Why don’t schools do more to stop bullying?

I have been reading (I am sure you have too) about the many cases of bullying and the awful consequences of being a target for bullies. Kids and young adults committing suicide, suffering chronic depression, choosing to be home-schooled, or quitting school altogether: there’s no doubt that being bullied negatively shifts how a person experiences their daily life. The theme I keep coming across in my reading is the fact that NO ONE within these schools is doing much to stop the bullying.

Sure, they do not like it, but in so many cases it is reported that there was little if any institutional intervention. Of course, they sure were “saddened when they heard the news.” The rub for the people on the bad end of the bullying is that so many schools already have well-intentioned “anti-bullying” policies in place to prevent harassment–but they don’t work to protect the targets. There are many official reasons for institutional apathy. School officials say that the bullying was not witnessed, or that there was no physical proof, or no written documentation.

We all know that bullying is not a new phenomenon. For people who were bullied as kids, the lack of institutional response gets a “yep, I coulda told you that.” Now that I am older and more educated, I know exactly what is going on: the bullying persists because the institutions where these incidents take place are classist, racist, and sexist in and of themselves.

In other words, they are systems that have historically oppressed the kinds of people who are targets for bullies. Now I’m not saying the dreaded “correlation is causation,” but I am saying that it’s very obvious that schools will protect the students that are most like the people who work in the institutions themselves — middle-class, white, and straight. The bullied poor kid with the messy hair, the weird clothes, and the angry, advocating parent will get a different institutional response than the kid whose clothing and physical presentation reflects the world of the people in charge. How do I know? Well, think about it! When was the last time you heard about the bullying of a wealthy white kid who wears all the brands and has Lexus-driving parents? If these cases exist, they are rare, which is exactly why class is a variable in how schools deal with bullying on their campuses. You protect your own, screw the rest.

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Julie Garza-Withers is an award-winning community college sociology instructor and organizational diversity consultant who works with individuals and groups to facilitate collaborative solutions to gender, race, and class-based conflicts.

34 Responses

  1. Nico

    This is a reasonable assertion — that the school system or educational institution reacts differently to those who demonstrate in-group social characteristics than to those who present as outsiders, as different from those who run the system.
    The presentation, though, undermines its ability to influence or convince. It’s not much new for those who have heard it before. It does bear repeating — but with either some specific examples or suggestions for change or even a new theoretical or metaphorical framework. But in addition to that, for readers who are not already convinced, phrases like “think about it!” and “very obvious” undermine the author’s argument. If something is very obvious it either doesn’t need to be said, or it’s only very obvious to a few and needs some supporting documentation or example.
    Thanks for the effort, and I’m a supporter of the newsletter and future efforts!

  2. Julie Withers
    Julie

    Hey Nico,

    I appreciate your critique. But I gotta point out that this piece wasn’t written for educated folk like yourself who require “new theoretical frameworks” or say things like “in-group social characteristics” This was written for bullied working class kids and their parents who don’t know the system is not on their side. Also, this is a blog not English class ;0)

    Cheers,
    Julie Withers

  3. Bryan

    Julie, your last statement in this post may upset some, but not most of those like me, who have been bullied and felt the lack of protection from institutions such as school or work. Bulling is all about power and that power is often derived from social status. The kid with the parents who drive a Lexis and buy the latest clothes or electronic gadget represents what the school, students and the people who run it, deem either most like themselves or what they aspire to. As a result, this student has a privilege that makes him far less likely to experience bullying while at the same time, uniquely powerful to bully those who are of lower classes or otherwise marginalized. As a working class kid, I experienced bullying by wealthy kids due to my K-Mart Trac shoes, off brand jeans and poor teeth. Later on, I witnessed very privileged kids torment others with minimal or no reprimand from teachers or administrators. So yes, they do protect their own and….well you said it best. I guess the first institutional framework that needs to be set up is to approach this topic honestly and admit that bulling continues because schools and other institutions are racist, classist and favor those with power and privilege. Honesty, would be a nice beginning.

    1. Julie Withers

      Bryan, I feel on those K-Mart Trac shoes, I caught hell for them too. And the rest of your analysis and commentary is spot on, schools do favor students who walk in the door bearing power and privilege. I agree, wouldn’t it have been nice to have that boost? It is the working class kid’s lament.

      Cheers,
      Julie

  4. Karen

    This article is yet another example of how the bullying issue is portrayed in the media – blame the school. I have to say I’m disappointed that there wasn’t a fresh perspective on this issue from classism. Bullying is a systemic problem, but it isn’t just a problem in schools. I get frustrated reading these articles that only talk about how the schools have to change.

    Parents raise children. We talk a lot about the victim’s parents and what they should do to help their children. What about the bully’s parents? The bullying behavior is learned at home. And all you have to do is look at how some of the parents talk about the bullying issue to see that. Some of the comments I’ve read and heard concerning this issue were promoting violence toward the “bully” children. That is unacceptable. Until we as adults can have a serious discussion about bullying and accept our part as parents in raising morally responsible children, then this bullying issue will continue. Morals and values should be taught at home. Parents should not use schools as a scapegoat for their poor job teaching their children how to behave when they’re at school.

    1. Julie Withers

      Hi Karen, I will agree that the mass media offers a limited view on a very complex issue. They polarize for the sake of ad dollars. That’s why I believe that a more nuanced approach, wholistic as we hippie types might say. Why don’t schools work with the parents of bullied kids? Why don’t they offer conflict mediation and work with the underlying issues that prompt bullying? Why aren’t people like me allowed to give training’s on bullying and the sociocultural issues behind most bullying–racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, ableism…?

