Bullying remains an issue in classrooms and playgrounds

Despite the outrage sparked by some incidents of teenage bullying, abusive behavior in and around the classroom remains a major problem for most administrators.

Indeed, a 2005 study from the U.S. Department of Justice found that 28 percent of students between the ages 12 and 18 reported being bullied in the previous six months a figure that is double what it was four years earlier.

Bullying has been closely linked with teen suicides most dramatically last October with the on-campus death of a 14-year-old boy in Acton. And a recent study from the U.S. Secret Service found 75 percent of school rampage shooters such as those involved in Columbine High School and Virginia Tech had endured years of bullying before their deadly outbreaks.

New legislation that took effect in January adds bullying to the list of acts for which a student can be suspended or expelled. The bill also adds electronic acts to the list of means for carrying out the bullying.

With parents and advocacy groups looking increasingly to the courts to compel school administrators to protect students, it is important for managers to keep current on the issue.

The California Department of Education defines bullying as exposing a person to abusive actions repeatedly over time. It should become a concern when hurtful or aggressive behavior toward an individual or group appears to be unprovoked, intentional, and (usually) repeated.

Bullying can be one or more acts by a pupil or group of pupils directed against another pupil that constitutes sexual harassment, hate violence, or severe or pervasive intentional harassment, threats, or intimidation that is disruptive, causes disorder, and invades the rights of others by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment, and includes acts that are committed personally or by means of an electronic act, as defined.

Cyber bullying or online bullying is defined by the department as a term used to refer to bullying over electronic media. Cyber bullying is willful and involves recurring or repeated harm inflicted through electronic text. Cyber bullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. Cyber bullies may also include threats, "putdowns" or hate-motivated speech. Cyber bullies may publish the personal contact information of their victims. They may attempt to assume the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them.

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