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Bullying in schools presents a major challenge to children, school administration and parents in the United States. Bullying in schools spreads across elementary school to senior high school and college, making it a common problem in the United States education system. Bullying, both verbal and physical, threatens the well-being of vulnerable students in schools and also affects their self-esteem and performance. This paper will discuss key historical events that made the issue important, various challenges that individuals face and some possible ways to deal with the issue.
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Key Historical Events
Bullying by peers results in school dropouts, suicide, depression, poor performance and homicide. A high percentage of bullying victims do not report the offense due to the fear of victimization and the lack of clearly outlined school infrastructure that could handle cases of student bullying. The development of bullying across the schools in the United States is mainly connected with a specific type of children. These are the children with developmental disabilities, such as obesity, low self‑esteem and mental disorders, and children from poor backgrounds. Recent cases of student suicide, depression, physical assault and school dropout due to bullying has provoked intervention by school authorities, parents, legal authorities and students aimed to stop the destructive trend.
The fight to stop bullying in schools across the United States is based on historical evidence of cases of suicide, homicide, school dropout, depression and poor performance due to bullying. These aftereffects have prompted authorities to develop a legal background to protect bullying victims and punish bullies. Several deaths have been documented in the United States schools directly resulting from school bullying. Six teenagers from South Hadley High School were charged in 2010 after the death of Phoebe Prince. Phoebe was an Irish girl who had migrated to Massachusetts, the United States, to start over a new life with her famly. Phoebe Prince underwent school bullying, including statutory rape, physical and verbal abuse. The students attacked Phoebe Prince in the library, hallways and on the way home, throwing alcohol cans and bottles at her while abusing her verbally. Phoebe Prince committed suicide by hanging herself at home immediately after an act of bullying. The case took over Massachusetts, and that led to exposure of more untold school bullying cases and ignorance of school administration to contain them (McCabe, 2010).
The United States education system is tainted by many other high profile suicide deaths. Daniel Mendez, a teenager from Santa Ana, California, who studied at Bernice Ayer Middle School, committed suicide after a prolonged period of bullying at school. At the age of 16, Daniel, a high achiever at school, shot himself in the head outside a friend's home. Daniel had downplayed bullying, saying that he would handle it. After that suicide, an investigation into Daniel’s school life was launched. It was highlighted that he was continuously bullied at school, being taunted as gay and half-breed. The case also shows negligence of school administration and its failure to protect Daniel after he had reported the abuse, which turned his life into a “living hell” (Erika, 2010).
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The suicide case of Brandon Meyers, a 12-year-old boy who studied at Voy Spears Elementary School in Missouri, also highlights the destructive effect of bullying. Brandon killed himself after arriving home, being depressed after he was bullied at school. The parents blamed the school for failure to react to their son’s bullying reports, which led to his death (Zagier, 2008).
Social Psychology Concepts
Bullying mainly affects the mental well-being of victims, resulting in both physical and mental torments and life threatening conditions. Bullies target children with physical disabilities and mental disorders; their attacks can also be based on economic background, race, color, gender, dressing and several other factors. Psychological effects of bullying include deprression, stress, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety disorders, aggression, self-isolation, trauma and development of suicidal behavior. Bullies target the physical and mental strength of victims, and very often bullying victims are unable to handle the mental pressure. To avoid victimization, bullying victims isolate themselves and avoid social interaction, further worsening the mental torture due to lack of professional help. Bullying in schools affects the ability of the victims to participate in peer interactions and other activities, such as sports. The humiliation also results in poor grades, which mainly happens due to mental stress. Unmanaged and extreme cases of bullying lead to the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness in victims, and these are the initial stages of suicide thoughts and attempts (Srabstein, 2013).
Challenges Faced by Individuals and Law Enforcement Agencies
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Law enforcement agencies and authorities face several challenges in their attempts to contain bullying in schools. Students rarely report cases of bullying until the mental torture is too much to handle, leading to depression and in some cases to suicide. Bullying victims suffer from fear, intimidation, self-denial, self-isolation and low self-esteem, which makes it difficult for them to share their problem with the parents or authorities. Bullying takes place in isolated areas, making it difficult for enforcement agencies to track or notice the cases. The United States school system is yet to develop clear strategies and regulations to govern student conduct and eradicate bullying in schools. School authorities also downplay the issue and fail to report bullying cases to law enforcement agencies denying victim's rights (Coeyman, 2004).
The number of bullying cases continues to rise because victims are too intimidated to report the physical and mental torture. Teenage suicides in the United States institutions result from unmanaged bullying and lead to mental torture and feeling of hopelessness. Schools administrations should be held liable for failing to manage and prevent bullying incidents in schools.
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