Education today is considered to be a basic necessity to all children. The local, state, and federal governments, together with the school systems, are charged with the main responsibility of ensuring education is accessible to all children. Educational practitioners, including school administrators, headmasters and teachers, are required to establish a safe and more comfortable atmosphere for the students. In addition, educational policies related to the teachers’ capacity and curriculum development in accomplishing learning and teaching processes also demand that teachers establish good behavior and character among the students in schools.
All together, the responsibility of the parents in controlling the behavior of the students while at home is very important; however, according to the research, there is a significant population of the children that do not obtain full education. Those that avoid school, attend but do not take part in learning, those that cannot learn as a result of various factors that drift their attention from normal class lessons, and those whose concentration and sense of security are hampered by other students (Aronson, 2000; Bonilla, 2000; Coggeshall & Kingery, 2001).
Students today are encountering various impediments to their education, and as Salmon et al. (1998) state, bullying is one of the significant challenges that schools must address. A study conducted by Bosworth et al. (1999) reported that about 33% of the middle school students highlighted that they felt unsafe in school due to bullying and could not report about it. The same study established that students did not report about such behaviors to the relevant authorities for various reasons, for instance, students felt that their school administrators and teachers would do nothing about it.
The implications of bullying in schools run deep into our societies, considering the fact that its effects go beyond incidents encountered at an individual level. This is depicted by the increasing interest on the part of the government to support studies and surveys regarding bullying in schools, in an attempt to acquire more information for addressing this obstacle (Coggeshall & Kingery, 2001). However, it is important to note that bullying is considered as a practice, which is especially rampant among the youth, reeking destruction on the educational establishment.
Educational practitioners have become more interested in bullies as they create a sense of fear within other students, and the entire school environment that is unfavorable to the sense of safety and comfort required for effective and good learning to take place. Howell (1997) states, that bullying in schools can also result in school-related victimizations. In addition, the recent global studies indicate that bullying is a symptom of a wider context of violence; however, it is significant to mention that success in any learning atmosphere is not guaranteed by the nonexistence of bullying, but successful learning settings can be improved when such disruptions are eradicated (Bosworth et al., 1999). It is the main reason as to why bullying within the education system should be understood and tackled.
Indeed, schools should be viewed as safe settings where all students are offered equal learning opportunities. It has been reported that between 80% and 90% of the pre-adolescents and the adolescents have to cope with constant physical and psychological harassment, depicted as bullying, at some points during the educational process (Oliver et al., 1994). According to Bosworth et al. (1994), behavioral problems such as bullying among the adolescents are viewed as a part of a syndrome. This constant culture of bullying has to be eradicated to ensure effective learning and safety of the students. To address this issue, this research seeks to investigate bullying in schools, looking at the students’ perceptions after the experience, whether they were the bully or the bullied.
Purpose of the Study
Bullying is becoming a global problem and can take place in any school. A survey conducted by the United States Department of Justice (2003) regarding the indicators of school crime and safety reported that both females and males between the ages of 12 and 18 were at a higher risk of being bullied than any other age group, with the proportion of females being 7%, while that of males being 9%; however, it is worth noting that a previous survey that had been conducted in 1999 indicated no difference between the females and males as rates for both were 5%.
A study conducted by Druck and Kaplowitz (2005) documented that 60% of students aged between 12 and 17 had observed a student bullying another one every day. Bullying may affect school attendance as students consider school as an unsafe place, thus negatively affecting their ability to learn. Furthermore, bullying is toxic to an atmosphere favorable for effective learning. Regardless of whether it is psychological or physical harassment, or a consequence of the harassment envisaged in poor attendance as a result of fear for safety, bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed.
According to Maslow’s theory of needs, it is fundamental that the basic needs are satisfied first before the higher needs, like critical thinking and learning are attained; therefore, it is important to ensure the safety and security of the students at school. Limited formal research regarding bullying in schools has been documented globally, which makes it difficult to identify the real cause of bullying and appropriate measures that could be implemented to address it. This study, therefore, seeks to examine perceptions of bullying from the students’ point of view whether they were in the role of a victim or a bully.
Theoretical Framework: Anomie
The concept of bullying has to be placed within a theoretical framework in order to generate a deeper understanding and to provide the opportunity for a more elaborate conceptualization of the concept, its likely origin, and lines of inquiry. Whereas social learning theories, functionalism, and biological theories offer theoretical frameworks that can offer some explanations regarding bullying.
