From the vantage point of adulthood, bullying is mean-spirited and pointless,
but it is unfortunately a regular part of childhood. (Indeed, even some adults
haven't grown out of the habit of belittling others and pushing them around.)
Luckily, bullying has finally entered the media spotlight, and the public outcry
is forcing parents, teachers, administrators and policy-makers to step up to the
plate and do something. We've all been there.
The playground, where one girl grabs another's hair and yanks her backwards off
the swing. The lunchroom, where “the mean kid
” smacks down a smaller
boy's tray, spilling his food. The classroom, where a group of kids repeatedly
taunt the youngest child in the class for being stupid. As with any public
discourse, this inevitably means confusion, misunderstanding and misconception
on the part of listeners. Oftentimes, when the topic of bullying crops up,
people have more questions than answers. This paper will seek to clear up the
confusion and correct the misunderstandings and misconceptions that have arisen
about bullying, both recently and in the past.
Bullying is a very common, complex and potentially damaging form of violence
among children and adolescents. Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive
behavior, which involves a real or perceived social power imbalance. The
behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (therefore,
the definition excludes occasional or minor incidents). These actions are
purposeful and intended to hurt or make the victim uncomfortable. Bullying may
manifest itself in many forms.
It can be physical, verbal, relational, or cyber;
it can be subtle and elusive. The most common form of bullying both for boys and
girls is verbal bullying such as name-calling. Although bullying is more common
in schools, it can occur anywhere. It often occurs in unstructured areas such as
playgrounds, cafeterias, hallways, and buses. In recent years, cyber-bullying
has received increased attention, as electronic devices have become more common.
Bullying through electronic means, although prevalent, ranks third after verbal
bullying and physical bullying. In general, bullying is a common type of social
experience that children refer to as “getting picked on.”
It Is Necessary To Understand The Term Bullying. The Bar Association Of India
Of India Gave Its Definition As:
“Bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting
physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It
is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical
behaviour, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by a
student or adult, that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating,
hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation;
or unreasonably interfere with the individual's school performance or
participation; and may involve but is not limited to: teasing, social exclusion,
threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious, or
racial harassment, public humiliation, or destruction of property.”
In India in
the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
, the Supreme first time dealt with
issue of bullying and it laid down certain guidelines for the protection of
woman employees from sexual harassment. But it only dealt with bullying against
men at workplaces. Further, there is a need to consider different types of
bullying at workplaces.
In the west bullying at workplace is recognized as
violence in workplaces. Bullying can be in different subtle forms like invalid
criticism, exclusion, false allegations, constant bantering, humiliation or
unnecessary written warnings. The most vulnerable to this plight are the
subordinates in offices. This is a scenario in private as well as public sector.
Most of the bullying is done by seniors, hierarchy plays a key role.
targets supervisors have to force the employees to labor hard especially the
young workers have to face most of the harassment due to higher expectations.
Bullying and harassment at workplace lead to terrible effect on the health and
well being and performance of the employees. In India, there is no special
legislation against bullying at workplace. Still, in India a worker can seek redressal under different provisions provided under the constitution of India,
IPC, and C.P.C.
The Indian Constitution under various articles provides labor
rights. Though not in evident form but indirectly various articles protect the
labour rights. For instance, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution lays down the
concept of Equality before law. In the case of Mewa Ram v. A.I.I. Medical
 , the Supreme Court, held that “the doctrine of ‘equal pay for equal
work' is not an abstract doctrine. Equality must be among equals, unequal people
cannot claim equality.”
Indian constitution through various articles21, 23,
24, 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A and 47 provides an idea of what conditions
should be provided by the employers. However, some of these articles do not have
binding effect which at instances hinders justice. Part 4 of the constitution
talks about the duty of the state to promote social welfare and to make
effective provisions for securing the right to work, providing education and
public assistance in cases of employment, etc., which is subject to limits of
its economic capacity, to make special provisions for just and humane condition
of work and for maternity relief, etc.
In the case of Consumer Education and
Research Centre v. Union of India
 “Right to life includes protection of the
health and strength of the worker is a minimum requirement to enable a person to
live with human dignity. The right to human dignity, development of personality,
social protection, right to rest and leisure are fundamental human rights to a
workman assured by the Charter of Human Rights, in the Preamble and Arts.38 and
39 of the Constitution.”
