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Bullying: What to be Aware of in our Classrooms

Bullying: What to be aware of in our classrooms

By: Ali Gutfreund, Cohort 1

Bullying has become a buzzword in many schools over the past ten years and although there are tremendous resources tackling the problem, it still seems to be a pervasive concern in schools throughout the nation. (Don't think day schools are immune.)  This year, the annual Association for School Counselors is devoting their entire week long conference to providing more resources for teachers, principals and parents on how to effectively deal with bullying. Studies show that between 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency (Melton et al, 1988; Nansel et al, 2001). There are even some states that have adopted laws against bullying!

Bullying can have many devastating effects, ranging from plummeting self-esteem to even suicide. Many of you will remember the Missouri teenager who killed herself after being bullied through cyberspace back in December 2007. Particularly at a developmentally key age where children and adolescents’ sense of self is evolving, it is vital that they feel safe, nurtured and supported in their school environments. Further, it can also cause other problems later in life.  Children who bully are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. And 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24   (Olweus, 1993).

From an educator’s perspective there are some key characteristics to look out for in your classroom.

1.      If there are any outward signs of other students teasing or making fun or threatening other students, they should be dealt with immediately with                  administration. Schools should adopt a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.

2.      Look out for cliques which can be a source of bullying, particularly with girls. (See Rosalind Weismans’ book “Queen Bees and Wanna Bees”).

3.      Bullying is often occurring on-line, in the evenings at home. Send a note home to parents reminding them of what constitutes bullying and have them         monitor their children.

4.      If a student is highly anxious, has difficulty attending and staying in school or separating from parents, this may be a sign that there is bullying going on       in the classroom.

      5.      If a student is isolated or very defensive in working with others this may be a sign that there is bullying taking place. Be aware and be in touch with                 your students.

There are many strategies and programs that can address these issues. Primarily, bullying must be dealt with aggressively and immediately and treated with a high  level of urgency to show students it will not be accepted. Depending on the age of the student, the parents must be notified immediately and the perpetrator must go on probation. The bullying student should also be responsible for learning about the effects of bullying and perhaps initiating an anti-bullying program in the school. It is important to validate the victim’s experience and not to dismiss them as being sensitive or over-reacting.

There are terrific programs (see resources below) which help teachers inculcate values of dignity and respect in the classroom from lesson plans to all out school-wide initiatives. Moreover, we benefit from teaching students the values of Torah and quality character development which continuously come up within our discussions of Chumash and Torah She Be’al Peh. Use these opportunities to highlight modern day examples of bullying.

 Resources that you may find helpful:

  • Resources on Bullying: Here is a list of the current research on bullying in the classroom which may be helpful to you.


  • Bullying curriculum for middle schools and high schools: This is a secular curriculum that was developed by a professor in 2005. It is research based and many of the lesson plans can be adapted to a Jewish school environment. http://www.drthrockmorton.com/respectandthefacts/documents/bullyingprevention.pdf
  • The Anti-Defamation Jewish League (ADL) produced a program that discusses five children’s books that address bullying (like Little Red Riding Hood, etc). and highlights the bullying examples from these stories.


Melton, G. B., Limber, S. Flerx, V. Cunningham, P., Osgood, D.W., Chambers, J., Henggler, S., & Nation, M. (1998). Violence among rural youth.               Final report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.