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Dealing with Bullying


Bullying is not a new issue.  A strong interest in bullying began in Scandinavia in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Efforts soon emerged to stop bullying in Scandinavia led by the research of Dan Olweus, a noted authority in the field of bullying. In the 1980’s, bullying received much media coverage and became a focus for research.  This notoriety of bullying was due to a few incidents of tragic deaths of boys in Norway. Further study of the deaths was shown to directly relate to bullying. The suicides followed persistent bullying by some of their peers. According to national and international studies, data shows a victim of bullying is between 9% and 15% of any student population (Horowitz, Vessey, Carlson, Bradley, Montoya, McCullough, and David, 2004; Malecki, 2003; Olweus, 1993).

Past research, in the United States and abroad, has identified bullying as a common form of violence among children that can be harmful (Limber, Nation, 1998).  Sylvia Rimm, the Director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of books on parenting, has worked with and studied numerous children. Rimm (2000) noted one constant among the angry children who displayed violent behavior:  they all had been victims of bullies.

"Today, bullying is rightfully being recognized for what it is: an abusive behavior that often leads to greater and prolonged violence," state June Arnette and Marjorie Walsleben (1998) in the OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools. "Both bullies and their victims need help in learning new ways to get along in school.”

Dan Olweus, a psychology professor at University of Bergen Norway, is credited as a leading expert on bullies and their victims. Olweus (1993) stated that bullying affects the social climate and the learning environment of the classroom.  His research discovered that students in schools or classrooms with serious bullying problems reported feeling unsafe and dissatisfied with school. Olweus emphasized that bullying is not a problem that will go away without adult intervention. 

Research indicates successful parent involvement improves not only student behavior and attendance but also positively affects student achievement. Parent involvement is essential to the success of children in school. When parents form school partnerships and become actively engaged in the education of their children, the results lead to success in the classroom.

Bullying behaviors are evidenced throughout the world, spreading across socio-economic, racial/ethnic, and cultural lines. Researchers report that 20 to 30 percent of children who attend school are involved in bullying incidents. The roles assumed are either perpetrators or victims. Bullying occurs in preschool and appears to intensify during transitional years such as the beginning of first grade or middle school.

Schools must develop awareness bullying behavior programs to include and help not only teachers but parents to effectively deal with this growing problem. Sometimes this effort is led by the state and sometimes not; however, schools must address bullying and cyber bulling. Schools and parents should work together to make a favorable difference in the education of children. Public Agenda (2003) shared teacher survey data that indicated two-thirds of teachers believed their students would perform better in school if their parents were more involved in their child’s education. Johnson & Duffett (2003) note 72% of parents say children of uninvolved parents sometimes “fall through the cracks” in schools.

Bullying is harmful to the health and academic progress of students. Actions taken by the school and parents can significantly reduce the occurrence of bullying, Dr. Ken Rigby (2000), a Professor at University of South Australia noted. Both those who bully and those who are victims of bullying could suffer physical and mental health problems.  As a result, the educational progress could be limited and life contributions could be negatively affected. Bullying can have negative consequences on the overall school climate and for the right of students to learn in a safe environment without fear.

A study supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2001) reported that bullying is widespread with 16 percent of school children sharing that other students bullied them. After a survey of 15,686 students in grades 6-10 in public and private schools within the United States, Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, and Scheidt (2001) purported that 29.9 % of the sample had been involved in bullying, 13% of the students acknowledged they were bullies, 10.6% reported being victims, and 6.3 % admitted being both a bully and a victim.

As referenced, victims can experience problems physically and emotionally. Schoolwork often suffers with grades dropping. If bullying continues, students may be frightened to attend school. Problems with low self-esteem and depression can carry over into adulthood and interfere with personal and/or professional lives.
Bullies are also affected, with effects continuing into adulthood. They made be inept at forming relationships; more prone to using tobacco and alcohol, and become abusive to their spouses or partners. There are some studies that not bullying can lead to future criminal behaviors.

