How to Handle the Classroom Bully

Classroom bullying has become a major problem in the United States over many years. According to Jim Wright of Intervention ( February 2004, "Research suggests, though, that 7 percent or more of students may be bullies and perhaps 10-20 percent may be chronic victims of bullying." These statistics, of course, vary from school to school, and the percentages may actually be a bit higher nowadays. The question is, how can teachers handle the classroom bully and protect the victims in their class?

Let the student's voices be heard. A school-wide survey can be conducted of the students to determine the amount of bullying that is taking place and define patterns of when and where attacks are more likely to take place. This survey should be confidential and strictly anonymous, meaning students are not to put their names on the survey. The survey should include information such as when and where bullying takes place and the behavior habits of students who are more likely to be bullies. The staff can use these results to better handle more teacher coverage during the times that bullies are more likely to attack their victims. When preparing the survey, be sure to list the names of trusted adults in the school who students can turn to for reporting a bullying situation.

Another effective way for schools to minimize acts of bullying is for the principal to identify the terms of bullying, so that all teachers and staff are aware of what is considered harmful, negative, and hurtful behaviors across the board. If teachers are aware of what the school in its entirety defines as bullying, they can intervene more consistently, and thus the rate of bullying in the school overall will drop.

The problem with bullies are most are smart enough to keep their acts concealed from teachers and school administrators. It is because of this that the teachers need to develop a higher sense of awareness in their classroom to detect any bullying activities that are going on. Bullies might pass threatening notes to students, so a teacher must be acutely aware if that is taking place and intersect these types of notes in order to properly discipline the bully.

Other prominent places that bullying takes place during school hours is transitioning to a different class, at lunch, during recess, and during gym class. This is when teachers need to be alert to hall activities, as well as in the other places mentioned above. Since bullies will usually deny participating in acts of bullying when confronted with the situation, a teacher must be assertive and firm when confronting a bully about their activities. If a bully understands that a teacher is on to him or her, less bullying activity will occur during school hours.

In order to effectively stop bullying in a school, the school needs the help of all teachers, administrators, and parents to take a role in the efforts to stop the activity. Bullying in the classroom does not necessarily stay within the school. Bullies will attack their victims (either physically or verbally) off school premises. If a teacher suspects bully activity in their classroom, it is the teacher's responsibility to bring this to the attention of both the victim's parents and the bully's parents. This way the families can communicate about the situation, and hopefully be able to stop the bullying from reoccurring. If the bully's parents refuse to take any measures to stop their child's behavior, the teacher should tell the parents that they will be watching their child closely, and if the bullying continues, harsh consequences, such as detention or suspension will be enforced.

Since students are not always aware of what a teacher considers to be bullying in the classroom, the teacher should hold a class meeting to come up with the definitions of bullying. With the whole class participating, everyone should be aware of when a line is crossed, and be able to report such actions to the teacher. The rules should be limited to three or four. Samples rules may include:

  • Treat others with respect.
  • Make classmates feel included.
  • Help those that are being bullied.

As you can see, there are ways to reduce bullying in a classroom and in a school in its entirety. It takes participation from everyone involved from students to school staff to parents in order to make bullying disappear, or at least minimize it greatly. No one person can eliminate bullying alone. It takes teamwork.