Why Bullying Exists–and Why Schools Have the Chance to Stop It

Posted December 20, 2010 by

Sadly, we start noticing bullying in our schools on the first day of kindergarten. If we agree that our schools are a microcosm of our society at large, we can then begin to see the pervasive nature of bullying in all levels of our schools.  Bullying is happening in all areas of our society as people jockey for their rung on the ladder of status.  Part of this is natural and an aspect of human nature that has been with our species throughout our development.  Individuals, cultures, and societies exhibit varying degrees of bullying behavior.  I believe that the one place that we actually have a good opportunity to address bullying behavior is in our schools.  This is because schools are organized with a built-in structure that has the potential of providing close supervision and monitoring, and immediate consequences.  The reasons that bullying has been so prevalent in our schools, however, are that the established policies are not enforced, and there is little active supervision, which could serve as a deterrent.  The adults in the school often routinely ignore overt bullying and the bullies feel empowered to continue to harass their victims.  In too many of our schools, bullying is rampant and goes unchecked.

Children who are the victims of bullying can frequently continue to be harassed for their entire school careers without any adult intervention.  These children suffer in silence because they learn from an early age that adults won’t help them, and if they do try to tell an adult, the bully only makes it worse.  The pervasive nature of bullying in our schools looks like fooling and teasing to the untrained eye.  It is therefore easy to ignore or avoid confronting.  School staff members, both teachers and paraprofessionals, risk the fury of the bully and often the bully’s parents.  The easier for the adults is to avoid the stress of intervening with a bully.  And so victims continue to suffer.

Another reason bullying exists in our schools is that the language our students use with their friends can be confused with threatening language used toward a victim.  Homophobic slurs, for example, that are disgusting and inappropriate, have become almost commonplace in school hallways.  Adults hear it but pretend not to as if to intervene would be rude to the bullies. Many of the victims of this type of language abuse have accepted it as part of childhood culture.  Although the victims cringe with embarrassment, they are powerless to respond.  And so the state of their victimhood continues to be solidified in the eyes of the bullies and those of the victim.  As a society, and therefore our children, we have become desensitized to bullying behavior by our nightly overdose of bad behavior on network TV.

The bully blogs are rife with stories about the sad plight of victims.  Each one is gut wrenching and cries out for a solution that could have saved a child’s dignity.  Whether the bullying is motivated by racial, homophobic, or sexist hatred, or by the need to impugn the rights of others to feel a sense of power, is of little consequence.  What is important is that schools can make a difference in the lives of children by becoming proactive, vigilant, and caring.

Bullying is not going to go away or be excised from our gene pool.  But t can be significantly diminished if adults begin to take action.


Marc is a retired elementary school principal with over 30 years experience in urban and suburban schools in RI and CT. He has presented numerous workshops for children that stress the importance of speaking up and taking responsibility for getting help as the victim of bullying and as the bystander. Marc lives in West Kingston, Rhode Island with his wife and two cats. He is the father of five grown children and he is an avid sailor, potter, gardener, guitar player, and photographer. He has recently published a children’s book on bullying entitled The Playground Bully Blues.

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  1. Jay Report

    I respect the fact that you are helping to bring awareness to parents about the dangers of bullying. Personally I use a free service called Mousemail, but there are many that parents that are not techonologically savvy. Blogs like yours will help spread awareness to a threat that many parent are unaware of.

  2. Chris Report


    You make a great point that adults need to start getting more involved, especially in the school systems. The stigma of bullying has radically changed in the last several years given its very public correlation to the sometimes lethal consequences. While bullying has historically been pervasive in the school systems, we’re now seeing it’s migration to the internet.

    32% of all teens on the internet claim they have been targets of cyberbullying. 42% of youths who report being cyberbullied also report being bullied at school. Just as you state in your blog post that adults need to get involved to put a stop to bullying in schools, parents need to get involved in their children’s online behavior, this doesn’t mean limiting it per say, but means understanding it.

    What are you thoughts on cyberbullying and its correlation to in-school bullying? As a former principal I’m sure this issue has come across your desk, how responsible is a school system for cyber bullying instances that take place outside of school hours but possible peak while at school?


  3. haltnow Report

    We at HALT – http://www.haltnow.ca – believe we must start to focus on being more proactive when coming to dealing with bullying and abuse or ‘local terrorism’ than what we are doing now and that is being reactive. We do nothing until someone gets hurt or kills themselves. This direction must stop. Our children, friends and family members need us to be more aware and watch for signs that they are giving us for help. Let us stop this ‘Local terrorism’ of bullying and abuse…now! There are many signs that we have to be aware of and the only way is to always be paying attention to any changes in behaviour.


    Let us get together and be Proactive and stop this “Local Terrorism” of bullying and abuse

    The more of our voices that say HALT; the more of our children we can save. This new website offers education, prevention, support and services to abused and bullied victims as well as hopefully finding a solution to stop this local terrorism of bullying, abuse and domestic violence within our communities. Please help us stop these senseless acts.

  4. dbleak Report

    I agree, bullying will not go away as long as the adults continue to turn the other way. I am a teacher and have my own child tormented by a bully. When I addressed this issue with my school, the bully then twisted the truth and became the victim. The parents fully excepted the idea of him being the victim and his actions were misunderstood. Regardless, of the fact the entire class witnessed him pulling a knife and threatening to use it on my son. The bully was removed from my sons class but we attend a small private school and their paths constantly cross. This other child is a ticking time bomb, waiting for another oppertunity. I worry this boys issue has been swept under the rug and the heart of the problem has never been dealt with.
    This whole experience has led me to change how I watch my class interact and the first sign of bad behavior, I quickly address the whole class,and role play how certain actions and behavior are not appropriate and are hurtful.I have found most of the time the children had no idea that how they were behaving was wrong and were quickly willing to change their ways.



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