      A long time ago people with power decided kids (poor kids, btw) could be made better by schooling and thus, schools took their place in our private lives and parents gave up a modicum of power to the system. Parents gave schools power over their children and still do, there are police officers on campus but that’s even the least of it! The rights parents give the schools over their children while on campus are unbelievable, and that includes unlawful search and corporal punishment.

      When parents get concerned and say things like “values and morals” should be taught at home I say, “of course,” but if you’re going to give up your children’s rights to the schools when they are on campus, don’t you want them to ALSO be protected while on campus, wouldn’t you want that for yourself if you were a kid? Because to say “no” to that is wild to me, parents ought to be holding schools accountable for not only protecting kids from bullying but also teaching kids about bullying, why kids become bullies, and why hate is wrong and compassion is better.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Cheers,
      Julie

  5. Karen

    Its great to hear someone say this out loud. The role of social inequality in bullying is constantly ignored. I was picked on, and I was 35 years old before I finally realized that it wasn’t my fault. As a kid you internalize it, and then you shove it down and forget about it and before you know you are grown up and it seems so natural to blame people for their own misfortunes. In my mind, that is why no one does anything about bullying, we are training kids to accept social inequality.

  6. Beth Enson

    So here’s a little I’ve learned recently about bullying:
    Toronto has an incredibly effective project up at scale that brings babies and their parents into the classroom, for kids to play with with and learn about. Nurturing behavior is hard wired into us, just like some aggression. For kids who have not received a lot of good, close nurturing– and there are many, particularly in owning class families, who were raised in pretty cold, distant, or traumatic emotional surroundings– this is a great opportunity to share the soft cuddly sides of themselves, and to learn about what babies and humans need in terms of closeness and emotional safety. They learn to identify emotions on the baby’s face that they may never have had identified for themselves by a loving caretaker. Bullying behavior has dropped in the Toronto schools.

    Second interesting theory– bullying is similar to the ‘identified patient’ concept in family dynamics, in which a troubled family will pick one member to act out the dysfunction and be the ‘identified patient’, though their behavior is only a symptom of the greater family woes. In a bullying situation, all of the bystanders (particularly those in authority) are giving tacit support to the bully to act out their own shadowy aggression. ‘Nerds’ are targeted for bullying because their facility with computers threatens those of us with fewer skills in this area, and who harbor doubts about their ability to weather the economic changes that make computer skills a requirement, not an option.

    Third insight: we, as a nation, are in really terrible emotional shape. A lot of kids are experiencing emotional and physical abuse and neglect at home. They have nowhere safe to show their hurts, because we as a nation can’t tolerate people showing their feelings openly. Especially boys. Boys experience such a s#%$tstorm of oppression it’s a miracle we don’t have a Columbine every single day. The one thing that is proven to make a difference between a child making it to a non-incarcerated adulthood is that one adult took the time to be with them, provide them with attention and love, and support their emotional process. We all need this, but especially children. That bully is just a kid trying to work out some really hard stuff. Blaming the kid is worse than useless.

  7. Betsy Leondar-Wright
    Betsy Leondar-Wright

    In my grammar school the bullied person was a nerdy “brain” from an upper-middle-class family with awkward social skills. Her worst bullies came from a mix of classes, but all were unsuccessful in the classroom. So as a kid I saw bullying as a kind of playground revenge on the teacher’s pet by those stung by criticism from the teacher. So to some extent there was the opposite class dynamic to what you wrote about. Probably it varies from school to school, and maybe generation to generation.

  8. CP

    It could well be that experiences vary from setting to setting; a lower class kid in an upper class environment will be the more typical target and perhaps, as Betsy experienced, the reverse when the setting is flipped. I wish there was some data on that. In the absence of such, one has to go with lived experience, anecdotal evidence and intuition.

    Our kids’ experience, being lower class kids in upper class peer groups, were routinely bullied by the uppers. Our daughter still in traditional public school encounters this less as she’s formed a more intimate smaller and more protective peer group around herself with kids closer to her own class position. As a group they contend with quite a bit of abuse and discrimination by authorities within the institution who are quite blind to it, even when presented with documentary evidence (e.g., chat content in hardcopy).

    Thankfully this happens less with our son who is now in a charter school that functions on a vastly different wavelength than traditional programs and has a greater class mix.

    Attention-different children experience bullying in a double jeopardy sort of way. Our son is “wired Aspie” (Asbergers). In his first two years of school he was often bullied by upper class kids who behaved like sharks… they smelled his difference and exploited it for their own amusement. No One in authority seemed to notice and he was often deemed the bully instead. He’s sensitive to loud noises, so when six boys would surround him and deliberately scream inches from his face, it was absurd for the principal to expect him to not lash out as he sought to physically escape from the abusers. When I confronted the bullies’ parents informally, I was told by one well meaning Dad, “maybe you should get off your as* and get a job instead of being a woman at home. Your kid would benefit from a man around for a change.” Oh boy, no wonder his son was so malicious and sadistic towards mine.

