Five years after social outcasts made history at Colorado’s Columbine High School, bullying remains a schoolyard constant – and may be growing, says the Christian Science Monitor. With measures from anti-bullying assemblies to armed guards at school doors, there are growing questions about whether such tactics really prevent bullying or ease students’ fear.
Some experts cite an explosion of bullying. In a Kansas school, Jim Snyder, a psychologist at Wichita State University, says kindergartners bully each other once every six minutes. Bullying “may be particularly problematic in American schools,” says Jaana Juvonen, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The victims of bullying, unlike the bullies, are clearly suffering and, unfortunately they’re suffering in silence.”
Experts estimate there are 3.7 million bullies – defined as children who regularly verbally taunt or physically torment others – in sixth- to tenth-grades; some research suggests that up to 20 percent of their victims suffer long-term effects, from falling grades to suicidal thoughts to violence. Two-thirds of school shooters in the past 15 years saw themselves as bullied, said a 2002 study by the Secret Service.
Public schools’ competition against private schools and the voucher system may make it less palatable to report violence and thus be seen as a “problem” school. In the cavernous hallways and winding stairwells of large school buildings, loners may be all the more vulnerable to “hallway justice.” A decades’ long focus on self-esteem may have given some kids too much pride, making them more forceful with others. Teachers, worried that they’ll make the situation worse, often seem reluctant to step in: A study by Juvonen says they intervene only 10 percent of the time.