There are many different types of bullying a student may experience, such as physical, verbal, emotional, or cyber. While all forms are equally hurtful, many behaviors harm students emotionally rather than physically, or happen in online environments versus the physical world — making it harder for adults to identify.
Physical bullying is often easier for adults to detect because the behavior is overt or signs are left behind (bruises, broken bones, damaged belongings). However, the words, gossip, rumors, or shared secrets that constitute verbal and social bullying don’t leave a physical trail of the emotional pain.
Bullying in online environments usually happens outside of adults’ view as well. While it often leaves behind an electronic trail of hurtful words or images, adults don’t know it is happening unless the student tells someone or an adult is monitoring their online activity.
Most of the resources listed below are from Pacer.org. Please visit their page for additional resources as they are the National Bullying Prevention Center.
Why does bullying prevention matter?
This year in the United States, more than one of every five students report being bullied. They are often scared to go to school. That means those students lose the opportunity to learn. It is every student’s right to feel safe – and be safe – in school.
Students who are bullied may also have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence, increased fear and anxiety, depression, lower grades, and even suicidal thoughts.
It’s not just the targets of bullying who affected. Students who bully grow up to have a greater risk of getting in trouble with the law. By the age of 25, one in four who have bullied will have spent time in jail.
Those who witness bullying often express that they feel less safe at school. Their feelings about seeing the bullying range from anger to guilt to fear, and they often wish they could help but don’t know how.
Bullying Prevention 101: A quick guide for middle and high school students
Students with Disabilities and Bullying: The top 5 things that you need to know
What is Bullying?
Bullying is more than disagreements, differences of opinion, or conflicts that occur between friends and classmates.
Bullying definitions typically include:
- The person is being hurt, harmed, or humiliated with words or behavior
- The behavior is repeated or there is a concern that it will be repeated
- The behavior is being done intentionally
- The person being hurt has a hard time stopping or preventing the behavior
- The hurtful behavior is carried out by those who have more power, such as students who are older, are physically bigger or stronger, have more social status, or form part of a group that singles out an individual
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Bullying
Students with disabilities who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The IEP can be a helpful tool in a bullying prevention plan. Remember, every child receiving special education is entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), and bullying can sometimes become an obstacle to receiving that education. The IEP team, which includes the parent, can identify strategies that can be written into the IEP to help stop the bullying. It may helpful to involve the child, when appropriate, in the decision-making process. Such strategies include:
- Identifying an adult in the school who the child can report to or go to for assistance
- Determining how school staff will document and report incidents
- Allowing the child to leave class early to avoid hallway incidents
- Holding separate in-services for school staff and classroom peers to help them understand a child’s disability
- Educating peers about school district policies on bullying behavior
- Ensuring regular reassurance from the school staff to the student that he or she has a “right to be safe”
and that the bullying is not his or her fault
- Shadowing by school staff of the student who has been bullied. Shadowing could be done in hallways,
classrooms, and playgrounds.
When talking with your child’s IEP team, consider what strategies, with those listed above as a guideline for ideas, that might be effective for them to address bullying.
What do I do if I am being bullied?
Drama. Bullying. Teasing. Harassment. No matter what you call it, it hurts. If you’re pushed, hit, or your things are ripped off or trashed, it can hurt physically. If you’re ignored by friends or cruel things are posted about you online, it can hurt emotionally.
If it happens to you, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why me?” You know how painful it is to be treated this way. So seriously, what can you do? A lot!
You can take back control, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Remember, bullying is never your fault and you have the right to make it stop. Begin taking back control by talking to your parent or an adult you can trust. Then check out these three steps for handling the situation at school.
1. Know That You Are Not Alone
“When I walk into the classroom, all the girls start whispering with each other and laughing.” -Jenny, 7th grade
Ever feel like this only happens to you? It doesn’t. Unfortunately, bullying happens to a lot of kids. It happens in small schools, large schools, rural schools, and city schools. It can happen in preschool, high school, and every school in between. It happens in Australia, Argentina, and all around the globe. Sometimes people say that bullying is just part of growing up or that you should just “deal with it” and it will go away. This is NOT true. Even though bullying happens to a lot of kids, that doesn’t ever make it right. No one deserves to be bullied, everyone deserves respect, and everyone has a right to feel safe at school.