    The local USD does have anti-bullying policies. Most focus on fixing the perceived deficiencies of the victim and prosecution of the bully. A little strange that only the lower class person is typically identified as the bully, despite (lower class) adult witness testimony more often than not, and thus severely prosecuted. When you can’t afford a defense attorney, you go to jail or Juvy. A local high school wrestling team years back had a brutal incident where two lower class youths were sexually assaulted with broomsticks by their upper class teammates (the relative class positions were not in the media reportage, of course, this was simply known by lower class students and adults since we see things the uppers typically don’t). The two victims were sent to juvy then foster care because their parents were blamed as “neglectful” (both parents of both kids worked 2-3 jobs leaving elder siblings to tend to the family and lived in outbuildings or garages in multi-family households, common in our lower class neighborhoods). The perpetrators were given detention. There was a brief outcry for a few days and it died out. The message the kids got was, if you live in certain ‘hoods, you’re a moving target. If you live in the gateds, you own the kids in the ‘hoods. Kids absolutely see the stuff adults can’t, won’t or don’t want to.

  9. Mrtn

    I’m not sure about the last statement, it depends on the situation. I went to a lower class school with a higher class background (Eastern Europe), my parents always told me to treat the subject with extreme care, but even so my peers and my teachers gave me a lot of grief. The isolation and pain you feel is the same from both sides I think. Mind you, I could never be sure if this was the only reason for the hostility, I was also chubby, wore glasses and (unlike the rest of the boys) motivated to study.

  10. I am a school teacher at the high school, who was bullying by her students, let me tell you I was deathly afraid on a daily basis. Our school was out of control and the administrators blamed it on the classroom management of the teachers. I was not the only teacher bully by the teenagers at the school, I am a active 49 year old Teacher with a dual major in Psychology, I have had desk thrown at me, hot coffee, books, I have been pushed and knocked down. Cursed at with words that would curl your hair. And the biggest thing is they know how to find you. they follow you and wait for you after school, I use to have the good students in my class meet me after my last class to see me to my car. If they want you they get you. Last year I had 6 students expelled. But I was let go from the school due to poor classroom management. So I am now else where. That is not far, not far at all. So it doesn’t only happen to students, and it is a very big deal in todays society.

  11. Dee

    I think the post about a student standing out in some way is accurate, whether it is deemed dorky or something to aspire to. My daughter was bullied quite a bit, and I would say we are a middle-upper class family, living in a nice neighborhood. The thing is, she not only was bullied from lower-income families, but most notably two kids in our own neighborhood participated in the most calculated verbal bullying by trying to make up and spread rumors. The ringleader is a small, extremely bright (skipped a grade, never got anything but A student). She goes to gymnastics many times a week and is extremely high in the competition circles. Turns out, she was jealous of my daughter and did everything she could to try to humiliate her. The teacher told me she thought she was competitive with her scholastically. By the way my daughter has dyslexia, works hard and keeps an A average. This privileged girl (as an example) would act empathetic and say, “I know you have dyslexia. I feel bad for you.” Meanwhile she somehow managed to see some school papers to get this information. Different things: spreading rumors, making negative comments on her eyes. My daughter is actually a very pretty girl; someone today asked her if anyone ever said she looked like Taylor Swift? Okay, you’re saying classic jealousy? Well, it’s not just that, kids that are raised in privileged homes that aren’t put in check are very bad bullies, probably the sneakiest ones. Good-old fashioned spoiled brats? Perhaps, that’s the best definition. Yes, in general, there are going to be more issues in lower-income schools, which both my daughters go to, Title 1 schools, and there were blatant bullying issues with both my daughters, in that regard, but the bullying from a higher income bracket is not to be downplayed because it might be done in a more calculated under the radar way, it can be insidious.

  12. Julie Withers
    Julie Withers

    Hi Dee,

    Thank you for commenting; which I say for two reasons first, I neglected to respond to the other comments. Second, your comments struck a deep nerve of truth because in the time since I wrote this piece, I was bullied by colleagues while working in a professional middle class job (faculty at a community college, which is documented in a piece titled, “Classism in Academia.”).

    Reading the comments it’s clear that bullying is a multifaceted phenomenon; I barely scratch the surface here. People who are bullied stand out for some reason as deviant: being poor, being male, chubby, and studious, perceived as a privileged “nerd,” or “attention different,” having a learning disability, or simply being a teacher with a rowdy class and no administrative support/professional counseling. I see connections and intersections throughout the comments and this broadens the discussion.

    Betsy and Dee, you both bring up the fact that class-based bullying can go both ways and I admit, that I burned over the fact that I wasn’t able to be teacher’s pet. Though I was a deeply traumatized kid (emotional/sexual abuse) my anger and hurt went inward, otherwise I might’ve bullied that kid. I didn’t and I’m glad for it but I wonder if going inward (not having a means to process those feelings) helped me become a target.

    I agree Dee, under the radar (indirect) bullying is soul stealing and hard to get anyone (people in power) to believe. It causes the target to look weak and whiny, which is the intention, it maintains power for the bully, and the institution can carry on. In addition, the nature of it makes it hard to seek support, from peers and institution alike. There is something to what Karen says above, “we are training kids to accept social inequality.” Inequality has many dimensions and the point I think, is that this is where we harm each other the most. If we (society) accept bullying as a norm then we can be silent, jaded even.

    Again, I go back to institutional responsibility and professional development for teachers specifically related to bullying–blame is not the point because schools point their fingers right back to parents and their parenting skills–the issue is responsibility. If I had a kid, I would feel the school was responsible for protecting them from harm, regardless of how awesome a parent I might be or how well-prepared for the b.s. I’d made my kid—the rules of the playground are what they are and the people with power are responsible. Schools however, are not in total control of what happens and that is perhaps the reason bullying persists. A school cannot stop a kid from saying a mean thing such as “I know you have dyslexia. I feel bad for you.” That statement is intended to oppress and hurt and it does. This is where family and community have a role. Talk about it as a family, intervene, bring awareness through community events, there are options and it is possible to change behavior; bullying is not genetic it’s a social disease.