While bullying is commonly associated with a bully and a victim, Gross (2002) introduced the idea of a bystander. The bystander appears to be a key element in shaping school culture reported Walser (1998). Studies conducted by Craig and Pelper (1997) concluded that bystanders joined in the bullying, observed in a passive manner, or tried to stop the bullying. Research suggests that to gain a thorough understanding of bullying, schools need to consider the roles of bullying (bully, victim, and bystander).  All factors that contribute to a bullying situation must be recognized and understood for schools to develop effective prevention and intervention plans.

Bullying has become a serious public health issue as identified in the Educational Forum on Adolescent Health hosted by the American Medical Association in May 2002. Physicians, psychologists, health educators, and other professionals in attendance met to focus on bullying and how to address this problem. Research presented at the forum found that bullying occurs predominantly on school grounds (Fleming and Towey, 2002).  Wessler (2003) reported that some students plan indirect or out of the way travel routes to various locations to maintain safety. On the other hand, many victims will not report any incidences of bullying (Shakeshaft, Mandel, Johnson, Sawyer, Hergenrother, and Barber, 1997).Thus, schools have a responsibility to stop bullying and create a safe learning environment. Initiatives which include parents and community members greatly enhance preventative bullying efforts.  Limber (2003) advocates schools involve these audiences to address the bullying problem. 

Fuentes and Silva (2004) reported a nationwide investigation initiated by the Department of Secret Service and the Department of Education who sought to understand school-based attacks in response to the school shootings at Columbine and other schools in the United States. These departments explored how future attacks could be prevented.  The findings were revealed in a culminating report, Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative:  Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.  One key finding that surfaced from the 37 incidents involving 41 school shooters was “many of the attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.”  More specifically, (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002) indicated 71% of the 41 school shooters were victims of bullying.  Thus, researchers strongly encouraged schools to launch efforts to prevent bullying.

Unfortunately, bullying is also a common occurrence in elementary and middle schools. An Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention report indicated that one study revealed 25% of fourth through sixth graders admitted to bullying other students several times over the school year (Melton, Limber, Flerx, Cunningham, Osgood, Chambers, Hennggler, and Nation, 1998). In a study involving middle school, Bosworth (1999) reported that 80% of the students engaged in some form of bullying for the past 30 days.  Students report that bullying takes place during times when the attention of the teacher is focused elsewhere, such as, when a teacher’s back is turned to help another student or perhaps to write on the board

The prevailing research and literature emphatically indicate that schools have a responsibility to address the issue of bullying effectively and ensure that students in their care are safe, healthy, and can achieve.  Studies of anti-bullying programs are scarce in the United States; however, research from other countries indicates that the best way to deal with bullying is through a comprehensive bullying program. Research-based practices are a requirement of No Child Left Behind. Findings from bullying studies determine the interventions that can lead to success. The evidence indicates that schools must focus on changing the school and classroom climates, forming strong social norms against bullying, and increasing teachers’ willingness to intervene.

The need surfaced for a quality parental involvement product that would contribute to a school’s prevention and intervention efforts toward bullying.  After studying the research, perusing the literature, talking to administrators/teachers/students/parents, and drawing upon the authors’ myriad of educational experiences , a bullying wheel was designed reflecting the research and embracing a whole-school approach to bullying. More specifically, the authors sought to develop a parental product that focuses on the promotion of healthy interactions among peers and the rejection of bullying. The Dealing With Bullying wheel serves as a parent resource to assist in making informed judgments when addressing the serious problem of bullying. 

The face of the wheel provides an overview of bullying, identifies roles in bullying, and cites reasons children may bully. The wheel can be turned to feature six windows on one face (Identifying the Bully, Interventions for the Bully, Identifying the Bystander, Interventions for the Bystander, Identifying the Victim, and Interventions for the Victim). On the opposite face are six other faces (Bully Prevention, Anti-bullying Tips, Anti-bullying Activities, Cyber Safety, Internet Safety, and Cyber Bullying Interventions). The windows and the faces offer suggestions/strategies for parents that address cyber bullying, whether the victim, perpetrator, or bystander. This wheel is intended for quick-and-easy access by parents as they deal with prevention and the effects of bullying. More specifically, this product focuses on the promotion of healthy interactions among peers and the rejection caused by bullying. Dealing With Bullying serves as a valuable parent resource as the school seeks to implement a whole-school-community effort for addressing the serious and quickly spreading problem of bullying. 

