Bullying is a matter that adults and students alike must take seriously. “Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions,” according to the American Psychological Association. They add, “The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.” In addition, bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose according to the US Government website StopBullying.gov.
School violence and bullying is a global problem. The countries we are most familiar with, South Korea and the United States, recognizes the growing issue. Almost one of every three students (32%) in South Korean elementary, middle and high schools are victims of bullying according to a Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs study. In the United States it is almost one out of every four students (22%) report being bullied during the school year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Some victims of school violence and bullying never reveal their secret.
When a 15-year-old high school student killed himself in the Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea, it sparked a national discussion of bullying. South Korea had started using surveillance cameras to limit bullying opportunities. The student left a note that listed the names of five schoolmates who had repeatedly bullied him for two years. His note said he was beaten by them in locations that were not covered by surveillance cameras. In Knoxville, Tennessee in December 2017, a video of student Keaton Jones went viral drawing massive celebrity support against bullying. Jones, alleges that he is often bullied at school. “They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends,” Keaton emotionally describes to his mother. He even said sometimes things get physical at lunch. “They poured milk on me and put ham down my clothes,” he recounted, fighting back tears. “Throw bread at me.” Then Keaton asked a question we all wonder: “Why do they bully? What’s the point of it?”
What can policymakers and stakeholders do to address bullying? We argue for a three-point strategy. 1) We must promote awareness of bullying. We have to confront the harmful impact of school violence and bullying. 2) We must establish systems to report school violence and bullying. We must also provide support and services to those who are impacted by bullying and school violence. Finally, 3) We must require professional development that educates teachers and students in order to identify, prevent and respond to school violence and bullying.
Let’s send a global message that bullying and school violence is unacceptable. It will take a united effort, at the local level, to the state level and even the national level. We should share ideas of what works in each school. We need a clearinghouse to share ideas on how to stop the problem. When you see people make threats, spread rumors, attack someone physically or verbally, and excluding others be that person who stands up for others. Together, we can stop bullying in its tracks.
Solee Lee, is an International Exchange Student from Daejon, South Korea. She is an intern at Professional Educators of Tennessee. JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.