Bullying, Suicide & Violence in Schools

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, we will define bullying, suicide, and violence as they relate to the behavior of school-aged children. We will also explore ways in which school districts can reduce the incidence of each.

Bullying, Suicide, & Violence

In the last couple of decades, both school districts and the national media have taken a very hard look at the incidents of bullying, suicide, and violence among children in elementary school, middle school, and high school. While these things have always taken place in the schools to one degree or another, society has become more aware of the problems that can result from each of these actions by both the perpetrators and the victims. In this lesson, we will define these terms and discuss some things that school districts, as well as individual schools, can do to lesson these occurrences. Read on for more information.

Definitions & Examples

So, how do we define bullying, suicide, and violence? Bullying is defined as any action that is both unwanted and aggressive, where there is a real (or sometimes perceived) power balance. The action is usually repeated over time or has the potential to be repeated. It is very important to understand that when one child tells another, on one occasion, that his shirt is ugly, that is not considered bullying. However, when that same child tells another on multiple occasions that his shirt is ugly, he is ugly, and he never should have been born. . . well now we have a problem. It is important that both adults and children are able to recognize the difference between bullying and just kids being rude to other kids - and there is a difference. Kids, especially at the upper elementary and middle school levels, are often not nice to one another. But there is a real difference between just not being nice and being a bully.

Suicide, on the other hand, occurs when a person takes his own life. This can be done in a variety of ways, and ANY suicide attempt should be viewed as a serious cry for help. More and more school-aged kids and teens have taken their own lives over the past decade in the United States. Some of this has been attributed to repeated incidents of bullying and ignored violent behavior, but there are a number of reasons - including mental illness in the form of depression, bipolar illness, or some other illness - that can be attributed to this.

Violence can be defined as the use of physical force or power against someone. It can be used against a person, a group, or an entire community, and it is always likely to cause physical or psychological harm (or both). An excellent and tragic example of school violence is the Columbine shootings that happened in 1999. This specific shooting was violence against a community, in this case, the student body at a high school.

Reducing Bullying, Suicide, & Violence

There are several ways that the incidents of bullying, suicide, and violence can be reduced, and, in many cases, prevented.

First, these acts must be taken seriously by all staff at the school. If even one person neglects to report an incident of aggressive, violent, or suicidal behavior, those affected can have long-lasting and sometimes fatal results. Let's say that a fourth grader, Joey, is being bullied at school. He is most likely embarrassed and afraid to tell a teacher. When he does, however, the teacher should always take it seriously and take the necessary steps to help Joey solve the problem.

All school staff should know what the definitions of these things are and be vigilant in reporting them. However, they should not take every tiny isolated incident of one child being 'unkind' to another as seriously as they do real instances of bullying or violence. So, let's pick up with Joey again. In this case, the bullying is real, and it is serious. Several older students are threatening Joey with physical harm.

Children should be taught these definitions and should be encouraged to report - without fear of repercussion - any student who is showing aggressive behavior, violent behavior, or is talking about suicide. Because Joey has been taught what bullying is and knows that it is wrong, he decides to report the incidents to his classroom teacher.

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