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Expository Essay on Bullying

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Bullying is a worldwide issue plaguing schools and even the workplace. As Bernard, Johnston, and Rampersad indicate in their article, 'A new report from UNESCO (2019) states that nearly one in three students worldwide (32%) has been bullied at school at least once during the previous month”. The article further goes on to state that whether children go to school in high-resource countries or low-resource countries, bullying still takes place; in other words, bullying knows no borders. The authors relay that schools in the Caribbean have been seeking solutions to an ever-increasing problem of bullying in schools. “The problem of bullying in schools across Trinidad and Tobago has intensified in recent years and is often highlighted in the media” (Bernard, et al, 2019)

According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. There are quite a few different types of bullying; the ones most prevalent in schools are physical, social, verbal, and cyber. Physical bullying involves hitting, kicking, tripping, pushing, or damaging one’s property. Verbal bullying involves name-calling, insulting, teasing, verbal abuse, and homophobic or racist remarks. Social bullying involves lying, spreading rumors, public humiliation, damaging someone’s reputation, social exclusion, and negative facial and physical gestures. Cyberbullying involves the use of technology like social media platforms, emails, and text messages, to threaten, embarrass, or harass someone.

My school is a Catholic school, in the St. George East district, with ninety-six percent of the student population being girls. Discipline has never really been an issue in the school and the school is considered one of the “good” schools in the area. The core values of the school, as stated in the School Development Plan, are Love, Respect, Integrity, Compassion, and Justice. The mission statement of the school is: “To provide quality education for young women and men for total development rooted in religious and spiritual values”. Over the years, the catchment area for students has shifted from the St. George East and Caroni districts to the St. George East and North East districts.

From discussions and polls of the students, it was noted that fifty-nine percent of them observed bullying among students in the school. Of the fifty-nine percent of students who observed bullying in the school, ninety-eight percent of them indicated that bullying often occurred in the classroom. Students also indicated that social and verbal bullying are the two most prevalent forms of bullying at the school. This is often observed in our classrooms by teachers, where a few students are socially outcast from the rest of the class.

The effects of bullying roots itself in many different places. Primarily, bullying affects the victim. “Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues” (, 2019). One incident of bullying in my school took place last year where a child’s notes were constantly being stolen and damaged. The child also reported that rumors were being spread about her. This particular child came from a stable home environment; however, it is believed that the bully came from a broken home. The parents and child were very distraught. Whilst the administration sought to deal with this incident, teachers were not well-equipped to handle the matter.

In their paper, Williams et al (1996) presented evidence that headaches, tummy aches, sleeping difficulties, bed wetting, and feeling sad are a result of bullying in school-aged children. Sleeping difficulties, headaches, and tummy aches are complaints that are regular among students in my school. As evidenced, bullying directly affects the student’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. Cleary (2000) in his paper presented evidence that victimized adolescents displayed more suicidal and violent behaviors than those who were not victimized.

Student learning is another direct effect of bullying. Many times, I have observed that the child that is suspected of being bullied often sleeps in class, and is not included in any group assignments. She also comes from a loving home with both parents; her father is a medical doctor. Her intimidators are students who are known to come from broken homes as well. This exclusion causes the child to miss out on valuable lessons in class and thus affects her academic performance. The student who is bullied is frequently absent from school. The student is afraid to come to school for fear of being threatened or feeling socially outcast. Due to this, the student often misses important classes and begins to fall behind academically. “Consequences for victims can include lower attendance and student achievement…” (Brewster and Railsback, 2001).

Many studies show that there is a direct relationship between student learning and being a victim of bullying. One study investigated the effects of being bullied on academic performance, in a group of school-aged children in Italy. “Findings show that children experiencing bullying at school score substantially lower than their non-victim peers at both fourth and eighth-grade levels” (Ponzo, 2013).

Bullying also affects the school, all its components, and ultimately the climate of the school. “Kids who witness bullying are more likely to have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs; they have increased mental health problems and they miss or skip school” ( A few years ago, one child continuously stole from her classmates and verbally bullied them. The incident was poorly dealt with by the administration and teachers at that time. Because of this, her classmates found it difficult to learn and their academic performance suffered greatly. In the Canadian Journal of School Psychology, Whitted & Dupper (2005) are quoted as saying “When school personnel are not able to reduce the prevalence of bullying, the school culture may become an environment of fear that disrupts academic learning for all students” (Gietz and McIntosh, 2014). The authors even indicated that when there is little adult supervision, no reporting of incidences of bullying, and no bystander intervention, the school unwittingly supports a culture of bullying.

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When students think that a school encourages a “culture of bullying”, the students are less likely to attend school. This sociological impact in turn affects student learning negatively. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its educational applications, aside from their physical needs, students need to feel safe first, physically and emotionally, before their cognitive needs are to be met. The students who feel unsafe at school are more likely to have higher absenteeism due to their concern for personal security, and when they do attend school, do not often participate in classroom activities to further their learning. (Boyd, 2004; Hernandez & Seem, 2004).