    1. Dee

      Wow, I randomly came back to this site, and pleasantly surprised to see a reply. It is the first post I have ever done. Well, specifically, I am an advocate for my child and very involved, so all the bullying she had received on the bus or in school has been addressed by myself for instance calling the mom in my neighborhood, and followed up with the school when she acted defensive about her child. When I say defensive, she actually defended her child saying how he never gets in trouble and that he used to go to a local Christian School (and I knew full well he and his brother were kicked out). My daughter went to another Catholic school, which I pulled her out of thinking I would get more help with the undiagnosed dyslexia at the time, in the public school (which really didn’t happen to the extent I wanted…) In any event, this one bully, of many bullies, also from a privileged home, I had to call the school to address it. As it turns out, since I wasn’t in on the school gossip from not being in the school for years, that this boy gets in trouble constantly, and I would see it myself because I volunteer. Okay, my younger daughter will, when really pushed, stand up for herself verbally (she had been bullied about three times on the bus…well, the girl calling attention to her dyslexia is on the bus also, but most of her comments were made at school). This one boy she finally threatened because of his taunting. The principal was estatic actually when I told her the story when I was in there about something else. That particular incident, I didn’t tell the the principal initially because my daughter took my husband’s advice and feigned toughness (with tears in her eyes). He was not prepared for a younger student to talk back and come up to him at the end of the bus ride (to get off at our stop) grab his collar by surprise and say, “I’m going to get you.” He saw her as a victim and weak, and she knew she couldn’t be perceived that way for the future because of my husband’s advice. By the way, before my husband’s change of careers 15 yrs. ago my husband was a clinical social worker. When he was much younger, he worked in homes for delinquint kids and had to, himself, know how to feign toughness, if need be. Odd, as it might seem, my older one in middle school, in in 7th grade, yes, has been bullied big time, but not so much on the bus. She is considered super studious and stands out because of pale English coloring with strawberry hair. The school, is more ethnically based. How can I say it, kids with more disturbed family backgrounds have tried picking on her (a foster girl calling her all obscene names and trying to get a group together that she could make obscene comments about my daughter and snicker at her, and kids from our neighbborhood, weren’t particularly nice either (although, the teasing was minimal, more quiet because they knew her smarts her family, and how can I say it, she is less open and more reserved than my younger daughter, so she is harder to read, and people will tend to leave her alone. I think she is seen as being opinionated and having an inner strength. Everyone knows she is bright (she read 90 books in 5th grade. She is not in any “group” in school, but is content with that. She does’t strive to be with a group. Although, a male friend of hers on the bus and in school is the most popular boy in 7th grade. In any event, I had to have the school intervene with this foster girl because it was escalating. I had given her a chance after she impulsively kicked her under the lunch table and called her an obscene name. This is all from my daughter in a concerned voice mention she might need glasses when she told her she couldn’t see the board. My daughter was getting glasses around that time also…all these stories I could ramble on about. I think it is easier for people to categorize things so it’s easier to understand, “Okay, two class differences” and think that is the reason for bullying. Which has happened to her where she was friends with two Spanish speaking girls until my daughter wanted to bring in toys for tot, then one of the girls said, “I am like those kids, can you bring in something for me?” When my daughter tried to bring in some items, the girl snubbed them and from then on they both spoke in Spanish around her to chill her out. Okay, that would be a “classic” example. I think with the economically advantaged familes, it can be a lot of the same stuff, but maybe those economically advantaged students don’t hit the teachers radars as much. Perhaps, not as blatant. For example, this girl that called attention to my daughter’s dyslexia, didn’t do it out of concern, but to make her feel embarrassed. My daughter was naive and believed her act. I knew for sure she was trying to make my daughter feel uncomfortable and ugly when she said in a concerned voice, “What’s the matter with your eye? It’s all pus-sy.” (That is the adjective for pus coming out of an eye.) And before gettting into this too far, let me say very clearly: The private schools have problems too, but I don’t think the schools are prepared as well to deal with them. I believe the public schools, in general, have a lot more issues, because it is a general population, and they deal with it the best they can (at least here when it is brought to the school’s attention proactively). I have not problem with the education of my daughters’ schools; it’s the kids. The elementary and middle school are both Title 1 schools. They bring drug-sniffing dogs into the middle school, if necessary. There is a police car on the grounds. So, these schools have a general population. Actually, there are also a large increase in migrant workers in the school district. I think, given, the hard teaching conditions, they do a brilliant job. How can I be clear about this, both my daughters have been bullied. I believe our society has sunk so low on basic politeness, manners, genuine caring and humbleness, in general. Perhaps, with the lower income families, it is more from a lack of time or involvement in school (not sure), and the higher income families, perhaps it stems more from entitlement and not disciplining, talking to and correcting their kids (which I am sure applies to all families as well). I believe, in the higher income, higher educated families, the sense of entitlement is the main thing; the kids think they can do whatever they want, mini-masters of the universe, in a way. I have to say, though, the biggest thing is, parents have to be a child’s advocate. My older daughter, I put her in TaeKwonDo at the end of 4th grade because she was very meek. It helped her immensely with her self-esteem. My younger daugher finally found her passion and friends after exposing her to different things (ballet). The thing I think is crazy is how people blame the schools totally. Yes, I understand they have to do the right thing. Trust me, I am a huge advocate for my girls. When that girl was calling her all nasty curses and prostitute type things for no reason except she once mentioned she might need glasses if she couldn’t see the board, I was in the administration’s face because I saw it escalating very quickly and I