Honorable Supreme Court laid emphasis on the Human
Dignity of employees and it should be respected. However, after such precedents,
we have cases like Pradhan v. State of Uttaranchal and others
 and then
Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat and anothe
r and a close reading of these
cases bring forth that the courts would be slow in holding such humiliations at
workplace constitute abetment to commit suicide.
This again pose a necessity to
legislate laws which define terms like “humility”, “harassment” and
“administrative powers of superiors and their ambit”. Further, article 23 acts
as an shield preventing any form of forced labour and article 24 prevents
employment of children below 14 years at hazardous places. Though, all these
provisions under the Indian constitution protect interests of labor. However
there is a dire need for a specific legislation as it would bring clarity on
different legal aspects of bullying, ease the judicial process as well lead to
better working environment.
Where And When Does Bullying Occur?
occur anywhere, but it generally occurs at or near schools in places where adult
supervision is limited or nonexistent.
- Locker Rooms
- Classrooms before lessons
when is a little harder to define than the where. In terms of when each bullying
incident occurs, it can happen at any time two students are in proximity of one
another, though again, this usually happens at or near school and consequently
will likely happen during or around school hours. In terms of when in life
bullying occurs, this changes as children age.
For instance, physical aggression
starts out higher among students and then decreases consistently, with 18
percent of children aged 2-5 reporting experience with physical aggression, but
only 10 percent of children aged 14-17 reporting it. On the other hand,
harassment via electronic medium starts out very low, at only .5 percent for
children aged 6 to 9 (and not at all for the 2 to 5 crowd). It then rises to 14
percent for those 14 to 17 years old.
Bullying And Suicide:
suicide-related behavior are both complex public health problems. Circumstances
that can affect a person's vulnerability to either or both of these behaviors
exist at a variety of levels of influence—individual, family, community, and
- emotional distress
- exposure to violence
- family conflict
- relationship problems
- lack of connectedness to school/sense of supportive school environment
- alcohol and drug use
- physical disabilities/learning differences
- lack of access to resources/support.
however, students experience the opposite of some of the circumstances listed
above (e.g. family support rather than family conflict; strong school
connectedness rather than lack of connectedness), their risk for suicide-related
behavior and/or bullying others—even if they experience bullying behavior—might
be reduced. These types of circumstances/situations or behaviors are sometimes
referred to as “protective factors
In reality, most students have a
combination of risk and protective factors for bullying behavior and suicide
related behavior. This is one of the reasons that we emphasize that the
relationship between the two behaviors and their health outcomes is not simple.
The ultimate goal of our prevention efforts is to reduce risk factors and
increase protective factors as much as possible.
The bottom-line of the most
current research findings is that being involved in bullying in any way—as a
person who bullies, a person who is bullied, or a person who both bullies and is
bullied (bully-victim)—is ONE of several important risk factors that appears to
increase the risk of suicide among youth. In the past decade, headlines
reporting the tragic stories of a young person's suicide death linked in some
way to bullying (physical, verbal, or online) have become regrettably common.
There is so much pain and suffering associated with each of these events,
affecting individuals, families, communities and our society as a whole and
resulting in an increasing national outcry to “do something” about the problem
of bullying and suicide. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and other violence prevention partners and researchers have
invested in learning more about the relationship between these two serious
public health problems with the goal of using this knowledge to save lives and
prevent future bullying.
As school administrators, teachers, and school staff in
daily contact with young people, you are uniquely affected by these events and
feel enormous pressure to help prevent them in the future. The purpose of this
document is to provide concrete, action-oriented information based on the latest
science to help you improve your schools' understanding of and ability to
prevent and respond to the problem of bullying and suicide related behavior.
Bullying And Suicide: Is It True?
A link does exist between bullying and
suicide, but it is not as simple as assuming that a victim will contemplate or
commit suicide. Rather, the situation stems from multiple factors. “Although
kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause.
Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home,
and trauma history. Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of
suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
This risk can be increased further when
these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools. Bullying can make
an unsupportive situation worse.” This is primarily because bullying leads to
feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, both of which can contribute to
suicidal thoughts, explains the CDC. While there is no conclusive evidence yet
that bullying “causes” suicide, the close association between being bullied and
having suicidal thoughts means parents, teachers and administrators should
closely monitor bullying behavior so they can put an end to it, and should watch
known victims closely.