Administration must take action to ensure that the school is best equipped to curb the existence of bullying, as well as provide reprieve for victims of bullying. The best place for the administration to start is its Anti-Bullying Policy. The Ministry of Education strives to promote prosocial and acceptable behaviors by all personnel. The Ministry also encourages equality in treatment for all students and wishes to guarantee the freedom to learn in peace and safety. It also encourages a climate of peace, respect, and dignity and urges schools to develop their operational policies on bullying with the help of all stakeholders.

The school’s administration must take preventative measures against bullying, rather than reactive measures to deal with the larger problem of bullying. “Bullying is a problem that is best remediated through collaboration among administrators, teachers, school personnel, parents, and students” (Hughes, 2014). The author further mentions that it is important to take a whole-school approach to bullying, to ensure that all stakeholders receive appropriate training. The first step towards this is to ensure that all stakeholders, that is, the teachers, families, students, ancillary staff, and the community are aware of the school’s bullying-prevention policy. When all parties are aware of the policy, it becomes the norm to promote socially acceptable behavior. School policies that firmly support non-violence and no tolerance, can lead the school community to promote this as the norm. (Vince-Whitman, 2018)

A bullying prevention committee can be formed to educate all members of the school on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. The committee can implement student-training programs where older, more responsible students are chosen to emulate and promote a positive school climate. This committee can also oversee the proper implementation of the HFLE program in the classrooms, especially Forms one to three. “HFLE needs to be implemented properly at all primary and secondary schools in the country as it appears to have positive impacts on students’ lives such as improvement in academics and behavior” (Onuoha et al, 2017). The authors also pointed out that the HFLE curriculum promotes psychosocial competence in adolescents, by teaching them life skills that enable adaptive positive behavior.

The bullying prevention committee can also schedule regular staff discussions and professional development to ensure that all staff can detect and appropriately handle bullying. With the help of the committee, the administration can introduce school rules against bullying and also revisit the supervisory system of the school. Administration can ensure that all classrooms and student activities are supervised by teachers at all times. With sufficient training, all staff members will be able to intervene and adequately deal with bullying on the spot. An individual intervention plan can also be developed for the students involved in bullying.

In her article in, Wheeler (2018) says that the language we use to describe bullying behavior influences our perceptions of bullying. The author explains that whilst we may be against bullying, using the term ‘anti-bullying’ suggests that bullying is inevitable and we must react to it, whereas using the term ‘bullying prevention’ moves from reactive thinking to proactive thinking. The administration should discourage teachers and adults from using labels. “Adults should avoid labeling youths as ‘bullies’ and ‘victims’, as these labels tend to remain fixed and emphasize the false idea that bullying behavior is inevitable” (Wheeler, 2018). By using terms such as ‘child who bullied’ or ‘child who was bullied’, the administration acknowledges that there can be rehabilitation and change of behavior. “Racial or ethnic slurs and negative comments about socioeconomic status also contribute to exclusive school environments” (Hughes, 2014). By discouraging this behavior administration can promote a sense of harmony and acceptance amongst all students.

Another aspect that the school administration can look at in curbing bullying is dealing with the physical environment of the school. Installing more or sufficient surveillance systems, especially in more remote areas of the school’s compound may play an important role in monitoring and preventing bullying. “The study by Blum, et al, of thousands of students in the United States found that when they feel attached to their school and caring teachers, coaches or counselors, they engage in fewer risk behaviors” (Vince-Whitman, 2018). Creating a “print-rich” environment in the school, one where antibullying rules and acceptable social behavior are posted and enforced, with displays encouraging diversity, can encourage an inclusive school environment.

The stakeholders also play a vital role in implementing change in the school. By partnering with qualified parents and local businesses, the administration can help to bring about change. Gaining the support of the community to help spread the anti-bullying message of the school is critical also. Early detection and intervention are crucial in bullying prevention. With the help of the Parent Teacher Network and all stakeholders, the administration can work with mental health professionals to provide treatment and counseling for students who were bullied, the children who were bullied, and their families. The school can also host “Bullying Prevention Campaigns” for all stakeholders and invite local health services to raise awareness of the issue and educate students and their families about best practices. “Most adults with mental health disorders were ignored or did not receive diagnosis and treatment in childhood or adolescence when their disorder first presented” (Vince-Whitman, 2018).

By taking steps to address bullying in the school, the administration can bring about positive and long-term outcomes. Students may begin to feel more comfortable and satisfied with school life and this in turn will affect student learning positively. If the instances of bullying are reduced, this can mean that the students are less accepting of negative social behaviors and that they adhere to and respect the school’s rules. This can also reduce the bystander effect and invoke more appropriate reactions to bullying by onlookers. Less bullying implies less fear, less depression, fewer mental and emotional health issues, and fewer physical health issues. This in turn will lead to improved self-esteem, improved student concentration, and improved student learning. Bullying, if left unchecked, has a negative domino effect on the whole school community. However, if measures are implemented, the domino effect can be made into a positive one which eventually leads to the school outputting students who are less likely to be involved in delinquency, drugs, and crime, in society.

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