wanted to nip it in the bud. They handled it wonderfully and I have learned to trust them on that and other issues. They have a very, very tough job. I know I sound really tough, but I threatend to call child protective services if it wasn’t addressed. I really didn’t know how the school handled situations at that point, and I knew the principal was not crazy over parents who…how can I say…I didn’t like certain things about her. I didn’t trust that she wanted to handle situations she’d just like to see disappear, from what other people had told me, and also when I wanted to meet with her and the vice-principal in charge of discipline, I wasn’t crazy about how she adopted some of the kids lingo of “nark,” etc. I didn’t even know what that meant. LOL, I called it tattletaling. From a reliable source, I had heard that she didn’t sort of like these namsy pamsy parents (okay, parents that didn’t want to see their kids bullied). Actually, the principal was referring to the more proactive, involved parents from slightly more advantaged homes. The principal wasn’t a minority either. I actually, think the school has so much on their plate…let’s put it this way, a teacher from the elementary school was aghast at what went on in the middle school when she had subbed there at one time. The problem is parents see the school as totally responsible when parents are lacking in bringing their kids up properly. I see these posts about the school handling things. It almost sounds like the parents expect the school to rehabilitate their students like all the failed prisons out there. They try these drug and bullying programs, but the responsibility is on the parents brining up their kids. I think the bullying is whatever a kid thinks they can get away with. For example, one girl mentioned something about what sneakers my daughter likes (this is the one with the pus comment). Okay, she touched on the subject, not to bully, but she was pointing out that she wears the same sneakers every day, but it wouldn’t bother my daugher since both families are economically advantaged. LOL, the reason, she wears the same type of sneakers is that she has an extremely wide foot and only two styles I have ever found fit her. In any event, going down the name brand route won’t work using it on my daughter or making her feel bad, because although there is a loose dress code, we can afford to buy stuff to look cool if we wanted. For instance, she finally wore her cool-looking brown anklet boots to school the other day and fixed her hair up. So, the broaching of her plain jane gray sneakers she wears every day wouldn’t pierce her sense of self as it might a lower-income child. The only shoe rule they have is a closed to shoe (in FL not flip flops, open backs). Who knows, that girl might make that comment to another child that can’t afford to add some sparkle to her uniform and might effect that child in a more detrimental bullying way. I’ve come to realize with this one girl it had to do with jealousy. What is crazy is that we live in a closed neighborhood. This girl’s family lives on the water (basically both her girls are entitled pills), but the other young boy that joined in the bullying with her (which I believe is a follower since those two were friends from way back) never came to apologize to me. Okay, I understand the family that lives on the water, both parents are attorneys. The mom has barely said a peep to me unless I run into her at the deli counter or something. But the boy’s mom is the head of the PTA, super involved, friendly. How can I put this? Yes, they were obliged to apologize at school, but if it was my kid doing it and I lived in the same area and had known the mom, I would at the very least call her to apologize or go over with my kid to apologize again…something. I would have done something. Modeling behavior is very important. Schools can’t do that. They try the best they can. Oh, by the way, I failed to mention, that this young girl started rumors on the bus, included the boy, and then started to spread stuff at the school…stupid stuff, but just to try and humiliate my daughter behind her back. Okay, so now is she considered a tattletale (or a nark as the middle school principal has said), she has enough self-esteem to get past it. My daughter actually told me she was hurt when she found out that the boy was involved (not that she like him in a romantic way), but she thought he was her friend and that she thought at first that he had stronger character than that. I think a lot of it has to do with kids seeing what they can get away with. Basic values have to be taught at home. Being humble and having to be strong should be taught at home. The schools can’t be prison guards trying to catch every sneer and snicker. Believe me, my older daughter’s middle school is very proactive, they have insiders that might tell them about a fight that is set to take place and there are adults there to take care of it if it starts. One boy was marking all these girls as his “bit….” with a pen (my daughter was marked and she saw and heard him marking other girls, so there must have been many more). I told the vice-principal in charge of discipline…she had to come up with a way to catch him. I actually think they have an overwhelming number of problems on their plates. They have to act like the secret service to catch these kids. I think the main problem is our society. Personally, I was sort of sheltered growing up, but traumatized too (incest from an older brother). LOL, I never realized I was pretty until I was pretty old, but it set me up for uncalled for sexual advances many a time…even from a male religion teacher…which horrifid me. It made me distrust men until I met my compassionate husband many years ago. So, just because someone is pretty, or may be the teacher’s pet, or perhaps, might seem to have it all, they don’t. One last thing, Julie, I have a gorgeous sister who seems to have it all, millions and millions of dollars, home on the ocean, fab place in Manhattan, prestigious estate on the Island, you know what? Her daughter is a big nasty pill. Her son has “personality couch” whatever that means. And recently, her husband hit on my other sister who needed to stay at their apartment in the city because of financial reasons. I still can’t get over it. Have to tell you, this guy is a sociopath and a bully ( big name attorney with hugely successful firm). So, it’s not just kids. Parents model behavior to their children whether wealthy, poor or middle class. LOL, I just got a new car and was listening to Oprah radio yesterday, there is a simple every day thing we can do with our kids to boost their self-esteem, when you see them, don’t keep a fretting or frowned face on…trust me, I understand it isn’t always convenient to be up in these trying times, but put on a genuine smile for them and be happy and feel your love for them. Chldren need that feeling of being valued. Faces we have on unconsioulsy effect our children. I always greet my kids that way, but I don’t keep it on all day, but I am going to try harder. Being a parent is a hard balance or disciplinarian, friend and a little bit of a therapist. Good luck to you!

