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Bullying has been a common problem that many people are trying to stop. Bullying can occur in any environment and between anyone. One of the main places that bullying occurs is in the school environment. Hong and Espelage (2012) define bullying as, "Intentional use of physical and psychological force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation" (p.2). This is a problem around that world that has serious consequences. Aragon, Elliott, Espelage, and Rose (2011) found that 55% of students with mild learning disabilities and 78% with moderate learning disabilities experienced moderate to severe levels of victimization (p.3). Majority of the students in school that are bullied are students with disabilities.
There are many reasons why students with disabilities are the victims of bullying. Today, many schools are including students with disabilities in the general education classrooms. Including students with disabilities in the general education classroom has both pros and cons for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities will learn social skills that they may not otherwise learn in special education classroom but including special education students in the general education classroom may make students with disabilities a target. Students may bully the students with disabilities because they are physically different. Students may also be bullied in the classroom for receiving accommodations, modifications, or assistive technology. According to Frerichs, Maag, Siebecker, Swearer, & Wang (2012),
"In a current study, we hypothesized that specific language impairment, hearing impairment, and mild mental handicap were external differences that immediately identify students as having disabilities. However, students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Learning Disabilities (LD), and students with behavioral disabilities (BD) require a more detailed observation to be identified" (p.7)
Students whose disabilities are obvious from the outside are much more easily targeted because it is more obvious to their peers. This may include things like physical deformations, or the use of assistive technology such as a wheelchair, walker, hearing aide or communication device. It is much less obvious to peers when students have a disability such as ADHD or a learning disability. These students don't stand out so easily, but with observation, they too can be bullied. Bullying has several negative consequences and effects many people. Bullying can have a tremendous effect on the victim. According to Carter and Spencer (2006),
"The immediate effects of bullying are extremely debilitating to victims. The academic performance of victims decreases significantly. The low morale and acute despair experienced by the victims lead to truancy. Other effects include chronic illnesses, running away, and even suicide. Additional studies concluded that victims of bullying can endure anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem, impaired concentration, and avoidant behavior" (p.2).
Not only does bullying affect victim, it can also affect the bully, other students, parents, teachers, and the school. When I was in high school, there was a boy who was in my grade who was being bullied by other students because he had a disability. He had tried to talk to his teachers and principals about the issue but nothing was "really" done. Halfway through the school year, he committed suicide, leaving a note behind about how he was bullied and not accepted by others. Once the student had passed away, not only were his family and friends affected but the "bullies", teachers, and the school was affected. The students who had been bullying this young man now have to live with the fact that they were about of the kid's death. The student's teachers and school board have to live with the fact that they didn't do anything to stop the situation. The school system received a lot of publicity after this students passing. After their sons passing, his parents decided to talk to the entire school about bulling and the personal affects it had on them. This is not the only story about how bullying have affected several people's lives. This is just one of many stories about how bullying does not just affect one person, but how it affects so many people.
Bullying does not only affect the victim personally, it can negatively impact their ability to learn. Students who are bullied are often afraid to go to school. If they are afraid to go to school, they most likely miss a lot of school days which affects their grades and learning. Not only do they miss school, by they likely aren't able to focus on learning when they are there. One of our primary needs according to Maslow is safety, and when a child does not feel safe, they are not going to be able to focus on anything else until they do. This includes schoolwork, which to them seems very unimportant compared to how they are feeling and being treated. According to Hong and Espelage (2012),
"The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institute of Health estimated in 2001 that approximately 5.7 million American children in grades six to ten have experienced or witnessed bullying in their school. One in four children reported being victimized by their peers or classmates every month; one in five children bullied a classmate; and one in three children experienced being a victim, a perpetrator, or both" (p.3).
In order for students who are being bullied to want to come to school and receive an education, bullying needs to stop. Bullying needs to be addressed and stopped before it starts. Teachers need to make school safer and prevent bullying. One way schools can prevent bullying is by informing and directly teaching students about bullying. Students should be taught about the affects bullying has and what they can do to prevent bullying. Schools can involve the students' parents in the program. If the community works together they can spread awareness about the issue. Students should be able to talk to teachers about bullying. It is also important that parents know that bullying is an issue and that they should talk to their children about it. According to Williams and Veeh (2012), "Continued programming and interventions to decrease bullying and school victimization are imperative. The continued implementation of evidence-based programs for these behaviors will impact the quality of the educational experience for youth and support more positive social and psychological outcome" (p.1). Schools need to establish a safe environment for their students. Students need to know that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Bullying is an issue that is increasing in schools all around the world. It is important that not only teachers, but all community members are informed on the issue and the negative consequences that bullying has. There are so many ways to spread awareness and educators need to start by spreading awareness in their classrooms and throughout their schools. It is important that this issue is taken seriously. The more it is ignored, the more it will continue and the more it will affect people's lives. There are so many ways to gain knowledge and educate people on bullying. Because bullying is such an issue in school, teachers and school boards need to take make a change. Teachers need to listen to their students and be aware of what could be happening in their classroom. Students need to be aware of what bullying is, its consequences for both the bully and the victim, and what to do if they are being bullied or if they witness bullying.
As a future educator I want my students to feel safe at school and in my classroom. Not every student is going to love school but students should not dislike school because they are being bullied. I want to make a change and spread awareness. As a future special educator, I am aware that majority of students who are bullied are students with disabilities. Students in my classroom may be a target for being bullied. I will make sure that I am paying close attention to how my students are treating one another. I will encourage my students to tell someone if they are being bullied or if they see other students being bullied. It is important that teachers know what is going on in their students' lives and that they make their students feel comfortable to talk to them.