The Problem of Bullying in our Schools

There is over whelming amount of school violence happening is schools today, and the new school polices have tried to help stop bulling, and schools assumed greater responsibility for helping school staff ensure students’ safety. As pressure increases to place officers in schools, police agencies must decide how best to contribute to student safety. Will police presence on campuses most enhance safety? If police cannot or should not be on every campus, can they make other contributions to student safety? What are good approaches and practices?

Perhaps more than any other school safety problem, bullying affects students’ sense of security. The most effective ways to prevent or lessen bullying require school administrators’ commitment and intensive effort; police interested in increasing school safety can use their influence to encourage schools to address the problem. This guide provides police with information about bullying in schools, its extent and its causes, and enables police to steer schools away from common remedies that have proved ineffective elsewhere, and to develop ones that will work.

† Why should police care about a safety problem when others, such as school administrators, are better equipped to address it? One can find numerous examples of safety problems regarding which the most promising part of the police role is to raise awareness and engage others to effectively manage the problems. For example, in the case of drug dealing in privately owned apartment complexes, the most effective police strategy is to educate property owners and managers in effective strategies so they can reduce their property’s vulnerability to drug markets.

Bullying is widespread and perhaps the most under reported safety problem in our schools. Contrary to popular belief, bullying occurs more often at school than on the way to and from there. Once thought of as simply a rite of passage or relatively harmless behavior that helps build young people’s character, bullying is now known to have long-lasting harmful effects, for both the victim and the bully. Bullying is often mistakenly viewed as a narrow range of antisocial behavior confined to elementary school recess yards. In the United States, awareness of the problem is growing, especially with reports that in two-thirds of the recent school shootings (for which the shooter was still alive to report), the attackers had previously been bullied. “In those cases, the experience of bullying appeared to play a major role in motivating the attacker.”

It is important to note that while bullying may be a contributing factor in many school shootings, it is not the cause of the school shootings.

International research suggests that bullying is common at schools and occurs beyond elementary school; bullying occurs at all grade levels, although most frequently during elementary school. It occurs slightly less often in middle schools, and less so, but still frequently, in high schools. High school freshmen are particularly vulnerable.

Dan Olweus, a researcher in Norway, conducted groundbreaking research in the 1970 exposing the widespread nature and harm of school bullying. Bullying is well documented in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, providing an extensive body of information on the problem. Research from some countries has shown that, without intervention, bullies are much more likely to develop a criminal record than their peers, and bullying victims suffer psychological harm long after the bullying stops.

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