BULLYING OF CHILDREN
AUTISM SPECTRUM AT SCHOOL
Bullying is the act of intentionally causing
harm to others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other
more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation. Although the
UK currently has no legal definition of bullying,  some US states
have laws against it. 
In colloquial speech, bullying often describes
a form of harassment perpetrated by an abuser who possesses more
physical and/or social power and dominance than the victim. The
victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target. The harassment
can be verbal, physical and/or emotional.
Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person
is "exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions
on the part of one or more other persons." He defines negative
action as "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort
upon another person, through physical contact, through words or
in other ways."
Bullying can occur in any setting where human
beings interact with each other. This includes school, the workplace,
home and neighborhoods. Bullying can exist between social groups,
social classes and even between countries. Both children and adults
on the autism spectrum
may encounter bullying when their social interaction is different
to neurotypical individuals.
Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior
in order to intentionally hurt another person. Bullying is characterized
by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another
person (Besag, 1989). Behaviors may include name calling, verbal
or written abuse, exclusion from activities, exclusion from social
situations, physical abuse, or coercion (Carey, 2003; Whitted &
Dupper, 2005). Bullies may behave this way to be perceived as popular
or tough or to get attention. They may bully out of jealousy or
be acting out because they themselves are bullied (Crothers &
USA National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying
can be broken into two categories: Direct bullying, and indirect
bullying which is also known as social aggression.
Ross states that direct bullying involves a great deal of physical
aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping,
choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair,
scratching, biting and scraping.
He also suggests that social aggression or indirect
bullying is characterized by threatening the victim into social
isolation. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of
techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with
the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the
victim, and criticizing the victim's manner of dress and other socially-significant
markers (including the victim's race, religion, disability, etc).
Ross (1998) outlines other forms of indirect bullying which are
more subtle and more likely to be verbal, such as name calling,
the silent treatment, arguing others into submission, manipulation,
gossip/ false gossip, lies, rumors/ false rumors, staring, giggling,
laughing at the victim, saying certain words that trigger a reaction
from a past event, and mocking. Children's charity Act Against Bullying
was set up in 2003 to help children who were victims of this type
of bullying by researching and publishing coping skills.
Effects OF BULLYING
The effects of bullying can be serious and even
fatal. Mona O’Moore Ph.D of the Anti-Bullying Centre, Trinity College
Dublin, said, "There is a growing body of research which indicates
that individuals, whether child or adult who are persistently subjected
to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which
can sometimes lead to suicide".
Victims of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral
problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead
to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.
The National Conference of State Legislatures said:
"In 2002, a report released by the U.S. Secret Service concluded
that bullying played a significant role in many school shootings
and that efforts should be made to eliminate bullying behavior."
Characteristics of bullies
Research indicates that adults who bully have
personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need
to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a deficit
in social skills and a prejudicial view of subordinates can be particular
Further studies have shown that while envy and resentment may be
motives for bullying, there is little evidence to suggest that
bullies suffer from any deficit in self esteem (as this would make
it difficult to bully).
Researchers have identified other risk factors such as quickness
to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking
others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image,
and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions.
Bullying may also be "tradition" in settings where an
age group or higher rank feels superior than lowerclassmen.
It is often suggested that bullying behavior has its origin in
"If aggressive behaviour is not challenged
in childhood, there is a danger that it may become habitual. Indeed,
there is research evidence, to indicate that bullying during childhood
puts children at risk of criminal behaviour and domestic violence
Bullying does not necessarily involve criminality or physical violence.
For example, bullying often operates through psychological abuse
or verbal abuse.Bullying can often be associated with street gangs,
especially at school.
History of bullying
High-level forms of violence such as assault and
murder usually receive most media attention, but lower-level forms
of violence such as bullying, has only in recent years started to
be addressed by researchers, educators, parents and legislators
(Whitted & Dupper, 2005).
It is only in recent years that bullying has been
recognised and recorded as a separate and distinct offence, but
there have been well documented cases the were recorded in a different
context. The Fifth Volume of the Newgate Calendar  contains
at least one example where Eton Scholars George Alexander Wood and
Alexander Wellesley Leith were charged, at Aylesbury Assizes, with
killing and slaying the Hon. F. Ashley Cooper on February 28, 1825
in an incident that would now, surely be described as "lethal
hazing". The Newgate calendar contains several other examples
that, while not as distinct, could be considered indicative of situations
Types of bullying
In schools, bullying usually occurs in areas
with minimal or no adult supervision. It can occur in nearly any
part in or around the school building, though it more often occurs
in PE, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and waiting
for buses, classes that require group work and/or after school activities.
Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking
advantage of, or isolating one student in particular and gaining
the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim.
