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A Historic Look at Bullying with an Emphasis on Texas Public Schools

By:   •  June 15, 2016  •  Research Paper  •  3,253 Words (14 Pages)  •  913 Views

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Student Name

The History of Texas

HIST 2301-88797

April 27, 2016

A Historic Look at Bullying with an Emphasis on Texas Public Schools

Bullying has been around for generations and used to be considered a rite of passage. However, numerous research studies into bullying and its pervasive, and sometime tong-term effects are changing perceptions of this phenomenon. The rising rates of teen suicide as well as numerous mass shootings that have been traced back to bullying being part of the root causes, are making educators, legislators, and concerned citizens everywhere take note of the problem and attempt interventions. Texas has since enacted well defined anti-bullying laws, but there is much to suggest that this is not enough. The following paper will seek to define bullying, outline its scope and prevalence, and establish what legislation in Texas has attempted to address as it pertains to bullying in public schools.

An overview of bullying

Bullying is described as behaviors that involve the intimidation or harassment of a person, by another. Generally, this can take on a variety of forms, such as physical bullying, verbal bullying, or even cyberbullying. While it can happen at any age, it is most prevalent among children and adolescents. It is generally thought of as behavior that is limited to the bully and the victim, but research is showing that that there is a much larger social impact as a result of it.1 This is because victims can feel humiliated and alienated, which can result in behavioral problems that have direct as well as indirect costs to the society, and bullies can carry the behavior into adulthood, which then has the possibility of leading into criminal behavior.1 As a result, in adulthood, bullies and victims tend to be placed in different social groups.

Typical bullying behavior among young boys range from physical violence such as shoving or hitting smaller children, to the threat or implied threat of committing the act, whereas the behavior is a little different with girls, and usually involves behavior that is more subtle.3 This could include the starting of rumors that are vicious, or exclusion of a victim from group activities and encouraging others to also do so.4 As such, physical bullying among girls tends to be more rare than among boys, but it does occur at times.

Childhood and adolescence is a time of developmental growth, and positive and negative experiences during these formative stages can have a lifelong impact. Given that bullying tends to be more prevalent among children and adolescents, as mentioned earlier, there is an increased likelihood of victims developing learning disabilities or developmental disorders.3 In fact, it has been found that children who are victims of bullying tend to be slightly behind their peers in physical growth. They can also develop feelings of insecurity that persist into adulthood. In addition to the bully and the victim, the phenomenon of bullying also includes the peer group as a whole, and their reaction often has a major impact on both, the bully as well as the victim. If the peer group is supportive of the actions, it leads to positive reinforcement of the behavior, thereby increasing the likelihood of it occurring.3 However, if the behavior is met with criticism, or with peers coming to the rescue of the victim, ii leads to discouragement of the behavior as a result of negative reinforcement.3 This is an important phenomenon that is explored when attempting to create interventions and solutions to the problem of bullying.

Given the advent of technology and the rapid increase of communication, in recent years, bullying has taken on an even more vicious mode, that of cyberbullying. The intention of causing harm and intimidation of a victim by a bully is same as in the traditional sense, but cyberbullying takes on a different edge in that individuals behave differently when they are behind a computer screen than they would if they were face to face.5 This is known as the distancing effect, and coupled with anonymity, results in even more vicious forms of bullying, compounded by the ability of the bully to have a larger audience or have a single bullying event last for an extended period of time.5 This new form of bullying is one that is currently being addressed by numerous institutions, such as governmental bodies and education institutions.

Bullying in schools

A vast majority of children spend the greater portion of their days in educational institutions, where they are taught valuable lessons and skills, both from educators, as well as through their interactions with others. There is a vast consensus that schooling, especially public schooling is necessary for the growth and progress of a nation. However, schooling does give rise to some negative experiences that tend to cast a pall on the benefits of receiving an education. Bullying is one of these negative experiences, and is much more prevalent in schools than other institutions given that bullying is a behavior, as mentioned earlier, that is generally more pervasive among children and adolescents.

While there are few, if any, documented cases of bullying in schools prior to the twentieth century, experts suggest that bullying has been around since the beginning of one-room schoolrooms. However, the biggest different between historic bullying schools and present-day bullying, is the fact that it is no longer confined to the school given the advent of cyberbullying. While, in the past, children could avail of a respite from bullying in their homes, children today are connected to their peers round the clock, through a variety of forms, such as messaging apps, social networking websites and apps, and email.8 This idea paints a progressive tool such as digital communication in a very harsh light, likening it to a weapon used by bullies to inflict harm on their victims.7

Given the increased awareness of bullying as well as the harm it has been known to cause, schools around the country, and around the world are beginning to consider it an obligation to intervene in this issue. In the past, bullying was approached by educators in a very pragmatic manner that involved prevention of the behavior by the bully. If this did not meet with success, it teachers moved to counseling the victim as well as encouraging the peer group to discourage such behavior and prevent future occurances.8 These results have been shown to improve the circumstances of bullying, or at least make them more tolerable, but many are recognizing that it is not enough as it does not address the underlying causes of the issue. In addition to preventing the behavior, interventions that address the root problem of the behavior in the bully, such as through psychological counseling, leads to better long-term outcomes.8 This is a form of prevention of future occurrences and tackles the underlying causes as opposed to just the behavior.

Educators tackle bullying of victims in three distinct ways when it comes to the victims themselves, all of which have disadvantages. The first is to advise denial, such as telling them to ignore the behavior, or to avoid it by running away or staying away from the bully. However, this can result in increased instances of isolation of the victim. The third way is to suggest that the victim stand up for themselves or fight back, but this can backfire if the victim is physically unable or has been intimidated into not doing so, further reinforcing the inherent message of bullying.10

Another way for educators to intervene in the phenomenon of bullying is to involve the peer group, which reinforces norms and values about what is considered to be acceptable behavior. This practice involves the educator encouraging students to make victims feel safe within the group and not condoning bullying practices.10 However, this can sometimes have limitations as a tactics, as peer groups that are relevant are usually harder to identify, and can often by dissolved by the time it is being addressed.

However, as mentioned earlier, bullying is now being seen as something that requires more than intervention by teachers as it pertains to the bully, victim, and the peer groups especially given the advent of cyberbullying. Today, bulling is seen as a problem that needs to be addressed by everyone. A pivotal point in this perception of bullying was the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, which resulted in two teenage boys who had been bullied relentlessly, bringing weapons to school and then killing numerous students and finally themselves. This tragedy spurred the entire nation to come to the conclusion that school environments needed to become pre accepting and pro-social. Bullying in schools today is largely considered to be a social problem that is extremely complex, and requiring a concerted effort to bring about effective change.

Federal legislature regarding bullying

There are currently no laws that directly address bullying, though when bullying involves harassment based on “race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion” federal anti-discriminatory laws apply and schools are thus legally required to address the issue. Regulation regarding anti-bullying is largely taken on by state and local governments through model policies, laws pertaining to state education codes, and various other laws and policies that address bullying in schools.13 Currently,

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