Structuring the partnership between schools and parents is essential to improving student achievement. Parent involvement can be targeted to solve problems such as poor attendance or behavior. Research has shown parents working closely with the school and their children can have positive effects. Thus, parent engagement products can provide the structure from which to grow parent involvement which can make a difference in student learning.


Bibliography for the Dealing With Bullying Wheel

Arnette, J. & Walsleben, M. (April, 1998). Combating fear and restoring safety in schools. OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

Bosworth,K. , Espelage, D. , & Simon, T. (1999). Factors associated with bullying behavior in middle school students. Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 341-362.

Craig, W. & Pelper, D.  (1997). Observation of bullying and victimization in the school yard, Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 13, 41-59.

Espelage, Ph.D., Dorothy L. (September, 2004).  An ecological perspective to school-based bullying prevention.  The Prevention Researcher, 11, 3-6.

Fleming, M. & Towey, K, eds. (2002). Educational Forum on Adolescent Health: Youth Bullying. Chicago:  American Medical Association, 1-44.

Fuentes, M. & Silva, J. (2004). Bullying in schools:  how can the ACT against violence project help? The Community Psychologist, 37.

Gross, R. (2002). Panelist remarks. In M. Fleming & K. Towey (Eds.), Educational Forum on Adolescent Health:  Youth Bullying. Chicago: American Medical Association, 18-21.

Horowitz, J. , Vessey, J. , Carlson, K. , Bradley, J. , Montoya, C. , McCullough, B. , & David, J. (2004). Teasing and bullying experiences of middle school students. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 10, 165-172.

Johnson, J., & Duffett, A. (2003). Where we are now: 12 things you need to know about public opinion and public schools. New York: Public Agenda.

Limber, S. (May, 2002). Addressing youth bullying behaviors.  In M. Fleming & K. Towey (Eds.), Educational Forum on Adolescent Health:  Youth Bullying.  Chicago:  American Medical Association.

Limber, Susan P. (2003). School-Based Health Professionals and Bullying Prevention. National School-Based Health Care Convention: Reston, VA.

Limber, S. & Nation, M. (April,1998). Bullying among children and youth. Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools issue of OJJDP Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

Malecki, C. (2003). Perceptions of the frequency and importance of social support by students classified as victims, bullies, and bully/victims in an urban middle school. School Psychology Review, 32(3), 471-489.

Melton, G., Limber, S. , Flerx, V. , Cunningham, P. , Osgood, D. , Chambers, J. , Hennggler,S. , & Nation, M. (1998) Violence among rural youth.  Final Report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Nansel, T., Overpeck, M. , Pilla, R.S. , Ruan, W.J. , Simons-Morton, B. , and Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among U.S. youth:  prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment.  Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2094-2100.

National Institute of Health (NIH) News Release. (April 24, 2001). Bullying widespread in U.S. schools, survey finds. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website.

Olweus, D.  (1993). Bullying at School:  What We Know and What We Can Do.  Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 43-44.

Public Agenda, (2003). How parent involvement affects student achievement. Alexandria, VA: The Center for Public Education.

Rigby, K. (2000). Effects of peer victimization in schools and perceived social support on adolescent well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 57-68.

Rimm, S. (2000). Why Kids Kill:  Exploring the Causes and Possible Solutions. Education World website.

Shakeshaft, C., Mandel, L. , Johnson, Y. , Sawyer, J. , Hergenrother, M. , & Barber, E. (1997). Boys call me cow. Educational Leadership, 55, 22-25.

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M. , Borum, R. , & Modzeleski, W.T. (2002).  The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative:  Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.  United States Secret Service & U.S. Department of Education.   

Walser, N. (1998). Bystanders can play a role in battling harassment. Harvard Education Letter, (September/October).

Wessler, S. (2003). It’s hard to learn when you’re scared.  Educational Leadership, 61, 40-43.




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