Beyond Teasing: One-Third of Today's Kids Involved in Bullying
April 24, 2001 -- Small for his age, and the new kid on the
block, 13-year-old C.J. Woodard made one big mistake at his new school last
December -- he started bragging.
"I'm better than you are at everything ... I can run
faster, that type of thing," says his mom, Darlene Williams. "He does
have a mouth." Unfortunately, C.J. picked the wrong kid, and ended up in a
fight. "Within the first week I was in the principal's office," she
tells WebMD. "After that, it just escalated.
"I've been to the principal, the school board, the police,
the juvenile officers, the bus company, trying to get this taken care of,"
Williams says. "They beat him up on the bus, swipe his stuff at school,
accost him in the halls. It's constant torment. Teasing is one thing, but this
is pure mean-spirited behavior. He can't even go to the store by himself
without them coming after him." All the kids have been suspended at one
time or another, including C.J. for trying to defend himself. But the problem
A National Snapshot
Nearly one-third of kids in grades six through 10 are the
victims of bullying, bullies themselves -- or both, says Tonja R. Nansel, PhD,
a psychologist and epidemiologist with the National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development.
Her study of almost 16,000 students in grades six through 10 --
in both public and private schools across the U.S. -- captures a picture of
bullying today. It appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical
"We're concerned about the prevalence," she tells
WebMD. "Thirty percent of kids are having a significant problem with peer
relationships. There's a lot of evidence that those relationships are a very
important part of a child's development."
In an accompanying editorial, two experts in childhood violence
call for greater attention, energy, and funding of bullying interventions in
"Recent tragedies and many episodes of school violence have
involved the issues of bullying and revenge," write Howard Spivak, MD, a
member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Task Force on Violence, and
Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, professor of public health practice at the Harvard
School of Public Health and author of the book, Deadly Consequences.
"Violence prevention, including bullying ... must be a
priority for all who are concerned about the health of children and youth,"
say Spivak and Prothrow-Stith.
In Nansel's study, students completed a 102-question health
survey that also contained questions about bullying, as well as a definition:
"We say a student is being bullied when another student, or a group of
students, say or do nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. It is also
bullying when a student is teased repeatedly in a way he or she doesn't like.
But it is not bullying when two students of about the same strength are
involved in a quarrel or fight."