Durkheim’s anomie offers an explanation that shifts focus from a single person to the society. Durkheim (1979) considers that the society impacts significantly the actions of an individual, as induced by the norms, traditions, and rules found within it. The following statement provides the basis of Durkheim’s work. In one of his writings, Suicide, Durkheim, (1979) defines anomic suicide as one that is generated from human’s activity without the regulations and the enduring suffering that happens due to the lack of regulations. In this case, regulation is viewed as positive force that is moral since the society deems it as being desirable. Durkheim’s theory also considers the society as the sole authority that human beings will respect, and it is the single moral power greater than an individual, which he accepts (Durkheim, 1979). Consequently, the lack of regulations within the society implies that the society has no capacity to control individuals. From the anomic perspective; this implies that the society no longer offers the restrictions that bar people from committing suicide.
Shoemaker (2000) describes anomie as the inconsistencies between the conditions within the society and the individual opportunities for productivity, fulfillment, and growth. Marshall (1994) looks at this as an absence, confusion, conflict, or breakdown in the societal norms. Anomie can offer an understanding regarding why students engage in bullying. This gives an explanation as to why there are increases in the probability of antisocial behavior among the students (Arllen et al., 1994).
A number of arguments have been brought forward claiming that there exists no anomie in schools due to the standardized tests trend, accountability, and zero tolerance policies; however, it should be noted that such changes could have been generated from anomie. Furthermore, it is worth noting that despite the fact that there has been a move towards accountability within the education systems, anomie may still be evident.
Shoemaker (2000) highlights that one of the hypotheses concerning anomie is that the institutions and structure of society are supposed to exist in disorganization or disarray. Despite the fact that this disorganization or disarray may not be happening currently in the highly regulated and accountable school systems, it may be happening within the society.
An example of anomie within the school could be lack of clarity regarding rules, consequences, and expectations, which, according to Morrison and Skiba (2001), increase antisocial behavior. In addition, it has also been reported that minimizing the students’ feelings of isolation and enhancing feelings of association to the school reduce the acceptance of and possibility for violence (Coghlan, 2000). Therefore, when there is a connection to the society or a larger institution, there is normlessness or less anomie, which means that regulations are established to direct the actions of the individuals within the society. Attaining an understanding regarding when and where there is anomie and how this is perceived by the students may help in determining when and where bullying takes place in schools.
Significance of the Study
The incidents of bullying in schools as reported by the media have become a major issue of concern to the educational practitioners. This concern has raised interest among researchers to carry out related studies in recent years, in an aim to address this ever increasing issue. As documented by various studies conducted in different countries, bullying in schools has become common problem in almost all schools around the world.
The significant goal of this research is to enlighten teachers and give some advice on how to help the bullying issue in schools. It is expected that teachers who have a greater understanding of bullying in schools have the capacity to minimize these incidents and help create safer learning atmospheres for their students. Moreover, offering students with a safe learning environment may improve academic attainment and increase attendance. The expansion of an understanding regarding bullying in school, along with its consequences on the students, may be partly attained by exploring the perceptions of the students regarding bullying, together with their views concerning the roles of the administrators and teachers in these events.
Developing the understanding of the perceptions of students regarding bullying may generate insights that will sustain efforts put by the schools that are aimed at minimizing bullying. These insights and perceptions acquired from the students could facilitate the creation of learning atmospheres that enclose the students in a sense of comfort and security as well as offer them a substitute to the norm-less society that has currently been established to which some students may fall prey. By developing the understanding of the views of the students, school administrators and teachers could gain a deeper comprehension of the intricate dynamics entangled in the concept of bullying. This understanding will also help school administrators and teachers in tackling with the numerous forms of bullying that occur in school.
- Hypothesis 1: It is hypothesized that individuals who perceived themselves in high school as: overweight compared to their peers, short compared to their peers, wearing less stylish clothes compared to their peers, and had a special education determination were more likely to be bullied in high school in comparison to individuals who did not possess these characteristics.
- Hypothesis 2: It is hypothesized that teachers who are vigilant about preventing bullying have fewer incidents of bullying in their schools in comparison to teachers who are passive about this epidemic.