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Bullying in teaching

School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment. When an adult bullies a child, it is referred to as psychological, emotional or verbal abuse. According to the American Psychological Association, it is as harmful as sexual or physical abuse. "Children who are emotionally abused and neglected face similar and sometimes worse mental health problems as children who are physically or sexually abused, yet psychological abuse is rarely addressed in prevention programs or in treating victims, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association."

While sexual and physical abuse by an adult to child, parent, teacher or coach is criminal in the eyes of the law, bullying or emotional abuse by these adults in care-giver positions is not necessarily.

Due to their influential role, it is possible that teachers are instrumental in teaching bullying. At present there is little to no research to confirm this.

While teacher bullying is recognized as serious and harmful, there are no statistics. However, according to one article, a high-percentage of teachers admit to bullying students.

Comprehensive research carried out in the UK found that teaching was one of the occupations at highest risk from bullying:

In another survey, the Economic and Social Research Institute found bullying to be more prevalent in schools (13.8pc) than other workplaces (7.9pc).

There are complex issues with reporting bullying by teachers, not only for children, but also parents. By means of their position of power over the child, power that enables them to impact the child's present and future, children and parents are reluctant to report. There are specific signs that parents should watch for as their child is unlikely to disclose that the teacher is in fact the bully.

Furthermore, a teacher who bullies may present as a Jekyll and Hyde figure: they are often celebrated and popular so their abuse can go on for long periods of time undetected. Lacking research on teachers in classrooms, once again it is hard to be sure, but certainly in teaching a sport, we see adults often rewarded for bullying conduct that would never be tolerated or condoned if done by a child.

In a school setting, this is true for teachers in the classroom as well as in their role as coaches of school sports.

Parsons identifies teacher bullying as often being part of a wider bullying culture within a school, with a complex web of dynamics such as:

  • 15.5% of teachers stating they were currently being bullied
  • 35.4% saying they had been bullied over the last five years.
  • teachers may be bullied by: other teachers, students, office staff, principals,school governors and/or parents
  • teachers may bully: other teachers, students and/or parents
  • bullying teachers may themselves get bullied by others in turn
  • swearing
  • yelling, especially in close proximity to the child, or up in their face
  • using homophobic, misogynistic, racial slurs, or direct personal attacks, comments targeting a child's disability or difference
  • humiliating
  • berating
  • ignoring
  • shunning
  • throwing objects
  • raging
  • expressing disgust at the child through gestures or facial expressions
  • muttering obscenities so only the targeted child or children hear
  • anxiety, depression, panic disorder
  • self-harm
  • low self-esteem
  • addictions to alcohol and drugs
  • eating disorders
  • long-term health consequences
  • brain injury
  • suicide
  • Kids in America, a group of students with help from some teachers tries to stop their bully of a principal from becoming Superintendent, realizing the harm she can cause
  • The Nutty Professor, The School Bully bullies the Professor
  • Matilda, based on the novel of the same name, a student with psychokinesis helps her fellow students and a teacher to stop a cruel principal's reign of terror in the school.
  • The Breakfast Club, Principal Vernon is often seen as a bully to the students serving detention.
  • Mr. Woodcock, the film focuses on a man who is outraged that his former gym teacher, who bullied him and his classmates, is about to become his stepfather.
  • A Little Princess, the main character is the target of a corrupt principal at a boarding school.
  • The 400 Blows, Antoine Doinel is tormented by his insensitive teacher Guy Decomble.
  • Whiplash, Andrew Neiman is bullied by his abusive teacher Terence Fletcher
  • The Harry Potter series features bullying teachers, mainly Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge.
  • British girls' comics often published bullying teachers and principals in serials and regular strips. Examples can be found in Wee Sue, The Girls of Liberty Lodge and The Four Friends at Spartan School, (Tammy), and Hard Times for Helen (Judy). Patsy and the Beast of Banchester (June) reversed the trend to show a teacher being bullied by toughs in her class.
  • iCarly: there have been episodes, like "IHave My Principals", where Ms. Francine Briggs and Mr. Howard clearly bully students, including the main characters, one of whom, Sam, is a bully herself. Mr. Devlin and Lauren Ackerman also bullied the students.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Mr. Sweeney, a science teacher, appears to be evil until the third season, where he appears to reform himself to the point of saving his students from Vice Principal Harvey Crubbs, who also bullies the students, mainly the main characters.
  • Glee, Coach Bieste is bullied by staff, including Sue Sylvester and students.
  • Home and Away, Casey Braxton is bullied by Mr Dave Townsend in Summer Bay High.
  • The Simpsons episode, Black Eyed, Please, Lisa is bullied by a substitute teacher, Miss Cantwell.
  • Grange Hill (season four, episode four) Christopher Stewart is bullied by P.E. teacher Mr. Hicks, to the point of physical injury.
  • Blase, J; JR Blase (2003). Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers. Corwin Press. ISBN . 
  • Hart, N.; J. Hurd (2000). Teacher stress: the consequences of harassment and bullying. Monitor. ISBN . 
  • Horwitz, K. (2008). White Chalk Crime: The REAL Reason Schools Fail. Booksurge Llc. ISBN . 
  • Schnall, R.S. (2009). When Teachers Talk: Principal Abuse of Teachers / The Untold Story. Goldenring Publishing. ISBN . 


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