Children, as well as adults, should be educated about the
relationship between suicide and bullying, to help them understand (as bullies,
as victims and as observers) that this is not a harmless behavior, but one with
serious consequences. Opening up the conversation and trusting kids with this
information will help, not harm. In the next section we will talk about several
other misunderstood aspects of bullying, in the hopes of dispelling harmful
What Are The Misconceptions About Bullying
Bullying has taken a front seat in the media and in schools these days,
but unfortunately media attention often leads to more misconceptions than it
solves. Moreover, due to persistent inattention to the dangers of bullying
through the 20th century, our cultural understanding of its true nature is
somewhat limited by beliefs that it is “not that big a deal
“between the bully and the victim.
Several other misconceptions persist, including ideas such as:
Adults can't do anything: They can. Teachers can watch bullies to
deter behavior. Principals can discipline. Parents can report to schools,
and should do so instead of contacting the child's parents first.
Boys are more likely to be victims: As discussed above, girls are more
likely to be victims of emotional and cyber-bullying, while boys and girls
are equally likely to experience physical abuse.
It starts with cyber-bullying: Actually it usually ends with
cyber-bullying. Most bullies are not faceless enemies, but real people
children meet at school. They may then progress to bullying through
electronic means. Usually, however, if a child is being bullied, part of the
process involves face-to-face interactions.
Kids just need to toughen up: This myth is left over from the old days,
when “boys will be boys” and kids just needed to “work it out.” Knowing the
harm bullying causes, however, this is misguided.
Bystanders don't have a role in bullying: They do. Always. Even if it is
only giving the bully the audience he craves. But with training, observers
could be taught to reduce bullying by noticing, reporting and intervening.
Bullies are popular: Not necessarily. Bullies may be unpopular or
sidelined themselves, so adults shouldn't only look to the top of the
It is obvious when a child is being bullied: In 2007 almost a third of
kids in middle and high school reported experience bullying at school, but
not nearly as many parents are getting these reports at home. And keep in
mind that those numbers refer only to the kids actually reporting. It may
not be obvious, so adults must try to make it easier for kids to report.
Bullying must be physical: Another persistent myth from the days of
schoolyard brawling. Parents, teachers and administrators now know that
bullying can come from many quarters, to tragic effect.
It's not anyone's fault: This may be true, and it may not be. However,
parents have a responsibility to their children to ask about bullying,
listen to what kids say, and report. Teachers have a responsibility to
intervene, and administrators are responsible for creating policies that
protect children. As a nation, we are responsible for looking out for our
kids and legislating for change.
What Are The Lasting Psychological Impacts Of Bullying?
effects of bullying aren't temporary, but last long into adulthood, and vary
depending on the role of the person in the bullying situation. The Victim The
long-lasting psychological impacts stem directly from the short-term impacts
that children experience as the result of being consistently bullied. Depression
and anxiety tend to characterize their emotional outlook well beyond the
bullying years, extending into their adult lives where they become chronic,
sometimes lifelong, problems.
These issues make eating, sleeping, working,
exercising and engaging in interesting hobbies – all the hallmarks of a full,
balanced life – more difficult. They also make it more difficult to make and
keep relationships, whether with friends or romantic partners. And accordingly,
the conventional “sticks and stones” wisdom about what kind of bullying really
causes lasting damage is backwards: It is actually emotional harm that lasts
much longer than physical harm.
Especially during childhood, when bodily damage
heals readily, the victim's self-image may be permanently maimed: “Bullying is
an attempt to instill fear and self-loathing. Being the repetitive target of
bullying damages your ability to view yourself as a desirable, capable and
effective individual.” This results in the bully victim's inability to trust
himself or herself as a capable individual.
In particular, this has effects
during tough or difficult times, where the victim has been taught they are too
weak or hopeless to persevere, and so they do not. This can have major
repercussions for work, relationships and other trying life situations that
require persistence and grit to overcome or succeed in. They also have
difficulty trusting people, have reduced occupational opportunities, and grow
into adulthood with the tendency to be loners.
