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School Social Workers and Bullying Presented by: Jon West, MSW, Buncombe County Schools Katherine Sims, MSW, LCSW, Buncombe County Schools. Hot Topics in Bullying. Cyber bullying – “My Space”, “Face Book”, “You-Tube” & “target” websites

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Hot topics in bullying

School Social Workers and BullyingPresented by: Jon West, MSW, Buncombe County SchoolsKatherine Sims, MSW, LCSW, Buncombe County Schools

Hot topics in bullying

Hot Topics in Bullying

  • Cyber bullying – “My Space”, “Face Book”, “You-Tube” & “target” websites

  • Sexting – Inappropriate pictures being distributed on camera phones.

  • Gang Affiliation & School Violence

  • Suicide & Self-Injury

Why look at bullying

Why Look at Bullying?

"What we do in the name of health, safety, and well-being are linked with teaching and learning. Teaching and learning can't take place if students aren't healthy, aren't physically and mentally fit, or aren't safe."

------ William Modzeleski,

Director, Safe and Drug-Free School ProgramU.S. Department of Education

Maslow s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Why address school bullying

Why Address School Bullying?

NC Senate Bill 526

It’s the law!

NC Senate Bill 526: An act to enact the school violence prevention act and to define Bullying or Harassing Behavior

The nc 2009 school violence prevention act defines bullying as


Pattern of gestures,

Written, electronic, or verbal communications

Physical act or threatening communication

That takes place on school property, the school bus, or any school-sponsored event that:

Places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property,

Creates or is certain to create a hostile environment (defined by the target) by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits

School violence prevention act senate bill 526 and state board of education policy hrs a 007

School Violence Prevention Act Senate Bill 526 and State Board of Education policy HRS-A-007

Bullying or harassing behavior includes:

Acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by




National origin,


Socioeconomic Status,

Academic Status,

Gender Identity,

Physical Appearance,

Sexual Orientation,

Mental, Physical, Developmental or Sensory Disability or

Association with a Person who has or is PERCEIVED to have one or any of the above characteristics

Percentage of students affected by violence in schools 2007

Percentage of Students Affected by Violence in Schools 2007


Serious Violent Crime







Source: Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007, US DOJ

The damage is real and it can last

The damage is real.And it can last.

  • missing school out of fear

  • trouble studying

  • trouble sleeping

  • depression

  • wanting revenge

  • suicidal thoughts

  • substance abuse

  • self-injury/cutting

  • school violence

  • drop-out

Hot topics in bullying

3 Types of Bullying….

  • VERBAL (starts it all)

    Name calling, insults, repeated teasing (persistent), sexual harassment, racist remarks, threats, intimidation, etc.


    Gossip, spreading nasty rumors and lies, embarrassment, humiliation, premeditated exclusion, hurtful graffiti, manipulating relationships, cyber bullying (text messaging, Email, web pages, instant messaging), etc.


    Violence defined – is any word, look, sign or act that hurt’s a person’s body, feelings, or things. Hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, kicking, taking thing, vandalism, etc.

The bullying triangle

The bullying triangle

  • bullies

  • targets

  • bystanders

The bystanders are in the majority

The bystanders are in the majority.

Relational aggression

Relational Aggression

  • Takes aim at social relationships and hurts by damaging other’s opinions of (and relationship to) its victims.  

  • Manipulates how others view a particular individual by isolating them, spreading (or posting) vicious rumors and lies about their private lives, exposing secrets, and creating situations of public humiliation. 

  • Gossip, exclusion, and silent treatment are other forms of relational aggression.



  • Refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate. 

  • In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics associated with young men in college fraternities.



  • The act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically primarily between mobile phones.

Sexting statistics

Sexting Statistics

  • In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes on sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically.

  • Additionally, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages.

Recent legal cases

Recent Legal Cases

  • In Fort Wayne, Indiana, a teenage boy was indicted on felony obscenity charges for allegedly sending a photo of his genitals to several female classmates. Another boy was charged with child pornography in a similar case.

  • Two southwest Ohio teenagers were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a first-degree misdemeanor, for sending or possessing nude photos on their cell phones of two 15-year-old classmates.

  • Some states have made teenagers who engage in sexting register as sex offenders.

Law enforcement and charges

Law Enforcement and Charges

Students can be criminally charged for bullying, sexting, and cyberbullying incidents.

Cyberbullying tactics

Cyberbullying Tactics



  • Cyberbullying is bullying through email, instant messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images send to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) (Kowalski et al. 2008).

