What is School Bullying?

What is bullying?

“Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm.

It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders. Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying”.

Department of Education and Training, Victoria,

What is school bullying?

  • More than 1 in 3 children are regularly bullied in school.
  • School bullying includes psychological, emotional, cyber, social or physical harassment of one student by another at school or within the school community.
  • This includes at school and within its grounds, in transit between school and home, local shopping and sporting centres, at parties or local parks and in cyberspace.
  • Bullying can occur in kindergarten, primary school and secondary school, technical colleges and university.
  • It occurs in single sex and co -educational schools, small school and large schools, private or state run schools, country schools and city schools, boarding schools and day schools, progressive, alternative schools and conservative more traditional schools.
  • It can happen in any school!

What are some of the forms of bullying?

  • Verbal (most common, most painful & longest lasting impact) eg teasing, harassment and name-calling
  • Threats
  • Malicious rumours
  • Physical violence
  • Damage to property
  • Cyber bullying (may be traced and blocked) – using technology to inflict harm on someone else, by posting harmful messages, pictures or comments.
  • Anti-social (exclusion, gossip and non-verbal body language)

Bullying can range from ………

  • Indirect to direct behaviours,
  • From banter, minor irritation or “just having a bit of fun”
  • To major assault and criminal behaviour.

When does bullying occur and for how long?

  • A student can be bullied by one child or mobbed by a group for years.
  • Bullying can happen sporadically or over a long period of time.
  • Some children are bullied wherever they go, at any school.

Who are the bullies and victims?

  • Apart from saints or sociopaths, most children have the potential to bully, become a bystander or be targeted.
  • Both parents and teachers can bully or experience bullying within the school community.
  • Research shows that there is more bullying in the “staffroom” than the “classroom”; this creates a very negative, toxic role model.

What do children think about bullying?

  • Many children believe that bullying cannot be stopped.
  • They believe that if they report it that nothing is done or it gets worse and often this is correct, according to Assoc. Prof Ken Rigby.
  • Most children say that they would feel happier and learn better if they felt safer at school.
  • Bullying is one of the major reasons children contact national helplines and leave schools.

Bullying is subjective
It is based upon the target’s perception and experience, even if the bullying behaviours are subtle, it can damage you severely.


  • The crucial feature- target feels powerless and bullied.
  • The critical issue – extent of physical, psychological and other damage that injures the victim.
  • The impact on the target is made worse by fear of future attacks and fear adults won’t help.


  • Many bullies don’t realise at a conscious level that their behaviours are mean or abusive.
  • At an unconscious level they know that they’re taking the target’s power away because otherwise they couldn’t do it.
  • Most bullies don’t know that their bullying behaviours can boomerang back later on and hurt them.


  • Most children have either been bullied, bully others or witnessed bullying at school.
  • More than one in four/five children are bullied regularly at school.
  • About one in five children can bully.
  • In many schools:
    • Many children miss school every day, due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
    • Some students carry weapons to school to feel safer.
    • More students are victimised at the beginning of the year and less are victimised during the remainder of the year.
    • More than half of all students know of a student who had switched schools to feel safer.
    • School results are 3% to 6% lower when students are bullied ( APA Monitor. Oct 2011)
  • Many suicide victims had been bullied at school.
  • National School Safety Centre, USA, estimates that 525,000 “attacks, shakedowns and robberies” occur in an average month in public secondary schools.
  • Two thirds of school shootings were conducted by victims of bullying.
  • More than 50% of teachers report being bullied at school (BBC TV 2006, NSW Teachers Union Study 2004)

Eighty per cent of teachers have experienced some form of student or parent bullying or harassment over the past nine to 12 months, with just over 85 per cent thinking it was a problem in Australian schools, according to new research. (La Trobe University.)

Evelyn M. Field, OAM, FAPS is available for consultation by phone, Skype or FaceTime.
Email: efield@bullying.com.au to make an appointment.

School Bullying