They make fewer positive choices
and act less often in defense of their own happiness, owing mostly to the lack
of perceived control instilled in them during their childhood bullying. The
Bully Bullies often grow up to be unhappy adults. Their methods of relating to
the world around them often don't work very well in adulthood, where quick
tempers and violent actions are generally shunned by society. They may have
difficulty holding down a job, retaining friendships and maintaining romantic or
even family relationships.
They may also be at greater risk for suicidal
thoughts and behaviors, though this is more likely when they are bullied in
addition to acting as a bully. However, most of the research that has been done
has concentrated on the effects of bullying on those who get bullied rather than
those who perpetrate the behavior, so reports are limited of the lifelong
impacts on bullies themselves. However, it is indisputable that bullies are at
greater risk for antisocial personality disorder.
Both Not surprisingly, those
that both bully and were bullied at the same time display some of the most
severe emotional handicaps in later life. Oftentimes bullies engage in learned
behavior, which they were taught in the home by abusive parents, siblings,
relatives or caregivers. They often remained depressed and anxious well into
later life, and had a greater level of young adult psychiatric disorders even
after researchers who conducted a study in JAMA Psychiatric, Adult Psychiatric
Outcomes of Bullying and Being Bullied by Peers in Childhood and Adolescence,
controlled for other issues.
According to the study, they are at even at even
greater risk for long-lasting psychological disorders than being either a bully
or being bullied on its own. And although this class of children, according to
the study, had an elevated risk of family hardship at home, this was not the
only defining factor.
Bully/victims also had elevated rates of childhood
psychiatric disorders, agrophobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety.
Interestingly, when bully/victims were followed into young adulthood, they were
at even greater risk of suicidality (suicidal or self-harmful thoughts) than
pure victims. While only 5.7 percent of young adults who were neither bullies
nor victims reported thoughts of suicide, a whopping 24.8 percent of
bully/victims reported it.
They also had the highest levels of depression,
anxiety and panic disorder. This indicates that something about the combined
nature of both being a bully and being bullied is very harmful indeed. The
Observers Many of the problems cited above for observers can leak into
adulthood. Use and abuse of alcohol and tobacco can wreak havoc on bodies, and
depression and anxiety can cause long-lasting problems with relationships, work
Skipping school or dropping out can also affect success later
life. This is an excellent reason to talk to children about the harms of
bullying and ensure that they have useful, actionable ways to respond to a
bullying situation when they see it. When children feel as though they can do
something about unfair behavior, they avoid the issues that often attend
helplessness, such as depression and anxiety.
Anti-Bullying Laws In India For Schools And Colleges:
In India there is no separate legislation to deal with
bullying at school level. Bullying is prevalent at school level in India,
especially in boarding schools. However, in 2015 HRD ministry directed CBSE
schools to form anti-ragging committees at school level also putting severe
punishments to students indulging in bullying and the punishment may vary to
rustication in rarest of rare cases. There should be notice boards warning
students from involving in ragging or bullying. The Raghavan committee report
recommended that teachers and the principal shall be held liable if any act of
bullying takes place in the school premises.
In the case of University of Kerala
v. Council, Principal's colleges, Kerala & others
 “Now the Question arises,
why should the Indian penal laws not apply to a school? You may say that the
school boys are only in late teens but do not forget that there are several
crimes in various cities including murders which are committed by teenagers
today” These words raise a serious question on the safety of the youths of
Similarly, UGC has laid guidelines to all the colleges across the
country to follow anti-ragging rules in their respective universities and the
universities which do not abide by such rules would be bring to task and even
UGC could forfeit their recognition.
The government of India enacted special
regulation to curb bullying at higher education institutions:
on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009”. A
student may also have criminal liability under different sections of the
criminal procedure code of India.
Federal Anti-Bullying Protections
comes to bullying, state law typically has stricter timelines and protections
than federal law. But federal laws offer specific protections that can benefit
kids with learning and thinking differences:
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees kids
with IEPs the right to a free appropriate
public education (FAPE). IDEA requires a school to act if bullying interferes
with a child's FAPE.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also guarantees kids the
right to FAPE. Kids with 504 plans are covered by Section
504. If bullying interferes with FAPE for a child with a 504 plan, the school
- Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
both prohibit discrimination at school against kids with disabilities, which
can include kids with learning and thinking differences.
When kids are
bullied because they have a disability, the school must act. The differences in
how federal laws may protect your child can be confusing.
