Bullying basics: fast facts for busy counselors.
Subject: Bullying (Reports)
Author: Briggs, Wendy
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Spring, 2012 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 1
Organization: Government Agency: United States. Department of Education
Accession Number: 282741109
Full Text: For decades bullying was considered a normal part of growing up and going to school. However, in recent years public opinion about bullying has changed. Bullying is no longer viewed as a "school" problem but rather a community problem. Government statistics show that 32% of middle and high school students report being victims of bullying (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). Some sources claim the numbers to be even higher. The problem has become so prevalent that on March 9, 2011 President Obama convened a day-long White House Conference on Preventing Bullying (Hall, 2011) and announced the launch of an official U.S. Government website: www.stopbullying.gov.

With one out of three children being bullied, chances are at some point in your career you will counsel or treat patients who have been directly or indirectly affected by bullying. Knowing the basics of bullying can greatly increase a therapist's effectiveness in working with those patients and their families.

Types of Bullying

DIRECT BULLYING:--physical attacks like punching, shoving, kicking, hitting, and destruction of property; verbal abuse like name-calling, teasing, verbal threats, and obscene gestures. This behavior is more often seen in boys.

INDIRECT BULLYING:--verbal bullying, such as saying mean or untrue things, or spreading rumors; social bullying such as ignoring someone, manipulating friendships, enlisting friends to assault someone else, and daring others to do dangerous things upon threat of exclusion. This is more often seen in girls.

CYBER BULLYING:--sharing inappropriate pictures of someone, posing as someone else to spread rumors or lies, or sending harassing messages.

According to a survey conducted by the National Education Association's Nationwide Study of Bullying, the most common form of bullying reported to school staff was verbal bullying being reported by 59% of students. Cyber-bullying and sexting were the least likely to be reported at only 17%. Social or relational bullying were reported by 50% of students and physical bullying by 39% (Bradshaw, Waasdorp, O, Gulemetova & Henderson, 2011). Because bullying often goes unreported, the actual numbers are unknown.

Consequences of Bullying

Research shows that bullying has serious and lasting effects for all involved. According to www.stopbullying.gov, bullying can have the following effects:

Victims: Adolescents who are bullied may experience the following: depression and anxiety, increased thoughts of suicide, health complaints, decreased academic achievement and school participation, and skipping or dropping out of school. They may be more likely to lash out through violent ways; these thoughts and feelings may persist into adulthood.

Bullies: Adolescents who bully others have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs, are more likely to be violent, to engage in sexual activity, to become involved in criminal activity, and to be abusive to others.

Bystanders: Adolescents who witness episodes of bullying may have increased use of alcohol and drugs, increased mental health problems, and are more likely to miss school.

Some research suggests that bullying may also affect the climate of schools and, indirectly, the ability of all students to learn to the best of their abilities.

32% of middle and high school students report being victims of bullying

Bully Prevention and Intervention Efforts

Studies have been conducted on the different types of bully prevention programs used in schools worldwide. The Campbell Collaboration published a review of several school-based programs that gives an extensive overview of the effectiveness of 44 different programs. Their findings show that, "overall, school-based anti-bullying programs are effective in reducing bullying and victimization (being bullied). On average, bullying decreased by 20%-23% and victimization decreased by 17%-20%" (Farrington & Ttofi, 2009). Solutions to bullying must be implemented for long term results and consist of system- and community-wide efforts. Research suggests that zero tolerance policies as well as "three strike" rules are ineffective.

One of the most widely used and successful programs has been the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. "The intervention program is built on four key principles. These principles involve creating a school, and ideally, a home environment characterized by: 11) warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults; (2) firm limits on unacceptable behavior; (3) consistent application of non-punitive, non-physical sanctions for unacceptable behavior and violation of rules, and (4) adults who act as authorities and positive role models" (American Psychological Association, 2004).

Bullying and the Law

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, "forty-five states have already passed laws addressing bullying or harassment in school. Ultimately state officials will determine whether new or revised legislation and policies should be introduced to update, improve, or add bullying prevention provisions" (Duncan, 2010).

A federally funded school is responsible for addressing harassment incidents about which it knows, or reasonably should have known. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability (Ali, 2010). Other federal, state, and local laws impose additional obligations on schools, such as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. It would be a good idea to review the statutes of your state to determine what protections they afford the students in your area.

Healthcare providers can offer support to families in the form of tips and training for parents, therapy for victims and bullies themselves, and connecting families with government agencies who can help, especially when civil rights have been violated. This translates into healthier children, which in turn means a healthier community and a brighter future.

School Policies on Bullying

Therapists and counselors should be familiar with the policies used by local schools and colleges. Knowing how the school handles bullying incidents can help therapists better serve patients and their families. While the U.S. Department of Education, along with other government agencies, are in the process of developing key strategies to support efforts to prevent bullying in U.S. schools, there are no official policies in place (Duncan, 2010).

You can access examples of policies used by different states on the U.S. Department of Education website (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/101215.html) by downloading the Microsoft Word document enclosed in the December 16, 2010, "Dear Colleagues Letter." The Department of Education also plans to update their website to include recommended key strategies for preventing bullying.

Anti-bullying policies will vary from state to state and from school to school. That's why it is important to contact the schools in your area to discover the specific policies and procedures they use. Schools may post their bullying policies and program information on their official website.


Ali, R. (2010, October 26). Dear Colleague Letter: Harassment and Bullying. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Web site: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.pdf

American Psychological Association. (2004, October 29). School bullying is nothing new, but psychologists identify new ways to prevent it. American Psychological Association Web site. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/bullying.aspx

Bradshaw, C. P, Waasdorp, T. E., O, L. M., Gulemetova, M., & Henderson, R. D. National Education Association, Research Department. (2011). Findings from the national education association's nationwide study of bullying: Teachers' and education support professionals' perspectives. Retrieved from National Education Association website: http:// www.nea.org/home/Findings-from-the-NEAs-Nationwide-Study-of-Bullying.htm

Duncan. A. (2010, December 16). Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary and Deputy Secretary. U.S. Department of Education Web site: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/ gen/guid/secletter/101215.html

Farrington, D. P., Ttofi, M. M. School-Based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimization. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2009:6 10.4073/csr.2009.6

Fleming, M and Towey. K, eds. Educational Forum on Adolescent Health: Youth Bullying. May 2002. Chicago: American Medical Association. Retrieved from http://www.amaassn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/39/youthbullying.pdf

Hall, M. 12011, March 09). White House conference tackles bullying. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com

National Center for Education Statistics. American Institute for Research. U.S. Department of Education. (2011, August) Student reports of bullying and cyberbullying: results from the 2009 school crime supplement to the national crime victimization survey by Jill DeVoe and Christina Murphy. Retrieved December 27, 2011 from the National Center for Education Statistics Web site: http://nces. ed.gov/pubs2011/2011336.pdf

Olweus, D. 11993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. NY:Blackwell.

United States Department of Education. (2010). Anti-Bullying Policies: Examples of Provision in State Laws. Key Policies Letters from the Education Secretary and Deputy Secretary. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Education Web site: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guidlsecletter/101215.html as an enclosed MS Word document.

United States Department of Health and Human Services. Department of Education. Department of Justice. (2011, March) Effects of Bullying. Retrieved December 27, 2011 from the Department of Health and Human Services Web site: www.stopbullying.gov
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