      1. Dee

        LOL, I re-read my long post. I didn’t check for typos, which I see sprinkled about, but I am sort of embarrassed about the “personality couch.” I meant “personality coach.” I guess, my sister can’t admit to having some sort of therapist for her son.

        1. Dee

          One last thing, Julie, I just re-read your post. The principal in the mddle school who disliked the namsy-pamsy parents (I forget the exact word the source used) was referring to the upper-class more proactive parents from a certain elementary school (that came to her middle school). She herself, obvioulsy, well-educated, blond-haired (probably some color in her 60s) blue eyes. The type of administration that was referred to as the “establishment” or whatever I saw in some posts. If anything, she found the parents of these kids annoying. There is a difference between a helicopter mom and a concerned parent, in my book. For instance, I let the kicking under the lunch table and name calling go, even let the name calling go a second time, but when I saw she was forming a group and snickering calling her names, I went all out to stop it. I was givng this kid the benefit of the doubt. So, it’s not always the “white establishment.” If anything, I guess, that principal saw the upper-income eduacted problems as a nuisance. Honestly, my daughter is the palest kid in the school, and has been derided as a “vampire,” etc. She never made much of it, because first of all, they are popular now, LOL, and like I said, she has an inner strength and has formed a circle of quasi-friends. Honestly, I am glad she is good friends with the most popular boy in 7th grade. Believe it or not, I think she gets a lot of admiration for being smart rather than nerdy. Although, if she wasn’t in all the advanced classes, I am not so sure how well it would go. And I have to say, at my youngest daughter’s elementary school, the assistant principal is an African American. I love, love, love this guy. What a supportive role model, disciplinarian for all races and nationalities. Besides the great principal. A lot of good things or bad things happen from the top, that is true. I have to say, in the private school, the administration was inept on dealing with even basic bullying, problems with staff. Maybe less problems, less resourcefulness and ability to deal with things? As I said, I firmly believe it’s the society we live in, the video games, the language and disrespect toward adults on TV, many, many things.

  13. Dee

    Last post…I re-read your post, again. Yes, I never wanted to appear whiny and weak for my kids. My older one just wouldn’t really fight back a big bully; although, of late, she can come back with a verbal argument of a point. The younger one can actually deal with an apparent bully, but had trouble with the under-the-radar type (which she now calls that girl “good actor”). The thing is, and it’s hard to do: a parent has to keep a mental checklist or jot them down in case things get worse. I hate to say it, but you have to be prepared with the details. Telling the administration one random thing instead of a specific pattern makes all the difference. I only had red flags go off in my head, which I was, luckily, able to piece together for administration. They need a basis for a case, at the very least. As I said, I had to deal with one administrator who saw the namsy-pamsy parents as whiny.

  14. Celeste Harmer
    Celeste

    Having been bullied throughout my school years, I agree when you say institutions are apathetic to the issue of bullying. In my case, however, I was the same gender, race, and class as those bullying me. It boiled down to xenophobia on the part of my tormenters, a fear of anyone or anything that is different. I was the different one who took her studies seriously and is now going to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor in Arts, while these cretins, I’m sure, have moved onto lackluster lives. I should have spoken up about my abuse, but I knew my teachers wouldn’t care, as they were turning a blind eye to it, so I suffered in silence. Nevertheless, bullying victims need to speak up. There is definitely more awareness of this issue than there was when I was in school several decades ago, and they could probably get more help than I could have. If they can’t, they need to continue to speak out against the abuse. It’s the only way it’s going to stop.

    1. Heather

      Celeste, I know how it feels to be bullied and I never knew what to do. I wanted to tell someone but, I was always afraid of no one listening to what I say Last year, in 2017’s school year I was a sophomore in High School and I was bullied and insulted cause I had no one that I could trust everyone that I trusted eventually stabbed me in the back(not literally) and destroyed everything and everyone that I loved. I felt like no one would listen. No one really did; I went to the principal of my school and she said that I was the bully because of my age. yes, I am the oldest in my class but, what does age have to do with anything. One of the bullies told me that I have no real friends that everyone just pitted my sorry a**. That was what really hit me cause when This was happening I didn’t have anyone to help, or to protect me. I felt like I was alone.
      Now I am a junior and I have people who actually care about me. People that helped me get through it. People who were once in the same position I was.
      I am still getting harassed and sometimes bullied but, I become a bigger person and walk away when they start in.

  15. Bibiana

    NOTHING justifies bullying! For my part, I could care less about the bullies. The victims have to live in fear, and carry their hurts into adulthood. School should be a safe place. I feel a good part of the problem is class size. How can one person manage thirty kids? And if you look at the typical high school, it is like a small city with hundreds of kids and very few adults. In these situations the bullies can easily gain the upper hand.