Targets of bullying in school are often pupils who are considered
strange or different by their peers to begin with, making the situation
harder for them to deal with. Some children bully because they have
been isolated, and they have a deep need for belonging, but they
do not posess the social skills to effectively keep friends (see
Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system
itself: there is an inherent power differential in the system that
can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse, humiliation, or
exclusion - even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying
School shootings receive an enormous amount of media attention.
The children who perpetrate these shootings sometimes claim that
they were victims of bullying and that they resorted to violence
only after the school administration repeatedly failed to intervene.
In many of these cases, the victims of the shooters sued both the
shooters' families and the schools.
Some suggest these rare but horrific events have led schools to
try harder to discourage bullying, with programs designed to teach
students cooperation, as well as training peer moderators in intervention
and dispute resolution techniques, as a form of peer support.
American victims and their families have legal recourse, such as
suing a school or teacher for failure to adequately supervise, racial
or gender discrimination, or other civil rights violations. Special
education students who are victimized may sue a school or school
board under the ADA or Section 504.
In one of his Narnia books, C.S. Lewis makes school
bullying a minor plot point, along with a pointed dig against school
adminstrators for using an experimental pedagogy which tolerated
According to Canadian educator Bill Belsey, this:
...involves the use of information and communication technologies
such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging,
defamatory personal Web sites, blogs, online games and defamatory
online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated,
and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended
to harm others.
—Cyberbullying: An Emerging Threat to the Always On Generation
Bullies will even create blogs to intimidate victims worldwide.
Hazing is an often ritualistic test, which may
constitute harassment, abuse or humiliation with requirements to
perform meaningless tasks; sometimes as a way of initiation into
a social group. The term can refer to either physical (sometimes
violent) or mental (possibly degrading) practices. It is a subjective
matter where to draw to line between 'normal' hazing (somewhat abusive)
and a mere rite of passage (essentially bonding; proponents may
argue they can coincide), and there is a gray area where exactly
the other side passes over into sheer degrading, even harmful abuse
that should not even be tolerated if accepted voluntarily (serious
but avoidable accidents do still happen; even deliberate abuse with
similar grave medical consequences occurs, in some traditions even
rather often). Furthermore, as it must be a ritual initiation, a
different social context may mean a same treatment is technically
hazing for some, not for others, e.g. a line-crossing ceremony when
passing the equator at sea is hazing for the sailor while the extended
(generally voluntary, more playful) application to passengers is
Hazing has been reported in a variety of social contexts, including:
Academic fraternities and sororities (see fraternities and sororities)These
practices are not limited to American schools. Swedish students
undergo a similar bonding period, known as nollningen, in which
all members of the entering class participate.
College and universities in general.
Associated groups, like fan clubs, school bands
Secret societies and even certain service clubs, or rather their
local sections (such as some modern US Freemasons; not traditional
Similarly various other competitive sports teams or clubs, even
'soft' and non-competitive ones (such as arts)
The armed forces — e.g., in the U.S., hard hazing practices from
World War I boot camps were introduced into colleges. In Poland
army hazing is called Polish fala "wave" adopted pre-World
War I from non-Polish armies. In the Russian army (formerly the
Red Army) hazing is called "Dedovshchina".
Police forces (often with a paramilitary tradition)
Rescue services, such as lifeguards (also drilled for operations
in military style)
Inmate hazing is also common at confinement facilities around the
world, including frequent reports of beatings and sexual assaults
by fellow inmates.
Hazing is considered a felony in several US states, and anti hazing
legislation has been proposed in other states.
Strategies to cope with bullying
Helping victims at school
Many of the responsibilities of members of a school
team are that they need to help the victims of bullying. The
following strategies may be considered:
Speak with the victim and ask them if they want to do anything
about it, if they refuse take your own part and start investigating.
After investigating the situation, it may be that intervention is
necessary with the bully or bullies. The situation needs to be addressed
and hopefully a resolution to the problem can be found.
Inform the parents of the victim and of the bully. Discuss possible
solutions with them. Arrange a meeting with them if possible.
Follow up in communicating with the victim, the parents and the
teachers about the situation.
Monitor the behavior of the bully and the safety of the victim on
a school-wide basis.
If the problem continues speak with the parents of the bully again
and consider the idea of expulsion of the bully if problems continue,
bullies normally attack not only one child but more of one, and
normally 3 to 4 children are the attackers, find out exactly who
Finally you should decide for yourself the punishment, it depends
on how they attacked the children, how many they have been attacking,
since when has it been a problem, etc.
Strategies to reduce bullying within schools
Researchers (Olweus, 1993; Craig & Peplar,
1999; Ross, 1998; Morrison, 2002; Whitted & Dupper,
2005; Aynsley-Green, 2006;) provide several strategies which
address ways to help reduce bullying, these include:
Make sure an adult knows what is happening to their children.
