Bullying has been a critical issue in schools for decades. Looking back to the 18th century peer-on-peer harassment was just as commonly seen as it is today. Of course, during that time bullying was newly recognized and little understood. What may be seen as violent behavior today might not have been in that time. While bullying in schools remains a critical issue, throughout the years several events and studies have taken place that have made a significant impact on bullying and have expanded its meaning in many ways.
The term bullying has changed drastically over time. In the 18th and 19th centuries bullying was mainly viewed as physical or verbal harassment commonly linked with, “…death, strong isolation or extortion in school children…” (Koo, 2007). Any type of aggressive behavior was simply seen as mischief and a normal part of childhood. In fact, according to Koo (2007), bullying was thought of as an innocent “misadventure” or “misbehavior” among schoolboys (p110). This type of bullying was clearly observed at King’s Boarding School in the U.K when a twelve-year old boy was killed from bullying behaviors by his older classmates (Koo, 2007, p110). The schoolboys involved were not held accountable for his death because the school viewed the behavior as a normal misadventure among the teens (Koo, 2007). It may be fair to say that this situation would be viewed much different today and that the bullying behaviors then were viewed as a normal part of growing up among children.
The term bullying was not publicly recognized until a well known newspaper made a publication of this behavior. In 1862, after almost seventy-two years of publications the daily newspaper, The Times wrote their first story on bullying when they reported a soldier allegedly died due to bullying (Koo, 2007, p109). The Times were the first to voice the critical issues of bullying and the major consequences that can follow (Koo, 2007). The writer especially highlighted how the soldier underwent “systematic bullying” in the army and was treated as an, “…object of constant vexations and attack” (Voo, 2007, p110). This story may have been shocking to many people because society then did not view the behaviors that caused this death to be harmful. In that time bullying was accepted by many as normal behavior. However, as bullying became more prevalent, it began to draw more attention from researchers who wanted to know more about this new phenomenon.
Historically, the most significant turning point for bullying took place in the mid 1970s. Dan Olweus, a research professor of psychology, was the first to conduct an intensive study on bullying among students using his own systematic researching methods (Voo, 2007, p112). He created the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), which had significant results in reducing school bullying (Hazelden Foundation, 2007). Olweus’s efforts contributed greatly to the fight against bullying because it brought awareness, initiated other professionals to conduct research, and vastly expanded the meaning of bullying (Voo, 2007). Olweus’s efforts have made a great impact on school violence and helped to bring safety back into schools.
Indeed, school violence has never ended. In fact, the consequences of bullying reached its peak when two teen boys shot and killed many of their classmates after allegedly being victims of bullying. In 1999, Columbine High School experienced one of the worst high school shootings in history. This event caused worldwide devastation due to the situation itself, and because it uncovered the raw truth behind bullying. In the same time frame, bullying took another negative turn. With easy access to the internet, many teens have started using cyber space as a play ground for bullying. As more teens have resorted to using cell phones and social networks to communicate, cyber bullying has become a major issue. Presently, cyber bullying is on the rise due to social networks such as facebook and twitter where information can travel in seconds to a countless number of people.
In response to these matters the federal government has created laws to crack down on these behaviors. Similar to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, legislators have implemented programs such as, No Child Left Behind to help keep schools safe (Edmondson & Zeman, 2001). In fact, to assure school safety the federal government has linked school funding to school safety laws, giving schools no option but to implement these law in order to receive funding (Edmondson & Zeman, 2001). To greatly lower school violence, the government has to create policies that hold bullies accountable and support victims. Linking school funding to school safety laws is an effective way to ensure schools are becoming safer for students.
Today, bullying is viewed much differently than it was in the 1800’s. It took many years for the term to be identified for the serious problems it presents. Due to researchers like Dan Olweus, gaining true understanding of bullying is now possible. Educators have been able to gain insights of these issues so they can help stop them from occurring. Indeed, with the growth of technology bullying will be difficult to track and school administrators will have to stay current as electronics continue to change. It is difficult to determine what the future of bullying will be, yet as the government continues to mandate school safety laws and begins to strictly hold bullies accountable for their actions, schools will become a safer place for children.
Edmondson, L., & Zeman, L. (2011). Making School Bully Laws Matter. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 20(1), 33-38.
Hazelden Foundation, (2007). Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Research and History. Retrieved from http://www.hazelden.org/web/go/olweus
Koo, H. (2007). A Time Line of the Evolution of School Bullying in Differing Social Context. Asia Pacific Education Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, 107-116. Retrieved from https://webspace.utexas.edu/lab3346/School%20Bullying/Koo2007/Koreabullyinghistory2007.pdf