  16. Ellen

    I was bullied throughout my childhood. It did start with some of the neighborhood kids bullying and my family not stepping in to protect me. What made it worse was my brother and sister were often contributors, therefore, encouraging the bullying further. What I was being told over and over is if you get upset they will continue, so nothing got done. Then the bullying continued in school. My kindergarten teacher and second grade teacher both provoked it. My kindergarten teacher often stooped to the level of calling the students babies and then singling them out because of one mistake. So, teasing was bad for me in kindergarten. In second grade, I was talking when I should not have been. So, the teacher called me a name, and that fueled a mass amount of teasing for the entire school year. I ended up playing hooky for almost a third of the school year because it was so bad, no one would step in. I did read in the article that the poorer kids often got bullied. Well, I am white kid of a single mother, because my dad died when I was three. When we weren’t rich, we were probably between working and middle class. My second grade teacher was black, and most of the bullies that I had to deal with while in school were, in fact, black. There were some white kids who were bullies as well. But, from what I remember, I noticed that every kid who bullied me in school was from an inner city or borderline inner city neighborhood. The elementary and high school had some affluent areas and some inner city (ghetto) areas that fed in the school district. My second grade teacher had it in for me since day one. At that time, I had not been around a lot of black people at the time, so I had gotten a bad impression of how some black kids (and the black teacher) treated a white kid for any number of reasons.

    Bullying can come from all sides, not just less affluent kids being bullied. It can be the other way around. From my experience, bullying does stem from socio-economic and racial differences, and even academic abilities. I was an average student in school. If it had not been for the bullying, I would have done a lot better academically in school. The kids who did well or were in honors classes were not the bullies. The bullies were pretty much the kids who were in the low level classes and did not do well. I know that there are other factors that trigger bullying, and I think that the ones who have experienced it firsthand are the ones who can address it best. Just because someone is a trained professional, it does not mean that they can handle or address it properly, These so-called experts are probably getting most of their input from politics. I will believe it when I see it that they really want to end the bullying.

  17. Trinity

    I am currently a student that is being bullied in school and the thing is my school doesn’t even care they barely do and they always say “We’ll follow through with this incident” but the truth is I was recently bullied in front of a teacher and the teacher did nothing to stop the incident. Truth be told I hate being bullied and I’ve been bullied since I was 5 its not nice and I feel like alone and have no one to talk to. I don’t want to use help lines because of previous experiences where I’m told its not that kids fault its mine and that I’m the cause of everything.

    1. Annie Hamilton
      Annie Hamilton

      Dear Trinity- Thank you for sharing your story. You are right, bullying is not nice and no one should have to endure that kind of pain. Although it sounds like you have tried reaching out, here are some additional resources that might be helpful in addition to talking with other adults in your life outside of your school.

  18. marilyn

    Thank you for posting this especially the part when you were talking about how the schools protect their own. This is very true. My daughter has been bullied so much at school and she has told the principle and teachers and nothing gets done about it because the teachers are too afraid to rat the popular kids out because if they do that then they will not be part of the clique for getting the popular kids in trouble. But if it was their own kid getting bullied would they do something about it? Makes me wonder.

    1. Julie Withers

      Hi Marilyn,

      Schools protect their own, their employees and the interests of the institution, which includes board members and school districts at the top. Education is a top down system, meaning that in protecting the rich kids, they are also protecting their class, professional middle class people, it’s a group and it has a position to maintain. It’s one large, multidimensional clique. That means they protect their own, even the bullies. So, if one of them gets bullied, what power does a less rich kid have? What damage can they do, call a name or bust a lip and then what? Detention, suspension, expulsion? Nah, it isn’t worth it to bully the rich kid, that’s what poor kids know, rich bullies too.

      Thanks so much for commenting. Hadn’t seen the other comments ’cause I usually delete my “other” folder in email (this teaches me). Even tho it’s late, I will reply to other comments.

      Cheers, Julie

  19. marilyn

    Thank you Julie for writing back. Its just that I have seen my daughter bullied to the point last year where she was in tears everyday. When I confront the teachers about it they shrug their shoulders like they were not told and she has went to them countless times even the principle and she says all he cares about is his daughter thats in the school. I dont know weather to write a letter to the super attendant or what. I mean since this her grades have shot way down and she just doesnt really care about going anymore although I try to be there as much as possible I send her happy quotes throughout the day to her email and that does seem to help a bit.

    1. Julie Withers

      Hi again Marilyn,

      I’m so sorry your daughter is going through the hell of bullying to the point where she is in tears and her grades are suffering. It is a horrible experience.

      In my experience, the higher up you go on the chain of command the better the results. I suggest writing a letter to the school superintendent and if your daughter is up to it, schedule a face to face meeting so you can both share the details of what is going on. Bullying is something that thrives in silence, the more people with power you talk to, the better. That includes your school boards representative. This is the principal’s job, and when the principal isn’t solving the problem, you go above their head and make a stink. There is nothing professional middle class people hate more than a stink, I say that in all seriousness. Have you or your daughter spoken to the school (guidance) counselor? You will have to push the school to do something, but because they have state mandates regarding bullying that they have to follow, you can research those and hold them to it.

      I hear you about shrugging shoulders, teachers and administrators are fearful of bullying and in some cases, have biases toward the victim because of their own issues. It’s frustrating. While I cannot help directly, I did research and paste some links that I hope will help guide you in a good direction (see below).

