Nearly half of elementary teachers admit to bullying kids

The Menninger Clinic

Nearly half of elementary school teachers surveyed about bullying in schools, admitted to bullying students, according to a study in the May issue of The International Journal of Social Psychiatry. (You may access the full-text of the Twemlow et al article by registering for the International Journal of Social Psychiatry free trial. Current and back issues are available until October 31, 2006. Also, access IJSP and other SAGE Psychiatry journals for free until August 31, 2006.)

The study surveyed 116 teachers from seven elementary schools. While more than 70 percent of teachers believed that bullying was isolated, an estimated 45 percent of teachers admitted to bullying a student themselves.

“It didn’t surprise me that nearly half of teachers admitted to bullying, because they are aware it is a problem,” says former teacher Stuart Twemlow , M.D., lead author of the study and director of the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project of the Child and Family Program at The Menninger Clinic. “Teachers need methods and help with disciplining children. The tragedy is that school districts rarely give teachers any help with discipline. They learn it by the seat of their pants.” Full story.

Study: Prevalence of teachers who bully students in schools

Stuart W. Twemlow, M.D.
Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., F.B.A.

American Journal of Psychiatry
Objective: This study looked for a relationship between the prevalence of teachers who bully students and school behavioral problems reflected in suspensions from school.

Method: A convenience sample of 214 teachers answered an anonymous questionnaire about their perceptions of teachers who bully students and their own practices. Teachers were grouped into whether they taught at schools with low, medium, or high rates of suspensions. Analyses of variance were used to analyze continuous variables, and chi-square statistics were used to study categorical variables.

Results: Teachers from schools with high rates of suspensions reported that they themselves bullied more students, had experienced more bullying when they were students, had worked with more bullying teachers over the past 3 years, and had seen more bullying teachers over the past year.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that teachers who bully students may have some role in the etiology of behavioral problems in schoolchildren. Full story.

“Hit him back” doesn’t work: Real solutions to handle bullying

The Menninger Clinic
Has your child even been bullied? Were you bullied as a child? Sadly, bullying is commonplace in today’s culture. As a result, many mental health professionals are studying ways to raise awareness about the problem and prevent bullying.

According to the National Education Association, bullying is “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and /or psychological distress on one or more students.”

Gaye Barker, National Education Association’s coordinator of Bullying and Sexual Assault Prevention and Intervention Programs, states that much of the bullying behavior doesn’t occur just on the school’s playground or in the bathroom, but also takes place in the classroom. Often teachers are unaware or unwilling to address the behavior.

“By creating a partnership, so that everyone is committed to solving the problem, bullying behavior can be alleviated,” she says.

The goal of the NEA’s program is to educate the community on what bullying is and how to address it. Teaching people that bullying will not be tolerated is the first step. The NEA program strives to help the whole school and community handle this issue, so training is not just for the principals or the teachers, but also the housekeeping staff, as well as the superintendent and other individuals within the overall community.

“With everyone involved, the bully has no place to hide,” Ms. Barker explained. Full story.

Peaceful Schools Project tackles bullying, “child abuse” by peers
Schools ignore the problem of classroom bullies at their peril, say Menninger Clinic researchers.

Bullying is a pervasive behavior problem with profound and long-range consequences that can influence and shape the lives of young children. Bullies have been linked with school shootings and child and adolescent suicides.

Interrupting the tendencies of bullies and their victims is important and possible, said Stuart Twemlow, MD, a Menninger psychiatrist and an international authority on community and school violence.

“Bullying is nothing but child abuse by peers,” said Menninger Child & Family Center Director Peter Fonagy, PhD, an internationally recognized authority in infant and child development.

“In a typical Midwest school, 88 percent of the children are likely to observe bullying, and 77 percent are likely to be victims of it at one time or another. Bullying leads to violent crime. Sixty percent of playground bullies will have a criminal conviction by age 24, and 90 percent of young offenders were themselves found to be victims of bullying.’’

“In more than two thirds of school shootings,” Drs. Twemlow and Fonagy wrote in a published paper on threat assessments, “there was clear and obvious bullying by social groups and individuals. The larger social and environmental issues involved in school shootings include factors such as easy access to violent and hate-laden media, weaponry and information on strategies for terrorist attacks. Less frequently noted is the school’s response to fixed patterns of teasing, ostracism and bullying among various groups in the school. A school climate that tolerates physical and relational aggression, especially by popular groups such as athletes or economic elites, is at high risk for violence.”

… From a three-year, ongoing study known as the Peaceful Schools Project, Menninger researchers have devised an integrated set of low-cost school violence prevention techniques developed under the rigorous scrutiny of scientific evaluation. Since so few programs develop their interventions relying on evidence based on randomized, controlled studies, the ongoing Peaceful Schools Project is believed to be the most ambitious privately-funded study of its kind. Full story.

Related link:
Addressing, blocking and curbing aggression in schools