Posted on April 9, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Newswise — “Bullies are like a balloon. When 1 or 2 individuals stands up to them, they can be easily popped and deterred,” according to anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Stassinos, an associate professor of Criminal Justice at Westfield State College in Westfield, Massachusetts.

Dr. Stassinos, who has recently worked with similar suburban schools like Pheobe Prince’s school in South Hadley, Massachusetts has the following observations to share on how bullying happens and what we as a society must do to stop it.

Bullying behaviors might seem slight or like ‘normal kid behavior’. They gain their power from being REPEATED incidents with a focused TARGET.

The Bully appears grandiose but without the effort/talent/skill to match their egocentrism. He/she is often fragile. Bullys lash out at people for whom they have “status envy”. This is different from harassment where harassers choose people who are socially stigmatized by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disibility etc. Bully’s seem to choose competent people to attack, in some ways they are striking out against someone with whom they Identify.

In South Hadley, 9 students are being prosecuted, but probably 39 people knew the bullying was going on. People need to feel empowered to step in and take action.

American culture and school culture is driven by INDIVIDUALISM. Often the target is told that as an individual they need to “get tough” or “stand up to the bully themselves” or “get over it.” A target who is being attacked in public with an audience needs a culture change.

CULTURE CHANGE is what has to happen and is in the power of adults at these schools, but they don’t know how to engage people AS A GROUP to stop the behaviors. As Americans we have a very hard time working as a culture to create change. In criminal justice, we call this “collective efficacy” when a group knows how to address dangerous problems such as crime, drugs etc.

URBAN High Schools seem to anticipate bullying action and do more than suburban schools who think they do not have these problems. According to Dr. Stassinos, she thinks racism is often at play here, as URBAN schools are often treated like locked-down minimum security prisons with extreme discipline. Suburban schools often go the other way and lack good protocol to deal with these individual bullies.

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