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Preventing School Bullying and Protecting Your Child

Learning about School Bullying Can Help Prevent It


Updated June 25, 2014

Schoolboy being bullied in school corridor
Phil Boorman/Cultura/Getty Images
Bullying at school is a long-standing problem, and students with disabilities are more likely to be targeted than others. Fortunately, schools are now doing more to address the problem. The problem may involve physical aggression, abusive language, threats, or social or psychological abuse. This form of violent behavior should always be taken seriously.

Bullies often seek power over others and can achieve it through physical aggression and intimidation tactics. They may use their physical size, age, social status, gender, gang members, acquaintances, families and other means of influence to gain power over others.

It is a sad reality. Bullies in schools often target special education students. When your child is the victim:

  • Both of you may feel anger, fear, sadness, and frustration;
  • There is a real risk of psychological trauma and injury;
  • Your child's grades may drop; and
  • Both of you may feel isolated and powerless to change the situation.

Recognizing Acts of Bullying and Aggression?

Bullying can take several forms. It can be observable or secretive behavior.

Observable Behavior:

  • Intimidation and threats;
  • Name calling, insults, and comments about disability, gender, and race;
  • Teasing about personal characteristics or sexual harassment;
  • Physical assault, tripping, hitting, pinching and other physical abuse; and
  • Destruction of property, demanding money or other possessions;

Secretive Behavior:

  • Rejecting, excluding, and isolating victims from others;
  • Spreading rumors and other public humiliation;
  • Manipulating friends and relationships, passive aggression;
  • Passing damaging notes or posting threatening or damaging emails or web material; and
  • Blackmailing, harassment, and dangerous dares.

What Can Happen if Bullying is not Stopped?

Left unaddressed, bullying over time can cause depression and lasting psychological damage or injury to the victim. It can result in poor attendance or psychosomatic illnesses. Violence can escalate into serious property damage, and injuries to students and adults.

Fortunately, catastrophic incidents of bullying and school violence are not frequent. In our society, however, it is critical that all these incidents be addressed by your child's school and parents and that preventative measures to protect the children are in place before the problem escalates into serious injury. Because school culture and climate are important in maintaining safe schools, it is best practice for schools to implement bullying prevention programs as primary prevention, before a problem emerges.

Bullying at school also affects others who are not involved directly but who simply witnessed or were aware of mistreatment of another student. These students may suffer from fear and concern about their schoolmate who is targeted. They may feel guilt but also may fear the bully so much that they do nothing to help. Worse, they may become offenders themselves because they fear the perpetrator will target them if they do not become accomplices.

For the bullies themselves, the longer they continue the behavior without consequences, the greater the possibility their behavior will worsen. They are at higher risk for committing serious crimes against other students and even the adults in a school. The severity and frequency of their behavior may increase and spread to other students. They may influence other students to participate in their bullying and may attack additional victims. They are more likely to become involved in crimes outside of school. Some may eventually be jailed. Later in life, countless bullies develop the ability to remain in mainstream society while continuing their behavior and even committing crimes, which may or may not be caught and prosecuted. The cost to society is immeasurable but substantial.

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