  • Cyberbullying, like traditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power, aggression, and a negative action that is often repeated.

Why do kids cyberbully

Why Do Kids Cyberbully?

According to, "Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard (2009 Corwin Press)" by Hinduja & Patchin, kids cyberbully for the following reasons:

22% motivated by revenge

18.7% said the victim deserved it

10.6 % said they did it for fun

3.9% hated the victim

3.5% pressured by peers

2.8% retaliated against a bully

2.5% venting anger

5.7% other reasons

Types of cyberbullying

Types of Cyberbullying

  • Instant Messaging/text harassment

  • Blogs/Websites

  • Internet polling (usually derogatory)

  • Sending pictures of others without their consent

  • Sending porn

  • Impersonation

Hot topics in bullying




  • Occurs on

    school property

  • Poor relationships

    with teachers

  • Fear retribution

    Physical: Hitting,

    Punching & Shoving

    Verbal: Teasing, Name calling & Gossip

    Nonverbal: Use of gestures & Exclusion



  • Occurs off

    school property

  • Good relationships with teachers

  • Fear loss of technology privileges

  • Further under the radar than bullying

  • Emotional reactions cannot be determined

From ‘Demystifying and Deescalating Cyber Bullying’ by Barbara Trolley, Ph.D. CRC, Connie Hanel, M.S.E.d & Linda Shields, M.S.E.d.

Cyberbullying cases

Cyberbullying Cases

Two Massachusetts high school students have been suspended following the suicide of a teen girl who was allegedly bullied at school and online, the reported.

Friends and school officials told that Phoebe Prince, 15, had been picked on since moving to Massachusetts from Ireland last fall. School bullies reportedly taunted the teen through text messages, Facebook and other social networking sites. 1/28/2010

Hot topics in bullying

Meier hanged herself on Oct. 16, 2006, after being dumped by "Josh," a fictitious boy created by Drew ( a middle –aged woman), in order to find out what Meier was saying about the Drews' daughter. One comment of more than 2500 posted from Drew stated: "You have psychological problems," one began. "Don't burn in hell. Instead, I hope you rot in the dirt with the maggots and other disgusting vermin, since that's the only thing you deserve.“,2933,315684,00.html

School s role and discipline

School’s Role and Discipline

Some courts have ruled:

  • School Districts have every legal right to intervene in cyberbulling and sexting incidents-even those OFF CAMPUS-when it can be shown that the incident resulted in a substantial disruption of the educational environment.

Hot topics in bullying

Statistics on Bullying

Sixty-six percent of youth are teased at least once a month, and nearly one-third of youth are bullied at least once a month.

Six out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day.

For children in grades 6 – 10, nearly one in six — or 3.2 million — are victims of bullying each year and 3.7 million are bullies.

For every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender student who reported being harassed, four straight students said they were harassed for being perceived as gay or lesbian.

An estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students.

One out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.

Some more disturbing numbers

Some more disturbing numbers….

20% to 58% or more of students (varies from school to school) have reported being bullied (some students receive an average of 213 verbal put-downs per week.)

80% of students have engaged in bullying behaviors in the past 30 days.

52% of students report seeing bullying at least once a week

Every 8 seconds a child on the playground is bullied.

Every 20 seconds a child is bullied.

Bullying effects 5 million students.

*(Note: Between 2001 and 2003 there was 46% to 59% increase on the above items.)

Hot topics in bullying

• 88.9% of LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay) frequently or often at school, and 86.5% reported that they felt distressed to some degree by this language.

• 72.4% of LGBT students heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often at school.

• 84.6% of LGBT students were verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation and 63.7% because of their gender expression.

GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey

Hot topics in bullying

  • 30.0% of LGBT students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

  • 29.1% of LGBT students skipped a class at least once in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

    2010 The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network

Hot topics in bullying

Seth Walsh – 13 years old

From Tehachapi, CA, hanged himself in September 2010. His family said he was harassed by bullies for being gay. He died after being in a coma for nine days.

"He was different. He knew he was different," Seth's mother, Judy Walsh said according to "He was a very loving boy, very kind. He had a beautiful smile. He liked fashion, his friends, talking on the phone. He was artistic and very bright."

Asher brown 13 years old

Asher Brown – 13 years old




Hot topics in bullying

  • Asher Brown's worn-out tennis shoes still sit in the living room of his Cypress-area home while his student progress report — filled with straight A's — rests on the coffee table.

