Bullying and Sexual Harassment in Schools
Several years ago, Barry Loukaitis, a junior high student in Moses Lake, Washington, walked into his algebra classroom carrying a high-powered rifle under a trenchcoat. He pointed the gun at a student sitting near the door and pulled the trigger. The boy died instantly. During the next 15 minutes, he shot two more classmates and his teacher. Only one victim survived the attack. According to his teachers and fellow students, Barry Loukaitis had been a victim of chronic bullying by classmates.
Loukaitis's name was listed on the honor roll before he brought national attention to his small town. His classmates described him as a shy and serious loner, someone with few friends who was a much-used target for harassment. According to students "his outsized feet, his gangly build, his studiousness, and his cowboy clothing" (Tizon, 1996) were attributes that made him ripe for bullying.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, said, "As we look at the profile of perpetrators, the majority were victims first. When spurned, rejected, or bullied, some adolescents resort to violence. They want to resolve their problems quickly and with a measure of finality that is oftentimes rather scary" (Timms, 1998). A rash of shootings at schools shows that an alarming number of students use violence as a panacea for the difficulties riddling their lives. Loukaitis was no exception.
Many researchers agree that "decreasing social violence lies in the prevention of bullying behavior" (Fried and Fried, 1996). Across North America, violent crime has risen sharply over the past 40 years. Most of this violence is committed by young people (Craig and Peplar, 1996). In just the past two years, there have been at least five shootings at U.S. schools, killing 18 and wounding several more—an average of about one death every five weeks. The attackers' ages ranged from 11 to 17 (Timms, 1998). This trend is sobering and sadly believable; half the households in the United States now contain firearms (Miller, 1996), some within a child's reach.
Even if a student isn't pushed to aim a gun at a classmate and pull the trigger, the consequences of bullying are potentially crippling. Victims of prolonged bullying can find their dreams suffocated as day-to-day survival takes precedence over academic achievement.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs explains how a student's motivation can become sabotaged if she's having to deal with constant harassment at school. A student whose sense of safety is destroyed won't feel like she belongs, will have a diminished sense of self, and will be thwarted in reaching any goals. A school that silently condones such behavior creates an environment that is toxic for its students.
Children's behavior usually falls somewhere on the spectrum between bully and victim; the majority have acted in both capacities. A small percentage are regularly engaged in bullying, either as oppressor or victim. Some 78 percent of students reported being bullied "in the past month" in a survey Committee for Children gave to 338 children in third through eighth grade. A small percentage—5–6 percent—experienced severe bullying. These statistics are within the bounds of similar surveys' findings, that 5–15 percent of children are suffering harsh and repeated abuse at school (Olweus, 1993).
Reprinted with the permission of the Committee for Children. © 2007 Committee for Children.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory