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What are the Signs of Bullying?

Updated: Jun 14

Bullying is an intentional, hurtful behavior that occurs repeatedly over time, typically in the form of physical aggression or verbal harassment. It can involve name-calling, teasing, belittling comments, spreading rumors, threats, or exclusion from activities and social circles. It creates an environment where those involved feel unsafe or unwelcome.


Bullying at school can take many forms, from physical aggression to social exclusion and verbal abuse. Physical bullying includes hitting, pushing, or taking anyone’s possessions without permission. Social bullying involves spreading rumors or excluding someone from social activities or groups. Verbal bullying includes name-calling, teasing, and making hurtful comments. In the digital era, it can also take the form of cyberbullying through social media or other online platforms.


Signs that a child may be experiencing bullying include sudden changes in behavior, such as not wanting to go to school or avoiding certain places; physical or emotional reactions, such as frequent crying or being easily agitated; trouble sleeping, changes in eating habits such as binge eating or undereating, stomach aches, or physical appearance. Other warning signs are a sudden decrease in academic performance and declining self-esteem. It’s important for adults to keep an eye out for these signs and talk with children if they observe them.


Parents and teachers should also be aware of any reports of bullying among students and intervene when necessary. Bullying is an unacceptable behavior that can have negative consequences for everyone involved. If an administrator is concerned or received a complaint regarding a student being bullied, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to respond, investigate, and ensure a safe learning environment for all students.



How Is Harassment Different From Bullying?


Harassment is defined as any unwanted or unwelcome conduct that is based on a person’s race, gender, age, marital status, disability, and/or sexual orientation. It can involve physical aggression, verbal threats or abuse, insults, or ridicule of an individual or group. Harassment can be carried out in public places such as classrooms, hallways, playgrounds, and on school buses. It can also take place in private settings such as messages exchanged over social media or text messaging.


The main difference between bullying and harassment is the intent behind the behavior. Bullying typically involves an imbalance of power where one person seeks to gain control over another person by using physical aggression, insults, or threats. Harassment can take many forms such as physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, and online. It can involve unwanted touching, intimidating words or actions, patronizing comments, and jokes about a person's race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. It can also involve threats of violence, exclusion from activities, or the spreading of rumors about a particular student. It can be directed at any individual regardless of gender, race, or age.


Additionally, harassment is often carried out in a repeated and persistent manner without giving the victim an opportunity to respond or defend themselves. Bullying tends to involve one-time incidents that are easier to identify and address. Both bullying and harassment are serious issues that can have long-term effects on a person’s mental health and academic performance.


Schools should take both forms of behavior seriously and work to create an environment that is free from any type of aggression or intimidation. It is important for students, educators, parents, and administrators to be aware of the difference between bullying and harassment so that they can take appropriate action. By addressing both issues, school districts can create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.



Where Does Most Bullying Occur?


Bullying can occur in a variety of environments within the school setting. It happens in public schools and private schools every day. In the physical environment, bullying may take place on the playground or in hallways and classrooms. Cyberbullying is also common with middle school and high school students and takes place through text messages, emails, and social media posts. Additionally, bullying can occur socially as well through name-calling and exclusion from activities or groups. School staff are often aware of these forms of bullying and can help to create an environment that is safe for all students. Taking action against bullying early on can help stop it from escalating, so it is important for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel to remain vigilant in recognizing and addressing any signs of bullying.


It is also important for students to feel comfortable coming forward if they have been the victim of or have witnessed bullying. With the right support, schools can help create an environment where everyone feels safe and respected. Hence, it is essential for educators to be aware of the types of environments in which bullying may occur so that they can take appropriate actions and create an environment that is free from bullying.

Which Step Should a Person Take Against Bullying and Harassment?


Strategies for Responding to Incidents of Bullying or Harassment at School


School administrators should develop strategies that focus on prevention, response and resolution in order to effectively address issues of bullying or harassment. Schools should review their current policies, procedures, and practices to ensure they are effective in addressing the issue. They must also educate staff, students, and families on how to recognize and respond appropriately to incidences of bullying or harassment. School staff should also model acceptable behavior and intervene immediately when inappropriate behavior is observed. Responses may include addressing the incident directly with those involved, talking with parents/guardians, conducting a prompt and thorough investigation, providing counseling for victims and perpetrators as well as implementing disciplinary action when necessary.


Can You Sue a School for Bullying?


Yes, it is possible to sue a school for bullying in certain circumstances. Generally speaking, victims of bullying can only take legal action against a school if the actions of the bullies have resulted in physical injury or other tangible harm such as emotional distress and lost wages due to missed work. In addition, there must be a clear connection between the school’s actions or lack of action and the bullying incident itself. Victims may also seek to hold schools liable if they are aware of the bullying but fail to take appropriate steps to prevent it from occurring.


Legal Remedies for Victims of Bullying or Harassment


Victims of bullying or harassment may seek legal remedies and file a lawsuit in the form of damages, injunctive relief, or attorneys’ fees. Depending on the severity and frequency of the incidents, victims may be able to hire personal injury attorneys and sue for compensatory damages such as medical bills, lost income, lost educational opportunities, and emotional distress. Injunctive relief is a court order requiring the school to take specific steps in order to prevent bullying in the future. Finally, victims may be able to recover their attorneys’ fees by proving that the defendant acted with malice or gross negligence.


Steps Schools Can Take to Avoid Getting Sued for Bullying


In order to avoid getting sued for bullying, schools should create and implement a comprehensive anti bullying policy and procedures. This should include clear definitions of bullying, reporting processes, and enforcement measures. Schools should also provide training for staff, students, and parents on how to recognize the signs of bullying as well as how to respond when an incident occurs. Finally, schools must take all reports seriously and handle any incidents swiftly, fairly, and consistently. If a school fails to take appropriate action when bullying is reported, it may be found liable for the damages caused by the incident.


The McGrath Response System thoroughly addresses Title VI (discrimination based on race, color, and national origin), Title VII (sexual harassment in employment), and Title IX (discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct in education), in addition to intake and investigation of bullying concerns.


Schools need to ensure that their employees are trained so that those with authority to address these issues know how to respond appropriately, and other responsible employees know that they are obligated to report to appropriate school officials. Failing to identify, report, and investigate these behaviors can result in great harm to the students and staff and expose the district and the individual to legal liability. By understanding these topics more fully, people can better protect themselves from the consequences of bullying or harassment and stop bullying.


Below are some resources on bullying prevention:

StopBullying.govThe Bully Project PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Bullying & Youth Violence Prevention


Give us a call at 1.800.733.1638.

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