  • The eighth-grader killed himself [in September 2010]. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

    Houston Chronicle - Sept. 29, 2010

Tyler clementi 18 year old student at rutgers university

Tyler Clementi – 18 year-old student at Rutgers University

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman, was a gifted violinist, a good-natured soul who didn't have many close college friends and who mostly kept to himself. On Sept. 22, authorities say Clementi committed suicide by jumping into the Hudson River from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly streamed video of him on the Internet kissing another man, all for the world to see. Sept. 30, 2010

Hot topics in bullying

Dangerous Choices Students May Make In An Attempt to Cope With Bullying

Self injury



The intentional harm of one’s own body without conscious suicidal intent.

Prescription pills

Prescription Pills

Gang membership


Why youth join gangs

Why Youth Join Gangs

  • Power, Protection, Prestige and Party

  • Money

  • Cool Factor

  • Basic Needs

  • Born into it

  • Neighborhood Norm

Gang impact on schools

Gang Impact on Schools

  • Direct Correlation With Bullying, Intimidation, Sexual Harassment

  • Greater Fear

  • Creates Copy-cat “Gangs”

  • Creates a Sense That Gang Are Normal

  • Market for Narcotics Sales

  • Creates Racial Tensions

Hot topics in bullying

April 26, 2007None of us will forget this image of Virginia Tech University. VT was the site of the deadliest rampage in U.S. history when a gunman killed 32 people and himself.

Map of u s school shootings 1996 2006

Map of U.S. School Shootings 1996-2006

Statistics on school violence in the u s a from 1996 to 2007

Statistics on School Violencein the U.S.A. from 1996 to 2007

  • 50 children killed, 113 wounded

  • 7 teachers killed, 3 wounded

  • 5 principals killed, 6 wounded

  • 1 security guard killed, 1 wounded

  • 6 shooters age 6-12

  • 29 shooters age 13-17

2 traits are associated with all school violence in every case


1.Someone was Bullied!

2.No one listened!

Addressing school violence


Balanced Approach

(Combine physical safety, educational practices, programs that support social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students.)


(Maintain trust between students and staff so threats will be reported and can be investigated.)


(Build positive relationships between students and staff so students feel cared for.)


(Offer research-based violence prevention programs at universal (school-based), targeted (for at-risk students), and intensive (most chronically and intensely at-risk students) levels.

National Consortium of School Violence Prevention Researchers & Practitioners

Bullying what school social workers can do

Bullying: What School Social Workers Can Do

  • Decline the use of labels

  • Approach students individually

  • Provide training on warning signs

  • Advocate for school staff-student connectedness

Best practice in bullying prevention programs

Best Practice In Bullying Prevention Programs

  • Early Prevention – Training, Training, & more Training for all staff and parents

  • Focus on the School Climate

  • Assess Bullying

Top 10 recommendations

Top 10 - Recommendations

  • Create a warm, caring and supportive school climate. HONOR, DIGNITY and RESPECT…..Following the “Golden Rule”.

  • Understand what bullying is and what it does to us.

  • Put in place a bullying prevention program that is modeled and encouraged by school leaders, teachers, staff, parents, students, community members, etc.

  • Faculty and staff having an open line of communication…..discussing verbal cues, obsessive behavior, trends, data, working together to effectively deal with bullying behavior.

  • Clearly communicate the role of the bystander in the school and what types of information they need to bring forward and how they can do so.

Top 10 recommendations cont d

Top 10 – Recommendations(cont’d).

  • Understand and provide leadership with school/system Crisis Communication Plan, critical response, intruder in the building, evacuation, etc.

  • Get out of the supervision mode and into the interaction mode. Build positive relationships (S-T, S-S, T-T, T-Parent), and most importantly School to Community.

  • Understand adults are bullies too. We must be the consummate role model.

  • Promote the profession of education and support one another.

  • ACTIVE, ALERT and INVOLVED in the lives of each and every student and “Build a Community From Within!”

Hot topics in bullying


To initiate change,

you can intervene on 3 levels:

1- “Pre” Intervention Level

2- “During” Intervention Level

3- “Post” Intervention Level

Hot topics in bullying

“Pre” Intervention Level

  • Classroom Management

  • Classroom Guidelines

  • Co-operative/Collaborative Learning

  • Weekly Meetings

  • Clearly outlined expectations

Hot topics in bullying

“During” Intervention Level

Addressing the Bully

  • Respond Immediately

  • Be calm, consistent, and brief

  • Externalization: Focus on behavior not person

    Addressing the Target

  • Respond empathetically

  • Thank them for telling you

  • Take action and follow-up

    Addressing the Bystander

  • Diversity exercises

  • Teach peer ownership and responsibility

  • Empathy exercises

Hot topics in bullying

Create one liners that work for YOU!