Make it clear that bullying is never acceptable
Recognise that bullying can occur at all levels within the hierarchy
of the school (ie, including adults)
Hold a school conference day or forum devoted to bully/victim problems
Increase adult supervision in the yard, halls and washrooms more
Emphasize caring, respect and safety
Emphasize consequences of hurting others
Enforce consistent and immediate consequences for aggressive behaviours
Improve communication among school administrators, teachers, parents
Have a school problem box where kids can report problems, concerns
and offer suggestions
Teach cooperative learning activities
Help bullies with anger control and the development of empathy
Encourage positive peer relations
Offer a variety of extracurricular activities which appeal to a
range of interests
Teach your child to defend himself, verbally and physically, if
Keep in mind the range of possible causes: eg, medical, psychiatric,
psychological, developmental, family problems, etc.
 At least 15 states have passed laws addressing
bullying among school children.
 Olweus, D. A Research Definition of Bullying
3 Student Reports of Bullying, Results From the 2001 School Crime
Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, US National
Center for Education Statistics
4 Ross, P.N. (1998). Arresting violence: A resource guide for schools
and their communities. Toronto: Ontario Public School Teachers'
5 Anti-Bullying Center Trinity College, Dublin,
6 Williams, K.D., Forgás, J.P. & von Hippel, W. (Eds.) (2005).
The Social Outcast: Ostracism, Social Exclusion, Rejection, &
Bullying. Psychology Press: New York, NY.
7 School Bullying. National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington,
D.C. (retrieved 7 December 2007).
8 The Harassed Worker, Brodsky, C. (1976), D.C. Heath and Company,
9 Petty tyranny in organizations , Ashforth, Blake, Human Relations,
Vol. 47, No. 7, 755-778 (1994)
10 Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International
perspectives in research and practice, Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf,
D., & Cooper, C. L. (Eds.)(2003), Taylor & Francis, London.
11 Bullies and their victims: Understanding a pervasive problem
in the schools, Batsche, G. M., & Knoff, H. M. (1994) School
PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW, 23 (2), 165-174. EJ 490 574.
12 Areas of Expert Agreement on Identification of School Bullies
and Victims, Hazler, R. J., Carney, J. V., Green, S., Powell, R.,
& Jolly, L. S. (1997). School Psychology International, 18,
13 Complete Newgate Calendar Tarlton Law Library The University
of Texas School of Law
14 GEORGE ALEXANDER WOOD AND ALEXANDER WELLESLEY LEITH The Complete
Newgate Calendar Volume V, Tarlton Law Library The University of
Texas School of Law
15 Garbarino, J. & de Lara, E. (2003). And Words CAN Hurt Forever:
How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional
Violence. The Free Press: New York NY.
16 Whitted, K.S. (2005). Student reports of physical and psychological
maltreatment in schools: An under-explored aspect of student victimization
in schools. University of Tennessee.
17 Brownstein, A. The Bully Pulpit: Post-Columbine, Harassment Victims
Take School To Court. TRIAL - the Journal of the Association of
Trial Lawyers of America, December 2002.
18 The Silver Chair: "She was crying because they had been
bullying her. ... I shall say as little as possible about Jill's
school, which is not a pleasant subject. It was "Coeducational,"
a school for both boys and girls, what used to be called a "mixed"
school; some said it was not nearly so mixed as the minds of the
people who ran it. These people had the idea that boys and girls
should be allowed to do what they liked. And unfortunately what
ten or fifteen of the biggest boys and girls liked best was bullying
the others. All sorts of things, horrid things, went on which at
an ordinary school would have been found out and stopped in half.
. ." HarperCollins
19 Namie, Gary and Ruth Workplace Bullying Institute Brochure
20 Belsey, W Cyberbullying: An Emerging Threat to the Always On
21 Striking back at the cyberbullies Page, Chris, BBC, UK.
22 The Values and Standards of the British Army – A Guide to Soldiers,
Ministry of Defence, UK March 2000, paragraph 23.
23 Deepcut Review accessed 14 Jan 07
24 Social Psychology of the Individual Soldier, Jean M. Callaghan
and Franz Kernic 2003 Armed Forces and International Security: Global
Trends and Issues, Lit Verlag, Munster
25 Military bullying a global problem, BBC, UK Monday, 28 November
26 Thames Valley District School Board (2006). Safeschools. London,
27 Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what
we can do. Oxford Blackwell Publishers.
^ Craig, W.M. & Peplar, D.J. (1999). Children who bully - Will
they just grow out of it? Orbit, 29 (4), 16 - 19.
28 Morrison, B. (2002). Bullying and victimisation in schools: a
restorative justice approach. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal
Justice. No.219; Feb. 2002. Australian Institute of Criminology.
29 Whitted, K.S. & Dupper, D.R. (2005). Best Practices for Preventing
or Reducing Bullying in Schools. Children and Schools, Vol. 27,
No. 3, July 2005 , pp. 167-175(9).
30 BULLYING TODAY: A Report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner
UK, with Recommendations and Links to Practitioner Tools. Nov. 2006.
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