Every school playground seems to have at least one bully. Once your child moves off the playground and into high school, she may still face the problem of bullying. High school bullying is a little different, however. High school bullying is more likely to be pack bullying — in which a group of teens gang up on an individual or group — or emotional bullying, and it often moves online. In some cases, bullying becomes sexual — the victim is forced to provide sexual favors to the bully or someone else. Learn more on High School Bullying!
Facts About High School Bullying
Physical bullying is more common in middle school but declines in high school. Emotional or verbal bullying, however, remains constant from middle school through high school. Bullying can have many negative effects, not only personal effects on the individual victim, but societal effects such as school shootings, suicide rates and high school drop-out rates.
- Some populations are more likely to become targets of bullies. Gays, lesbians, teens with disabilities and teens in certain ethnic groups or who are people of color are often singled out for bullying in high school.
- Some teens bully teachers or other school employees instead of or in addition to their peers. Although the bullies were middle school students rather than high schoolers, the profanity, insults and sexual taunts to which bus monitor, Karen Klein, was subjected to in 2012 were captured by another teen’s cell phone and provoked widespread outrage in New York and across the U.S.
- Every day, 160,000 teens skip school because of bullying, according to DoSomething.org.
- Bullying has an impact on drop-out rates — one out of every 10 teens drops out because of bullying, according to DoSomething.org.
- Harassment and bullying have been factors in 75 percent of school shooting incidents. In most cases, it is the victim who becomes a shooter. Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Nathan Ferris, Edmar Aparecido Freitas, Brian Head, Seung-Hui Cho, Wellington Menezes Oliveira and Jeff Weise were all school shooters who committed suicide or were killed after a shooting rampage. All had been bullied.
- As many as 70 percent of high school students have been bullied but many never report it, because they are afraid or because they feel the school will not take action.
Forms of High School Bullying
High school bullying takes many forms. Bullies, contrary to popular opinion, are not necessarily the unpopular, “tough” kids who have trouble in school. They are just as likely to be high-achieving students who are personable and even charismatic.
- Physical bullying, such as hitting, kicking, shoving or unwanted touching, is the easiest to identify.
- Emotional bullying is more subtle, particularly since a favorite tactic is to spread malicious rumors about the victim; identifying the source of the rumors can be difficult. Other emotional bully tactics include making fun of people, keeping them out of a group, giving someone the silent treatment or ignoring them.
- Emotional bullying usually includes some form of verbal abuse, such as calling the victim stupid or ugly, cursing or laughing at them.
- Cyberbullying may be the most difficult type of bullying to combat. Chat rooms and false email addresses provide anonymity to the bully, who can be as malicious as he chooses. Electronic media also allows the bully a wide audience for rumors, innuendo and harassment. Social networking sites, blogs and other forms of web postings can reach millions of people, exposing the victim to further ridicule if other bullies join in.
Bullies Are Made with High School Bullying
In most cases, bullies are made, not born. The bully is often a victim at home, perhaps of an abusive or neglectful parent. Bullies often come from families in which disagreements are settled by fighting, and physical punishment is the norm with the winner being the person with the most power. If domestic violence and child abuse are the norm, the child learns that only power matters and that respect goes to the person with the most power. Bullies derive satisfaction from making others suffer and typically single out people who dislike conflict. A bully often displays:
- A need to feel powerful or in control
- The ability to talk themselves out of trouble
- A lack of empathy
- Anger, lack of impulse control and low self-esteem
- Problem behaviors such as criminal activity and drug use
Victims may also come from homes in which domestic violence or child abuse are the normal mode of family interaction. Some victims may be bullied both at school and at home. Victims of High School Bullying:
- May avoid school, complain of illness to get out of school or make frequent trips to the nurse’s office
- Display anger, irritability, depression, insecurity or low self-esteem
- Are likely to have few friends and little social support
- May come home with unexplained bruises, cuts or torn clothing
- Are often the youngest or newest teens in school
- May be irritating, anxious, insecure, socially awkward and have little self-confidence
Teens Aren’t the Only Problem in High School Bullying
In some cases, it is the teachers or school administrators who are the bullies. In March of 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California threatened legal action against Sultana High School in Hesperia, California, because school administrators encouraged a climate that allowed harassment and bullying against students who were homosexual or bisexual, and the administrators also made homophobic comments about the students. Even when they are not the bullies, it is not uncommon for teachers to refuse to do anything about the bullying or to ignore the behavior. Twenty-five percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will intervene only 4 percent of the time, according to DoSomething.org. In other high schools, bullying is a longstanding tradition. At the end of each school year for at least 10 and possibly as long as 30 years, junior boys at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in Missouri compiled a list of senior girls that discussed body parts and sexual habits. The Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the tradition as sexual discrimination.
Teens Who Suffer from High School Bullying
Teens who are bullied may be reluctant to talk to parents or other adults, although an older and wiser head may be a real help. The emotional support can also be critically important. Other strategies for a bullied teen include:
- Stick together — stay in a group or with friends. Don’t let a bully catch you alone. You’ll have both protection and witnesses.
- Walk away. Bullies are looking for a reaction. If they don’t get it, they may cease to provoke you.
- Use humor to deflect nasty taunts; don’t get angry or cry, as that’s what the bully is looking for.
- Don’t get in a fight; it increases the risk of a serious physical confrontation, especially if you’re outnumbered.
- Practice locking, moving and acting as though you have all the confidence and poise in the world. You’re less attractive to a bully when you can’t be cowed into submission.
- Exercise, especially martial arts, can help you project physical strength and power, which makes you less likely to be bullied.
Changing the Culture of High School Bullying
Bullying is actually an effective way for some teens to climb the social dominance ladder, and the rewards for bullying far outweigh the rewards of stopping. One of the reasons bullying occurs in high schools, however, is because it has been tolerated in the primary and middle school arena. Too many teachers are unwilling to intervene or even participate in bullying. The solution to this problem requires the work of a whole community, with parents, school administrators, teachers, law enforcement, health care professionals and the teens themselves involved.
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