Forms of bullying
Bullying can take many forms.
The forms we most commonly associate with bullying are physical and
verbal. These direct forms
of bullying include threats, teasing, taunting, pushing, hitting,
kicking and other serious physical assaults. Indirect bullying
involves social isolation and manipulation, and includes name-calling,
spreading rumors and excluding targeted children from peer activities
and groups. Abusive or threatening text messages, e-mails and websites
are also forms of bullying, as are abusive or threatening letters
or graffiti. Bullying may involve one child bullying another, a group
of children against a single child or groups against other groups.
The person or people doing the bullying may be the same age, older
or younger than their victim. Both sexes bully and are bullied. Like
other forms of victimization and abuse, bullying involves:
- an imbalance of power;
- differing emotional tones (the target will be upset while
the bully is cool and in control);
- blaming the target (by bullies and bystanders);
- lack of compassion and concern on the part of the bully for
the feelings and concerns of the victim.
The important thing is not the action but the effect on the victim.
No one should ever underestimate the fear that a bullied child or
Racist bullying: Racist bullying in schools can
range from ill-considered remarks that are not intended to be hurtful
to deliberate physical attacks causing serious injury. Racist bullying
can be identified by the motivation of the bully, the language used
and the fact that victims are singled out because of the color
of their skin, their language or speech patterns, their ethnic grouping
or by their religious or cultural practices. Racist bullying must
be explicitly discussed in the classroom and there must be clear
school guidelines for dealing with incidents.
Homophobic bullying: Homophobic bullying may be
directed at young people of any sexual orientation and at children
who have not yet reached puberty. It has been reported in primary
as well as middle and secondary schools. What distinguishes homophobic
bullying from other forms of bullying is the language that is used.
Words like “faggot,” “homo,” “punk,” “dyke” and “lesbos” have long
been used and have now been joined by words (such as “gay” and “lesbian”)
which were formerly descriptive but which now may be used as general
insults. “That's so gay” or “They're gay” are now used as derogatory
phrases to describe objects and people that may have no connection
whatsoever with homosexuality. Both sexes can be involved in homophobic
name-calling. Some very young children in elementary school engage
in homophobic bullying, using words like “gay” pejoratively or calling
classmates or adults “fag,” though they may not know what these words
actually mean. The following statistics from a number of recent studies
indicate both the pervasiveness of homophobic bullying in our schools
and its serious and often tragic consequences:
- 88% of 1,000 students surveyed for a nationwide study conducted
by Hamilton College reported having heard classmates use “gay” as
a derogatory term.
- 4 out of 5 students in the 1999 Safe Schools Coalition survey
who said they had experienced homophobic bullying identified
themselves as heterosexual.
- 91.5% of gay and lesbian students surveyed in a nationwide
survey conducted by The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
(GLSEN) in 2003 reported hearing homophobic remarks frequently,
and 21% reported being physically assaulted at school.
- In the 1999 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey gay and
lesbian students were over 3 times more likely to miss school than
their heterosexual peers because they felt unsafe. They were also
3 times more likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon
at school than their heterosexual peers.
- According to an article in the August 2001 American Journal
of Public Health, teenagers with same-sex attractions or in gay
and lesbian relationships are twice as likely as their heterosexual
peers to commit suicide.
- Even though homophobic bullying takes a tremendous toll on students
and their families, teachers and principals often ignore it;
82.9% of the gay and lesbian students surveyed for the GLSEN 2001
national survey reported that faculty never
or only sometimes intervened when they overheard or witnessed
Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwanted
and unwelcome sexual attention. This includes a wide range of behaviors:
leering, pinching, grabbing, suggestive verbal comments, pressure
for sexual activity, spreading sexual rumors, making sexual or sexist
jokes, pulling at another student's clothing, cornering or brushing
up against a student in a sexual way, date rape, sexual graffiti
about a student or engaging in other actions of a sexual manner
that might create a hostile learning environment. Several studies
have documented the fact that sexual harassment is pervasive in U.S.
schools. The American Association of University Women's 2001 national
study found that:
- 81% of students will experience some form of sexual harassment
during their school lives, and 27% will experience it often.
- Nearly 85% of students reported that students harass
other students at their schools.
- Almost 40% of students reported
that teachers and other school employees sexually harass
students at their school.
It is important to keep in mind that whether sexual harassment has
occurred depends on how the person on the receiving end is affected
by the behavior, not on what the other person(s) may have intended