers, office staff, principals, and their own children.


Strategies to reduce school bullying

Researchers (Olweus, 1993);[22] Craig & Peplar, 1999;[23] Ross, 1998;[24] Morrison, 2002;[25] Whitted & Dupper, 2005;[26] Aynsley-Green, 2006;[27] Fried-Sosland[28] provide several strategies which address ways to help reduce bullying, these include:

  • Make sure an adult knows what is happening to their children.
  • Enforce anti bully laws.
  • Make it clear that bullying is never acceptable.
  • Recognize that bullying can occur at all levels within the hierarchy of the school (i.e., including adults).
  • Hold a school conference day or forum devoted to bully/victim problems.
  • Increase adult supervision in the yard, halls and washrooms more vigilantly.
  • Emphasize caring, respect and safety.
  • Emphasize consequences of hurting others.
  • Enforce consistent and immediate consequences for aggressive behaviors.
  • Improve communication among school administrators, teachers, parents and students.
  • Have a school problem box where kids can report problems, concerns and offer suggestions.
  • Teach cooperative learning activities.
  • Help bullies with anger control and the development of empathy.
  • Encourage positive peer relations.
  • Offer a variety of extracurricular activities which appeal to a range of interests
  • Teach your child to defend him/herself verbally. Fighting back physically may land the bullied in school trouble or even legal trouble.[29]
  • Keep in mind the range of possible causes: e.g., medical, psychiatric, psychological, developmental, family problems, etc.
  • If problems continue in your school, press harassment charges against the family of the person who is bullying you.
  • Adjust teacher preparation programs to include appropriate bullying interventions to use in their classroom.[30]


Bullying is delivered in a number of different forms and is not limited to one gender. Forms include verbal, physical, direct, sexual harassment, and relational bullying. Bullying covers a wide range of age groups but is particularly prominent between the ages of 9-18. Boys tend to do more bullying than girls, especially in the form of physical bullying. However girls are just as guilty. They usually tend to bully in verbal forms.[31]

Understanding the semiotics of school-age bullying may increase the chances of stopping the problem before drastic measures are taken by the victims, such as suicide. Bully, target, and bystander are labels that have been created to help describe and understand the roles of the individuals involved in the vicious cycle. Barbara Coloroso, an expert in the field of bullying prevention, explains that the labels serve as descriptors of a child’s behavior rather than permanently labeling the child.[31]


Bullying is usually associated with an imbalance of power. A bully has a perceived authority over another due to factors such as size, gender, or age.[32] Bullies are not identifiable by their appearance or group identification; rather we need to focus on how they act. The definition of bullying briefly describes actions that are exhibited by an individual that is playing the role of a bully.[33] Boys find motivation for bully from factors such as not fitting in, physically weak, short-tempered, who their friends were, and the clothes they wore. Girls on the other hand, result from factors like not fitting in, facial appearance, emotional, overweight, and academic status.[31] In both sexes, a speech impediment of some sort (such as stutter) can also become the target of a bully.

Individuals that choose to be a bully are not typically born with the characteristic. It is a result from the treatment they receive from authority figures, including parents. Bullies often come from families that use physical forms of discipline.[34] This somewhat turns the tables on the bully, making them the victim. Unfortunately, this leads to a strategy of bully or be bullied.[33]

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Girls and boys are both bullies. Girls are social bullies, spreading rumors, breaking up friendships, etc. Boys are more physical bullies, hitting, punching, and slapping.[35] Bullies are typically overly concerned about their appearance and the popularity standings. They have an urge to be dominate, or in charge of others. Bullies are usually easily pressured by their peers and feel the need to impress them.[36] There are several different types of bullies; confident, social, fully armored, hyperactive, bullied bully, bunch of bullies, and a gang of bullies. The confident bully has a very high opinion of himself and feels a sense of superiority over other students. The social bully uses rumors, gossip, and verbal taunts to insult others. Social bullies are typically a female who has low self esteem and therefore tries to bring others down. The fully armored bully shows very little emotion and often bullies when no one will see or stop him. The hyperactive bully typically has problems with academics and social skills. This student will often bully someone then place the blame on someone else. A bullied bully is usually someone who has been bullied in the past or is bullied by an older sibling. A bunch of bullies is a group of friends who gang up on others. A gang of bullies is a group of students who are not really friends but are drawn together due to their desire for power.[37] Print Students become bullies for many reasons such as they want to impress their peers, they were once bullied themselves and now feel big bullying others, and some even do it as retaliation for being punished in school.[35]