  • That’s not ok.

  • Remember…

  • That’s not how we have chosen to treat each other.

  • I would like to speak with you about that behavior after class.


  • You did the right thing by telling me.

  • No one deserves to be treated that way.

  • Anyone else in your shoes would feel the same.

Hot topics in bullying

“Post” Intervention Level

Referral to:

  • Administration

  • School Counselors

  • School Social Workers

  • SRO/Police

  • Contracted School Based Counseling Agency

    *Always follow up and

    report any concerns!

Addressing the bully

Addressing the Bully

  • Never bully the bully

  • Adults who respond with violence, force or intimidation are reinforcing and modeling the same behaviors their trying to change. Children will imitate what they see adults do.

  • Severe punishment reinforces the power imbalance and shows kids bullying is acceptable.

Nc senate bill 526 mandates reporting of bullying

NC Senate Bill 526 Mandates Reporting of Bullying

A school employee who has witnessed or has reliable information that a student or school employee has been subjected to any act of bullying or harassing behavior shall (must) report the incident to the appropriate school official.

Others should report

Others SHOULD Report

A student or volunteer who has witnessed or has reliable information that a student or school employee has been subjected to any act of bullying or harassing behavior should report the incident to the appropriate school official.

Policy required

Policy Required

  • By December 31, 2009 each local school system must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying/harassing behavior.

  • The policy must contain the following components.

    • A statement prohibiting bullying and harassing behavior.

Hot topics in bullying

  • A definition of bullying/harassing behavior no less inclusive than provided in North Carolina law.

  • A description of the type of behavior expected for each student and school employee.

  • Consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who commits an act of bullying or harassment.

Hot topics in bullying

  • A procedure for reporting an act of bullying/harassment, including a provision for anonymous reporting. (This provision should not be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of an anonymous report.)

Hot topics in bullying

  • A procedure for prompt investigation of reports of serious violations and complaints of any act of bullying or harassment, identifying either the principal or the principal’s designee as the person responsible for the investigation.

Hot topics in bullying



  • A statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against someone who reports an act of bullying/harassment and the consequence and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation.

Hot topics in bullying

  • A statement of how the policy is to be disseminated and publicized, including notice that the policy applies to participation in school-sponsored events.

  • Notice of the policy must appear in any school publications or handbooks that set forth comprehensive conduct rules and procedures for students and employees.

Hot topics in bullying

  • Information about the policy must be incorporated into school employee’s training program.

  • “To the extent funds are provided” (no funds were provided) the school system must provide training on the policy to school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students by 3/1/2010.

Prevention efforts required

Prevention Efforts Required

Schools shall develop and implement methods and strategies for promoting school environments that are free of bullying and harassing behavior.

What happens if a school fails to take action to prevent bullying and harassing behavior

What happens if a school fails to take action to prevent bullying and harassing behavior?

Potential for legal liability

Potential for Legal Liability

  • In previous lawsuits, the school system or the employee is not liable for the acts done to the victim but rather they are held responsible for failure of the school system or its employees to take adequate measures to “deal with” the bullying/harassment situation.

  • Legal grounds that have been used in the past to hold a school system or school employee liable for bullying/harassment:

    • Negligent supervision (state tort law)

    • Violations of U.S. Constitutional rights (federal law)

    • Discrimination claims under federal law based on the fact that victims were members of a “protected class” because of their race, ethnic group, sex or disability.



Through the School Violence Prevention Act, the North Carolina General Assembly now requires school systems to take a number of proactive steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the schools.

School systems may be held liable for failure to take adequate steps to deal with bullying and harassment.

All students in North Carolina schools should be able to learn in an environment that is free from bullying and harassment.

Hot topics in bullying

“A time will come for courageous acts unseen. We will be called to gird our courage and offer leadership. It is not malicious acts that will do us in, but the appalling silence and indifference of good people. Verily I say unto you that all that is needed for evil to run rampant, is for good women and men to do nothing.”

-----Martin Luther King, Jr.

Case study brian

Case Study: Brian

  • What mechanisms were not in place at Brian’s school to prevent his suicide from taking place? What got missed? What could have prevented such an incident?

  • What positive mechanisms are in place within your school district?

  • What needs to be added in order to increase school safety and address school climate issues to avoid a situation like Brian’s?

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