Bullying—we all talk about it, what it is, why we need to assess it, how to stop it, how to prevent it, etc. We all know why we need to stop it—our kids deserve to feel safe—in school, in our community, etc. “Bullying impacts the school and the community.” I have made that statement before, as I am sure many others have. But, seldom have I taken the time to think that statement through. Granted, bullying impacts the child, (the victim), other children (the by-standers) and of course, the bully and his/her followers; but the school or the community?
Impact on Schools
Bullying impacts schools in a number of ways— discipline problems, increased suspensions, truancy, all resulting in increased costs and missed goals. The school climate survey is a very important tool to start determining how these aspects truly impact each individual school, and its students.
The bully is capable of disrupting the entire classroom, wasting the time of the entire class as well, until the teacher gets things under control again. If this goes on, educational goals for that class may be missed. In addition to the time lost reining the class back under control, it is difficult to learn/concentrate “when you are scared.”
The bully/victim may continue outside of the classroom, requiring disciplinary action, which adds to the staff time required. Often the victim, as well as the bully, is disciplined, leaving the victim feeling unfairly treated as well as unsafe in school.
If suspensions, whether in school or out of school, are a part of the disciplinary actions, students are now missing classes-educational opportunities- and falling behind the rest of the class. The results are negative all the way around—the student faltering or failing and the school missing academic ratings because of students’ not meeting minimum requirements.
Truancy increases for a number of reasons—victims feel unsafe, so simply don’t show up; suspensions have caused student (bully or victim) to be behind, so they skip, and students who are not the bully or the victim feel unsafe or uncomfortable and skip as well. For some students, the poor attendance leads to poor academic performance, which eventually leads to dropping out of school completely.
School district costs are increased on several levels: it is more expensive to educate truant students; disciplinary costs are increased; but most of all, funding (which is based on attendance) is lost. In the United States, the average attendance per day is less than 80%! One in five students is missing school on any given day! Since funding is based on attendance, this correlates to a lot of funding lost in absenteeism! Statistics vary, indicating anywhere from 8% of all middle school absences to 58% of the higher grade absences are the result of bullying. (Younger students are less likely to be truant because they have less opportunity to “skip;” they have more supervision, and are normally dropped off and picked up at school.) Therefore, no matter what the actual statistic is, stopping bullying and thereby eliminating the portion of truancy that is a direct result of bullying would have a positive impact on school finances.
Impact on Community
The impact on the community can be similar, also negative.
Bullying causes truancy to increase. Truants may be additional customers to businesses, or they may be shoplifters. Keeping kids in school, keeps them off the street—reducing the opportunity for juvenile crime, therefore reducing juvenile crime. Juvenile crime adds to law enforcement costs, court costs, and business loss. Two thirds of the boys that bullied in school had three or more criminal convictions by age 24.
In addition to the increased tendency of the bully and victims being truant, the "by-standers of bullying" are also more inclined to skip school. It has been said that 95% of school success is just showing up; and it is a fact, that if a student is not in school, he/she is not learning. A community needs an educated work force for its businesses. In addition, businesses tend to be more successful if they have a well-educated customer base.
As stated above, truancy leads to dropping out; studies have proven that high school dropouts have lower earning potential, higher unemployment, poorer health and are more likely to be incarcerated. All of which also have a negative economic impact on the community.
Start in School
School is the primary place to start to measure and correct the bullying problem. This is not to say that bullying is only the school’s problem—it is a parental problem, it is an educational problem, it is a community problem, it is a workforce problem. But, we need to start somewhere. A school climate survey (or bully survey) is a good place to start. Meaningful, proactive school reform/changes need to be defined from the results of the school climate survey (or an bully survey). Attention needs to be directed to the results of the survey—address the specifics issues of your school and community.
Each and every one of us can no longer say “bullying does not affect me,” or “my children are not involved in or impacted by bullying”—everyone is affected in one way or another.