What is the system of bullying?
A menacing boy roughly grabs the arm of a smaller, frightened boy on the school grounds, to the amusement of his two smiling friends. Meanwhile, three girls cup hands to their mouths as they whisper, laugh and look toward an unhappy girl sitting alone. Other students stand by and watch these events.
This is a daily occurrence for these children at this school, and it illustrates the social network of power dynamics. Unless someone or something intervenes, these aggressors, their victims and bystanders will continue to play out the same scenario day after day after day.
Bullying can be a single incident but is most often the repeated aggression of a more powerful person toward a physically or socially weaker person with deliberate intent to cause emotional or bodily harm. It is a power play to assert authority or raise the aggressor’s status in the eyes of bystanders.
Bullying can manifest as embarrassing sarcasm – even by a teacher. It includes taunting, physical assaults, harassment, social exclusion, name-calling, derogatory comments, online rumors and outright lies.
This behavior can be found anywhere. It occurs in homes, classrooms and the workplace. It occurs between adults and children, adults and adults, and youth and youth. It occurs in small schools, large schools, rural schools and urban schools.
It exists openly in cafeterias, on buses and in classrooms, and more secretly as intimidation lurking in unsupervised hallways, bathrooms and school property. The commonality is the imbalanced power dynamics and permission of onlookers — the audience for the aggressor.
In 2010, he surveyed 116 teachers at seven elementary schools. More than 70 percent believed bullying was isolated, but 45 percent admitted to bullying a student. The study, published in The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, suggests that bullying by teachers may occur more often than commonly believed.