2. Be a Self-advocate
“Self-Advocate? Seriously, what does that even mean?” -Nick, 6th grade
Being a “self-advocate” means speaking up for yourself, telling people what you need, and taking action. Bullying can be stopped, but you need a plan. First, think about what you can do to change your situation, and then make an action plan.
In the plan:
- Write down what is happening to you, when and where it takes place, and who is involved.
- List your role in this action plan, who else should be involved, and what they could do.
Share this information with your parents and an adult you trust at school.
3. Assert Your Rights
“We are told over and over again to tell an adult. I tried that at my school and was told that’s just how kids in middle school act.” -Jack, 8th grade student with ASPERGERS
Every student has the right to feel safe at school. If one adult isn’t able to help you, don’t give up! It is your right to talk with another adult, such as a parent. When you do speak to a teacher, an administrator, or a person you trust at school:
- Share all of the information in your action plan.
- Ask: “What can be done so I feel safe and other kids do, too?”
- Tell adults that there are laws outlining the school’s responsibility in handling bullying situations.
You may have additional protections under federal law when the bullying is about:
- Race, color, or national origin
State and local laws may provide additional protections on other bases, including sexual orientation.
Some adults may not know this, so clue them in and keep talking until someone understands. Visit stopbullying.gov for an interactive map leading to each state law.
Student Action Plan Against Bullying
Ready to take action to address bullying? Maybe not sure how to start? As a student, bullying is something that impacts you, your peers, and your school – whether you’re the target of bullying, a witness, or the person who bullies. Bullying can end, but that won’t happen unless students, parents, and educators work together and take action.
Helpful Information for Youth
Can a friend be bullying me? – Friends will sometimes have bad days. Friends will sometimes disagree. Friends will sometimes hurt each other’s feelings, have an argument, or simply need time away from one another. This is normal and can happen in any friendship, no matter how close. If you are experiencing treatment from a friend that hurts you and you have asked that friend to stop, but it still continues, then that is not friendship. That behavior could be bullying. Friendship behaviors do not include hurting someone on purpose or continually being mean even when asked to stop. A friend will change or be remorseful for her behavior if she finds out she’s hurting you. If you aren’t certain if what is happening is part of a normal friendship or if it is bullying, talk to an adult you trust and get help sorting out the relationship. And yes, it is okay (and the right thing to do) to ask for help.
How does peer pressure impact bullying behavior? – Peer pressure occurs when a peer group or individual encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform to those of the influencing group or individual.
Peer pressure can impact bullying behavior both in positive and negative ways. For example, the influence can have negative effects if a peer group’s bullying behavior encourages others to laugh at someone. It can also be negative when the group views other individuals as not worthy to be part of their group. The impact of negative peer pressure can create environments in which individuals are intimidated to speak out on behalf of someone being hurt or harmed.
Peer pressure can also be positive and healthy. For example, when the peer group encourages kind and inclusive behavior, such as inviting others to join them at the lunch table or letting someone know that they care what is happening to them. The action of peers encouraging each other to reach out to those who are struggling can have a positive impact on the group and other individuals who want to speak out against bullying.
For students: What if you told an adult and it wasn’t helpful?– Have you told someone about being bullied and nothing has changed? Don’t give up! Did you know that you have the legal right to be safe at school? If the bullying continues even after you told an adult, know that there are laws designed to protect you (find your state law or policy at StopBullying.gov). It is very important for students to reach out to another trusted adult and ask for help again. This adult can be a parent, a teacher, a coach, or anyone from the community. Let them know that you need their help and that you wouldn’t be coming to them if you could fix the situation on your own.
Oklahoma State Department of Education – Bullying Prevention Website
Student Report Form – You can use the form to report if you are being bullied.
Witness Report Form – You can use the form if you have witnessed bullying and want to report it to your school.
Teens Against Bullying – this website is part of the National Bullying Prevention Center