Verifying the signs that signify bullying characteristics are slightly harder than expected. They are usually viewed as loud and assertive and may even be hostile in particular situations. Bullies are not usually the largest kid in a class, but may be part of the popular or cool kids group.[38] The bullies that are part of a popular group may not come from intense disciplinary homes, rather they gain acceptance from the peer group by bullying a victim.[34]

Victims of bullying typically are physically smaller, more sensitive, unhappy, cautious, anxious, quiet, and withdrawn. They are often described as passive or submissive. Possessing these qualities make these individuals vulnerable to being victimized. Unfortunately bullies know that these students will not retaliate, making them an easy target.[34]

A general semantics term called indexing is useful in dealing with the different types of bullying. Indexing is a way to categorize of signs. This allows educators and parents a way to assist in recognizing how bullying behavior varies. By understanding and recognizing the different varieties of behavior it helps to allow flexibility in the responses to the variations.[33]

An interesting result from previous research states that the majority of children possess anti-bullying attitudes. However there is a small amount of children that admire those that bully and show little empathy for those that get bullied.[39]

Legal recourse in the US

Main article: School anti-bullying legislation
File:School bullying laws in the United States.svg

Some states of the United States have implemented laws to address school bullying.██ Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity ██ Law prohibits bullying of students based on sexual orientation ██ School regulation or ethical code for teachers that address bullying of students based on sexual orientation ██ Law prohibits bullying in school but lists no categories of protection ██ No statewide law that specifically prohibits bullying in schools

American victims and their families have legal recourse, such as suing a school or teacher for failure to adequately supervise, for racial or gender discrimination, or for other civil rights violations. Special education students who are victimized may sue a school or school board under the ADA or Section 504. In addition, the victims of some school shootings have sued both the shooters' families and the schools.[40]


Phoebe Prince November 24, 1994 - January 14, 2010, moved from Ireland to the United States. She attended South Hadley High School in Massachusetts where she was a victim of bullying. After suffering from her bullies for a period of time, she committed suicide by hanging. This led to a criminal case. In May 2011 the defendants plead guilty to lesser charges, receiving probation and community service. She is buried in Ireland.[41][42]

