Workplace Bullying in Schools: Teachers Speak Out

Today’s blogger is Amy Orange, an Assistant Professor at University of Houston–Clear Lake, whose recently published article Workplace Bullying in Schools: Teachers’ Perceptions of Why They Were Mistreatedappears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum. In that article, she shares her research on teachers who have suffered mistreatment.

As educators, we are familiar with student bullying in schools and various ways to address the problem.

What isn’t publicly discussed as much is workplace bullying in schools. Yet workplace bullying in educational settings is more prevalent than in other environments (Fahie & Devine, 2014), with the exception of nursing (Berry, Gillespie, Fisher, & Gormley, 2016).

When I looked at the reasons why teachers felt bullied by their administrators, few patterns emerged that showed a single clear factor that led to teachers being targeted. Some felt it was because of their age and others felt that their own behaviors, such as being outspoken or questioning their principals, may have led to the mistreatment.

Others felt that their administrators were jealous of them, either personally or professionally. Some teachers perceived that it was simply about power and that their administrators needed to exert power over them for unknown reasons. Ultimately, most of them will never know why an administrator targeted them, but the perceptions they shared with me are their realities (see my piece in this issue of The Educational Forum).

Interestingly, when discussing my research with colleagues or at conferences, I’ve had some ask whether the teachers who felt bullied were “bad” teachers, as if that somehow excuses the administrators’ behaviors.

Others have asked how I know whether the teachers I spoke with were really bullied without talking to administrators too, as if the teachers’ perceptions of what happened to them were not valid without the administrators’ discussing their perspectives. If people feel bullied, it is real to them and they will react accordingly; it has consequences for their performance at work, their desire to stay in the profession, and their mental health.

Even if it is a misunderstanding or misperception, it should be dealt with so that both the teacher and administrator reach an agreement about how to positively work together and treat each other with professional courtesy.

Prior research found a connection between low autonomy and the likelihood of being bullied in the workplace (Baillien, De Cuyper, & De Witte, 2011; Bowling & Beere, 2006). Therefore, one potential approach to managing this crisis is to increase the amount of autonomy teachers have in the workplace; hopefully this could contribute to decreases in workplace bullying in schools. Another approach may be to change the culture of the workplace. Changing workplace cultures that condone bullying, rather than refusing to deal with the problem, is not easy; but everyone deserves to work in an environment that is not harmful.

There are no simple solutions to this problem. One of the major issues with addressing workplace bullying is that we can’t create policies to make people treat others decently—kindness can’t be legislated. But we need to hold adults in schools to the same standards we do students and create the expectation of treating people with respect.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the current issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through October 31, 2018.

Need Help Preventing Bullying?

Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.

stop-bullyOctober is Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying can occur during or outside of school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or the bus. It can also happen travelling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the Internet.

According to nobullying.com, over 77 percent of students have been bullied verbally, mentally, and physically. Each day about 160,000 students miss school because of bullying or because of their fear of being bullied. The sad fact is that every 7 minutes a child is bullied on the playground. Adult intervention is often 4%, peer or classmate intervention is 11%, and no intervention is 85%. This means that is more common for these incidents to be ignored.

School bullying prevention programs are known to decrease bullying in schools up to 25 percent. About 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 experience some form of bullying according to bullying statistics 2013. Over 30 percent of students admit to bullying classmates and peers. When an adult intervenes in a bullying incident, it stops within 10 seconds or more about 57 percent of the time. This is why addressing the problem often cuts down on bullying incidents that happen daily and rescues many students from being bullied.

Attend this 60−75-minute webinar live on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 8 PM Eastern time as individuals or as a group or access the webcast of it after Oct. 15 to use in a group setting in our Resources Catalog:

“Preparing a Bully-Free Environment” presented by Dr. Blythe Hinitz, a member of the Expert Advisory Group to the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and co-author of The Anti-Bullying and Teasing Book.

Through planning, preparation, implementation and assessment of developmentally appropriate arrangement of classroom space and materials; and utilization of activities, lessons and units that incorporate anti-HIBT into existing curriculum mandates for early childhood and elementary level students.

What attendees will learn:

  • Basic definitions needed in anti- harassment, intimidation, bullying, and teasing (HIBT) work.
  • Brief review of relevant research results to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the field.
  • Principles for preparation of developmentally appropriate physical, cognitive, and affective environments.
  • Selected resources to assist in answering the question, “What do I do on Monday?” (and beyond).

Audience should include all teaching personnel, guidance personnel, supervisors, administrators, and anyone who works with students. We hope you can join us!

The End of Bullying Begins with You and Me

Dr. Blythe Hinitz is a Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at The College of New Jersey. She was president and counselor of the Greater Trenton Alumni Chapter. She is a charter member of Kappa Delta Pi’s Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter.

BHinitz photo

October is Bullying Prevention Month in the U.S. Almost everyone has been bullied at some point in their life, often for an actual or perceived characteristic over which they have no control, such as race; color; religion; ancestry; national origin; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity and expression; or a mental, physical, or sensory disability.

Fifteen years ago I brought this topic to the college classroom, when a publication by my colleagues Barbara Sprung and Merle Froschl became available: Quit it! A teacher’s guide on teasing and bullying for use with students in grades K-3 [Froschl, M.; Sprung, B.; and Mullin-Rindler, N. (1998).. NY: Educational Equity Concepts; Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women; and Washington, DC: NEA Professional Library.]

A female junior student wrote this story in her class journal: “When I was in kindergarten I started out wearing skirts. Every day, when I walked up the steps to get on the bus, a boy pulled my skirt up. I began to wear pants to school, and I continued to do that until I was in third grade.” When I asked my college classes about their experiences, they easily formed a concept web detailing the numerous forms of teasing and harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) they had experienced.

Most states now have anti-bullying laws, backed by court cases in which the victims won with the support of advocacy organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is the intent of state laws to strengthen the standards and procedures for preventing, reporting, investigating, and responding to incidents of HIB of students that occur in school and off school premises.

In the State of New Jersey the week beginning with the first Monday in October is celebrated as The Week of Respect. Every school district is required by law to provide age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing HIB. The New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention is a resource for educators, parents, and the general public.

Anti-bullying and Teasing book

Here are some things that we can do to stop and prevent bullying:

Now that I’ve shared with you some of the ways I’m combatting HIB, fellow KDP members, please let us know how you are working to end bullying— it begins with you and me.