      Take care, Julie

      https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html (State anti-bullying laws & policies)

      http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/parents-page/what-do-if-your-child-being-bullied-and-resources/

      https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/is-your-child-being-bullied-9-steps-you-can-take-as-a-parent/

      https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-you-can-do/parents/

  20. Anne

    I have a child in Catholic school who is being bullied by a “mean girl” My daughter is always in tears, has stomach aches, is sad. I agree that school administration protects their own but interestingly, at this school, my kids are the outsiders because they have a 2 parent household, both parents are professionals and they are not poor. Most of the other kids (and teachers) are inner city kids of limited means and (I guess) the diocese feels so good about itself educating these “poor waifs”that it cant do anything about their horrible behavior. I could send my kids to the 14 million dollar brand new public school down the street but I dont. I send them to Catholic school because in addition to the three Rs, I want my children to learn love and kindness and to walk in the shoes of Christ. It is astonishing to me then that when we complain about the escalating mean girl bullying, we get the patronizing, we’ll check into it, bullcrap response. In my opinion, the parents of this girl are the problem. Our dinner table conversation focuses on daily events but always includes something about making the world a better place through your own kindness. I highly doubt the little sk&^ who is harassing my daughter is hearing these lessons, I imagine her home life is full of the same kind of hatred and negativity that she sends out to the 3rd grade. As much as I hate it, my husband and I are going to pull our kids out the school if we dont see improvement in 6 months. They can get their tuition from someone else.

  21. David Glover

    Hi Julie, I am a southern california educator and a California credentialed elementary school counselor. I speak at conferences and schools on effective class management. I agree wholeheartedly that classism is largely to blame for the continuance of bullying in schools.

    I am writing a book on helping the bullied child, and the insightful information you provide is going to help me persuade readers to join the anti-bullying efforts taking place all over the country. The epidemic of bullying is affecting our children in horrific ways, and the ramifications are frightening. The institutions that be must acknowledge their bias and think in terms of the welfare of children, not their own.

    Your evidence-based research on this subject is so helpful to the anti-bullying cause.

    Warm regards and many kudos,

    David Glover

  22. Marie

    As a mother of a child who was targeted for bullying in public school I will assert that #1. They don’t want to be bothered with it and #2. They don’t care. My son was VERY tall for his age and was immediately targeted by the little bullies when he started kindergarten. I immediately spoke to the school counselor and asked her to help keep the problem from growing. My son would be victimized by ALL the children in many ways. #1. Other children will join the bullying so they themselves don’t become a target – “see, THIS is the kid we all pick on, not ME” He also would never be befriended by others because again, they do not want to become victims. EVERYONE, including the TEACHERS engaged in bullying my son because the adults BLAMED MY SON for the negative attention that was generated towards him by others. It was absolutely OUTRAGEOUS the way the situation was “handled”. In second grade the so called “counselor” would PULL MY SON FROM CLASS and take him to her office to engage in puppet play – teaching HIM the “proper way” to respond to being bullies – “please don’t say mean things to me, throw things at me or hit me because it hurts my feelings”. SERIOUSLY. I even went so far as to meet with the Superintendent of schools to complain that not only the students but the STAFF was abusing my son. One day a girl from my son’s second grade class knocked on my door to sell Girl Scout cookies and asked if my son was sick because he had been absent from school that day “and the teacher said JOHN’S not here today YEA! And everybody said YEA!” I was shocked. By third grade MY SON was being PUNISHED for trying to defend himself – He had been slammed into a locker by another child and a teacher overheard my son say “if you do that again I’ll kill you”. When my son came home and told me about the PRINCIPAL showing him a “step graph of violent acts” and telling my son that HE WOULD GROW UP TO BE A RAPIST OR MURDER I went to the school and demanded to see the graph that was shown to my VICTIMIZED 9 year old son. I told the Principal he was a pathetic person, should not even be in charge of a dog pound and removed my son from public school and put him in the expensive Catholic school in our town, it was the only other option. I had to clean houses to pay the tuition but it was worth is because the Catholic school did NOT TOLERATE BULLYING. If the bullying had been addressed FROM THE START as I had asked it would not have grown to the OUTRAGEOUS proportions that it did. PUBLIC SCHOOLS have their hands tied by Liberal policies which prohibit them from punishing bullies. Not ONCE did the school ever punish the bullies or notify their parents of their children’s bad behavior. THEY DIDN’T WANT TO DEAL WITH IT and they allowed my son to suffer. I could give dozens of examples of the incidents that were allowed in the disgusting public “School” but I believe my point has been made. Public schools don’t care about educating our youth to grow up to be educated, civil contributing members of a society. They are more interested in indoctrinating young minds into their own personal twisted ideas of what a good member of liberal socialism parrots.

  23. Haylee

    I was in 6th grade and the first few months went by until, this girl who had been mean to me for no reason tried to bully me, and I ever since I tried doing an scene kid look she tried to make fun of me and i had to tell the school and all they did is give her a referral for bad behavior and got her to lose her field and she accused me of it even though i didn’t have any clue what she was talking about, and then I made a musicaly with the song crybaby by melanie martinez and she said she will show every one and say im a crybaby in real life, and she even called me racist for no reason, until my friend decided to help me and tell my teacher and then tell the principle, but the principle, she only called her mom and suspended her for a few days even though she should have expelled for bullying, so pretty much the school did nothing about and say i have a anxiety problem for no reason and tries to fail me and ruin my life which they dont do anything about the bullying or helping students.

  24. julie

    I am shocked that so many people think that it is usually the scruffy or as some call it under privaleged pupils are the ones who get bullied.My child wears latest fashion clothes,is well balanced,a high achiever and is from a middle class supportive family.She has been bullied by the scruffy haired and under privalaged pupils and some of those in care.She has been hospitalised due to having major panic attacks and the school have done absolutely nothing and I am now at the point of changing schools

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