See also


  1. Student Reports of Bullying, Results From the 2001 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, US National Center for Education Statistics
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Stop Bullying Now! Information, Prevention, Tips, and Games.
  3. Teen Bully
  4. (2007). The Joy of Violence: What about Violence is Fun in Middle-School?. American Journal of Criminal Justice 32: 12.
  5. Ellen deLara; Garbarino, James (2003). And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence, New York: Free Press.Template:Page needed
  6. Whitted, K.S. (2005). Student reports of physical and psychological maltreatment in schools: An under-explored aspect of student victimization in schools. University of Tennessee.
  7. (2007). Do Teachers Bully Students?: Findings From a Survey of Students in an Alternative Education Setting. Education and Urban Society 40: 329.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Bolton, José, and Stan Graeve. "No Room for Bullies: from the Classroom to Cyberspace." Boys Town, Neb.: Boys Town, 2005.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The NSPCC working definition of Sexual Bullying. NSPCC. URL accessed on 22 April 2010. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NSPCC02" defined multiple times with different content
  10. includeonly>"Rising problem of sexual bullying in schools", BBC Panorama, 5 January 2009. Retrieved on 22 April 2010.
  11. What is sexual bullying and how can I manage it within educational settings?. NSPCC. URL accessed on 22 April 2010.
  12. Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions from Schools in England 2007/08. UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families. URL accessed on 22 April 2010.
  13. 13.0 13.1 includeonly>"Girls bullied for 'sex favours'", BBC, 27 March 2007. Retrieved on 22 April 2010.
  14. How fair is Britain? the first Triennial Review. Equality and Human Rights Commission. URL accessed on 08 November 2010.
  15. 15.0 15.1
  16. 16.0 16.1
  17. DOI:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2010.09.009
    This citation will be automatically completed in the next few minutes. You can jump the queue or expand by hand
  18. Noll, Kathy Empowering Kids to Deal with Bullies and Low Self-esteem.
  19. Dr. Mark Dombeck
  20. Parsons L Bullied Teacher, Bullied Student: How to Recognize the Bullying Culture in Your School and What to Do About It (2005)
  21. Dake, J. A., Price, J. H., Telljohann, S. K. (May 2003). The nature and extent of bullying in school. The journal of school health 73 (5): 173180.
  22. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford Blackwell Publishers.
  23. Craig, W.M. & Peplar, D.J. (1999). Children who bully - Will they just grow out of it? Orbit, 29 (4), 16 - 19.
  24. Ross, P.N. (1998). Arresting violence: a resource guide for schools and their communities. Toronto: Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation.
  25. Morrison, B. (2002). Bullying and victimisation in schools: a restorative justice approach. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. No.219; Feb. 2002. Australian Institute of Criminology.
  26. Whitted, K.S. & Dupper, D.R. (2005). Best Practices for Preventing or Reducing Bullying in Schools. Children and Schools, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 2005, pp. 167-175(9).
  27. Bullying Today: A Report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner UK, with Recommendations and Links to Practitioner Tools. November. 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  28. Fried, SuEllen; Blanche Sosland (2009). Banishing bullying behavior: transforming the culture of pain, rage, and revenge, Rowman & Littlefield Education.
  29. Lakewood, Mark Bullying Prevention Skills and Techniques for Children.
  30. Dake, J. A., Price, J. H, Telljohann, S. K. (May 2003). The nature and extent of bullying at school. The Journal of School Health 73 (5): 0173180.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Lee A. Beaty and Erick B. Alexeyev, “THE PROBLEM OF SCHOOL BULLIES: WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US,” ADOLESCENCE, 2008: 4-11.
  32. Ruth Sylvester, “Teacher as Bully: Knowingly or Unintentionally Harming Students,” Morality in Education, 2011: 42-45
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Katherine Liepe-Levinson and Martin H. Levinson, “A General Semantics Approach to,” Institute of General, 2005: 4-16
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 E. D. Nelson and R. D. Lambert, “Sticks, Stones and Semantics: The Ivory Tower,” Qualitative Sociology, 2001: 83-106
  35. 35.0 35.1 Let's Get Real. Prod. Debra Chasnof, Helen S. Cohen, and Kate Stilley. New Day Films: Women's Educational Media, 2003. Videocassette
  36. "Who Is at Risk for Bullying Others." Home | U.S. Government Web. Web. 01 Dec. 2011. <>
  37. Coloroso, Barbara. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: from Preschool to High School--how Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. New York: HarperResource, 2004. 11-41
  38. Patricia Blake and Johann Louw, “Exploring high school learners’ perceptions of bullying,” Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 2010: 111-118
  39. Claire L Fox, Tracey Elder and Josephine Gater, “The association between adolescents' beliefs,” Britishjournalof Educational Psychology, 2010: 183-198
  40. Brownstein, A. The Bully Pulpit: Post-Columbine, Harassment Victims Take School To Court. TRIAL – the Journal of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, December 2002.
  41. "Grand jury indicts 9 students in connection with Phoebe Prince bullying case"
  42. Peter Schworm, ‘Blind eye to bullying’ over, DA says, Boston Globe, May 6, 2011, accessed May 6, 2011.

Further reading

External links

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