Bullying: A national phenomenon

By Alva Chavez ’17

I wonder if she notices. The way students look around and roll their eyes as she begins to speak. Or in P.E., when a giggle or two escape students’ mouths when a guy on the chunkier side tries to exercise and fails. Are they aware of what they are doing? Do they know it’s wrong, or do they just view it as harmless?

As defined by stopbullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”

Bullying is a worldwide phenomenon that has lasting impacts on all parties involved.

It can be difficult to accept that bullying could even be a problem in your own school. In a survey conducted by Pritzker’s sophomore staff, a total of 36 out of 219 sophomores reported seeing someone getting bullied at Pritzker, 7 admitted to bullying others, and 19 acknowledged being bullied.

Similar results were seen in a survey conducted schoolwide. Twenty-eight out of 175 Pritzker students reported being bullied in school, 72 witnessed this bullying, and 11 admitted to doing this bullying. Fifty-two out of 175 students have been victims of bullying outside of Pritzker. Eighty-five have witnessed bullying somewhere. And, 25 have bullied others outside of PCP’s walls.

So how does Pritzker deal with the 5-15 cases of bullying in a school year? Detention. Suspension. But the number of suspensions due to bullying is not high. And according to Pam Johnson, Dean of Culture, the best way to prevent or stop bullying is through understanding: both sides need to communicate how they feel and why. “The most powerful motivator to preventing bullying is seeing how your actions can impact others,” stated Johnson.  

However, this is a nationwide issue. According to stopbullying.gov, 28% of students in grades 6-12 are victims of bullying, with 20% of these being in grades 9-12.  Around 30% of kids and teenagers admit to bullying others. Additionally, about 71% of students have acknowledged the presence of bullying in their schools.

Even though bullying is accepted as an issue that affects many young people, it is not actually illegal, but 49 states do have legislation against it.

The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Then, physical. And, finally, cyber. Verbal bullying uses the beautiful power of words to harm others. Social bullying can be something as simple as excluding someone or spreading rumors and gossip. Physical bullying leaves marks on a victim’s body. And cyber bullying occurs on social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, which is most common at Pritzker.

Those at risk of being victims of bullying include but are not limited to: youth with disabilities, sexual/gender identity differences, or cultural differences. There are also some others risk factors that make a young person more vulnerable to being bullied. He or she may be seen as different from everyone else, as less popular, or may not have many friends. He or she may be perceived as weak. Those who are anxious, depressed, or have low self-esteem are also more at risk. Children who do not get along well with others and are considered annoying will likely get bullied as well.

However, let us not forget about the bullies. There are also risk factors for why a young person would bully another. According to stopbullying.gov, there are two types of kids that are most likely to bully someone: the popular ones and and isolated ones. Isn’t it ironic? Youth who bully others are most likely aggressive, think badly of others, and have friends who bully others.

Often times, the media exploits bullying. It will only report on bullying when someone’s life has been lost as a cause of it, but isn’t it by then too late? Unless you have experienced bullying, you don’t really know the effects of it.

Yes, it can lead to suicide.

Research has been done and has been reported by cdc.gov. According to this website, teens who report to frequently being bullied are at an increased risk of suicide. Teens who have both been bullied and have bullied have the highest risk for suicide. And those who only do the bullying also have a high, long-term suicide risk.

But there are other lasting effects of bullying, both on the victim and the oppressor.

Anxiety. Depression. Mental health problems. Low self-esteem. Loneliness. Regret. Guilt. Blame.

According to Pritzker Social Worker Catherine Marquard, students who are bullied experience a “loss in self confidence, low self esteem, possible depression and alienation.” Typically, students who bully others are themselves experiencing low self-esteem and insecurities. “They are purposefully trying to put down someone else in order to make themselves feel better,” Marquard noted.

While bullying cannot ever be completely eradicated, it isn’t a lost battle. Just always remember to speak against it, rather than laughing or joining.