It boils down to two
- Bullying that leads to a child being denied FAPE:
If a child
is bullied for any reason, and the bullying interferes with a child's FAPE, the
school must act. Kids with IEPs and 504 plans are covered.
- Bullying that's based on a child's disability:
If the bullying causes a “hostile environment”—meaning the bullying
is serious enough to cause the child not to participate in some aspect at
school—the school must act. Any child with a disability is covered. Example
of bullying that denies a child's
with dyslexia has an IEP and receives specialized reading instruction. Other
kids start making fun of him because his family is low-income. The bullying
makes the child feel ashamed. As a result, he stops coming to school and doesn't
see the reading specialist. The child isn't being bullied because of his
dyslexia. But the bullying is interfering with his FAPE.
When Bullying Laws Are Tricky?
On paper, laws against bullying are clear. In practice, though, they can
be tricky. When schools have to investigate bullying is a tricky area. The law
says that if the school knows about bullying, it must act.
But what if there's
no formal complaint?
According to federal and most state laws, if a school even
suspects bullying, it must investigate. For instance, if a teacher sees kids
making fun of another child because she can't read, the teacher must report it.
The school must look into the situation, even if the child hasn't said anything
Another tricky area?
What officially counts as bullying. Not all conflict is
bullying. And there can be a difference between bullying and teasing. So how
does a school decide if something is severe enough to count as bullying? In this
case, a school should look at the definition and examples of bullying in its
state anti-bullying law. In general, state laws have broad definitions that
cover many kinds of unwanted, aggressive behavior.
So you may disagree with the
school about whether something is bullying. If that happens, let the school know
in writing why you disagree. Federal law is narrower. There's no black-and-white
rule in federal law to decide whether bullying is serious enough to affect a
child's education. So schools are required to look at several factors,
- A decline in grades
- Emotional outbursts
- Behavioral issues
- Skipping services provided in an IEP or a 504 plan
- School avoidance
- Avoiding extracurricular activities that the child likes
How Schools Can Stop And Prevent Bullying?
What exactly is a school supposed to do to prevent or stop bullying?
There's no “one size fits all”
or simple solution to stop and prevent bullying.
But there are some best practices. These include:
- Disciplining kids who bully others
- Counseling or providing other services for kids who bully others
- Having adult supervision, especially in common areas like hallways,
cafeterias and playgrounds
- Providing teacher and staff training on what bullying behavior looks
like and how to respond
- Providing formalized and explicit instruction
for students on what behaviors are expected at school One approach that's
gaining popularity is called positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS).
PBIS uses many of the best practices above. It focuses on explicit teaching of
what good behavior is. This not only can reduce bullying, but also school
suspensions. Keep in mind that stopping bullying can't be at the expense of the
victim. That means that if changes are made at school, the changes can't burden
the child who's being bullied. For example, the school can't move a bullied
child into a more restrictive environment to limit contact with the bully.
There is a lot of concern, even panic, about the ongoing problem of
bullying and suicide-related behavior among school-age youth. Much of the media
coverage is focused on blame and criminal justice intervention rather than
evidence-based, action-oriented prevention. Public health researchers are
continually seeking a better understanding of the relationship between bullying
and suicide-related behavior as well as the related risk and protective factors
that affect young people.
Increased awareness about what we do know, what we
don't know, and what information is most helpful and applicable to prevention is
crucial to your schools' efforts to protect students from harm. The good news is
that we do have evidence-based, actionable information to help prevent bullying
and suicide. As teachers, administrators, and school staff you have a vital and
rewarding role to play by getting the word out and encouraging colleagues and
communities to take action.
Knowledge is really most helpful if it informs
action toward a positive change—in this case, prevention of bullying and
suicide-related behavior. In your position—spending several hours a day with
youth—you have the opportunity to put some of the best knowledge to work but
little time to sift through reams of information. Hopefully, you will find the
evidence-based suggestions in this document realistic and actionable in your
- AIR 1997 SC 3011.
- AIR 1989 SC 1256.
- AIR SC (1995)9 22 para.
- SCC (2012)9 734.
- ALD (Cri) (2010) 861 (2).
- (2011) 14 SCC 357
- Section 2 UGC Regulations on Curbing the
Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009.