In the wake of a highly publicized incident on a school bus in September, the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) issued a white paper on bullying. It is excerpted here.
There has been a great deal in the news lately about an incident in Florida where an irate parent boarded a school bus and threatened students because he believed his handicapped child was being bullied. This incident is a seminal one in that it focused needed national attention on a long-standing problem that is difficult to solve.
The playground bully has been around as long as children have been going to school. But as society has changed and, some would argue, become ill-mannered, bullying has become worse, in some cases involving serious threats and physical assaults. Regardless of severity, it causes emotional harm to victims and cannot be tolerated. It occurs so frequently because those who bully know that the chance of any serious consequence is small. That needs to change.
Is bullying really that big a problem?
Unfortunately, bullying is ubiquitous, particularly among children. There are different estimates of how often children are bullied or engage in bullying:
• According to the American Medical Association, 3.7 million youths engage in bullying, and more than 3.2 million are victims of "moderate" or "serious" bullying each year (Cohn & Canter, 2003).
• Some studies have shown that between 15 and 25 percent of U.S. students are frequently bullied; 15 to 20 percent report that they bully others frequently (Nansel et al., 2001; Melton et al., 1998; Geffner, Loring & Young, 2001).
• Over the course of a year, nearly one-fourth of students across grades reported that they had been harassed or bullied on school property because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability (Austin, Huh-Kim, Skage & Furlong, 2002).
• Almost 30 percent of youth in the U.S. (or more than 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. In a national survey of students in grades 6 to 10, 13 percent reported bullying others, 11 percent reported being the target of bullies, and another 6 percent said that they bullied others and were bullied themselves (Nansel et al., 2001).
When and where does bullying usually occur?
• It occurs at early ages and in all grades, with an onset between 3 and 4 years of age (Byrne, 1994a, 1994b).
• In the U.S., it increases for boys and girls during late elementary years, peaks during the middle school years, and decreases in high school (Hoover, Oliver & Hazler, 1992; Banks, 1997; Garrett, 2003).
• It occurs two to three times more often at school than on the trip to and from school (Olweus, 1995), but ...
• It occurs virtually everywhere: in homes, nursery schools, preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, neighborhoods, churches, city parks, on the trip to and from school, on the streets and in the workplace, for example. It occurs in large cities and small towns, large schools and small schools — and even one-room schools in other countries (Olweus, 1995).
• It is most likely to occur when there is no adult supervision, inadequate adult supervision, poor supervision, a lack of structure, and few or no anti-bullying rules; it is also more likely to occur when teachers and students accept bullying or are indifferent to it (Beane, 2008).
• It occurs mainly in hidden areas and areas lacking adult supervision: halls, stairwells, the playground, areas where students take brief breaks, between buildings, restrooms, locker rooms, the cafeteria, on buses and parking lots; it occurs when students are walking to and from school, but also in classrooms (Beane, 2008).
• Every seven minutes, a child on an elementary playground is bullied (Pepler, Craig & Roberts, 1998).