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Reforming Approaches to Persistent Bullying in Schools  

Deborah M. Green, Barbara A. Spears, and Deborah A. Price

Bullying remains a global issue, and persistent bullying among students in schools has become of increasing interest and concern. Extensive research has provided insights into the developmental trajectories of those who bully; however, less is understood about why they either continue to engage in bullying behavior or desist over time. Persistent bullies, those who seem to continue or increase their bullying behaviors over time, not only negatively impact individuals and communities both during their schooling and long after graduation but also experience negative life outcomes as a result of their behavior. It is therefore important to understand what contributes to, supports, or motivates their ongoing bullying behavior: especially when interventions and preventative approaches employed by schools to reduce bullying, have to date, been found not to be universally successful. This is particularly important, as interventions and approaches to reduce bullying behavior, have until the early 21st century been largely measured against and are relevant to Olweus’s traditional bullying definition, which references power imbalances, repetition, and intent to harm and rests largely within the developmental psychology domain. In the early 21st century, debates to contemporize the definition, however, involve contributions from other paradigms designed to bring a more holistic, nuanced understanding of the whole socio-educational context of bullying. This may eventually bring different insights to the issue of persistent bullying, as it would include, for example, an understanding of the broader notions of societal power, individual agency, privilege, and bias-based bullying, potentially resulting in better preventative and intervention outcomes to address bullying more generally, and persistent bullying specifically. Whereas school reform often refers to the process of making changes in educational policy or practice, usually in response to concerns about student academic achievement, behavioral issues such as bullying, which impact wellbeing, engagement, and, ultimately, achievement, also require similar “reforms” to policy and practice. Significantly, such reforms demand evidence to ensure there are no unintended or iatrogenic consequences, such as, for example, the escalation or continuation of bullying behaviors. Reforming approaches to understanding, preventing, and effectively intervening with those who persist in bullying others, a unique subset who seem resistant or immune to bullying prevention and intervention approaches used in the early 21st century, are therefore necessary and timely given the extant knowledge about bullying and victimization derived from the past 30-plus years of research. Knowing more about those who appear immune to intervention and prevention approaches used in the early 21st century, their lived experiences, the contexts that may serve to support and maintain their behaviors, and the community’s view of them, is imperative if approaches are to be reformed in response which subsequently bring about change in schools to reduce bullying. Reforming approaches at the whole-school level are considered, which simultaneously employ a multi-tiered system of behavioral support within the school setting for all students: where specific supports are targeted and enacted for those who persist in bullying, alongside strategies for those victimized, in a climate where all bullying is universally rejected. This approach sits alongside the notion of a whole education approach recommended by the UNESCO scientific committee on school violence. This recognizes that a wider community approach is needed, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of the school, the community, and the technological, educational, and societal systems.

Article

Queer-Identifying Boys, the School Toilet, and Queerphobia  

Ndumiso Daluxolo Ngidi, Nkonzo Mkhize, and Brian Bongani Sibeko

School geographies have received little attention from scholarship on queerphobic bullying in South Africa. This is worrying because overwhelming evidence shows how schools are unsafe spaces for queer students. Indeed, schools are key to understanding the geographies of young people. They also play a central role in shaping their social identities. Within the South African context, school toilets are among the most dangerous areas for students in schools. In these spaces, students experience bullying, gendered violence, and crime. Yet the subjective experiences of queer students when accessing school toilets are not well understood. To shed some light on how the school toilet is a space that allows the re-enactment of violent hegemonic masculinities by heteronormative male students, this article reflects on queer experiences of schooling by paying particular attention to the space of the school toilet. Through our experiences, we show how the toilet space is a site for queerphobic bullying. We argue that school toilets are areas for the (re)construction of hegemonic, dominating, and violent heterosexual masculinity, and the further legitimization of hetero-patriarchal systems. While there is evidence of agency in our experiences, it is at the cost of violence. We conclude that schools should abandon the notion of gender binary not just in their toilet spaces but in all spheres of school life, from the curriculum to school culture and infrastructure. Drawing on these experiences, the article submit that this will, in part, reframe South African schools as possible sites for constructing a gender-equal society.

Article

School Violence  

Gordon Capp, Hadass Moore, Ronald Pitner, Aidyn Iachini, Ruth Berkowitz, Ron Avi Astor, and Rami Benbenishty

School violence can be understood as any behavior that is intended to harm other people at schools or near school grounds. This may include bullying and victimization, or more severe forms of violence involving weapons. To respond effectively to school violence, school personnel and leaders must understand the influences on their schools that come from individuals, the surrounding community, and cultural and political spheres. Careful and ongoing assessment of the needs of any given school is also a prerequisite to effective intervention. The severity of violence, the exact location of violent acts, and how different groups on a school campus experience violence are all key details to understanding and measuring problems. With this information, schools are then able to choose intervention programs that will utilize a whole-school approach. Sometimes, existing Evidence Based Programs can address the needs of a particular school and surrounding community. Other times, schools need to either modify existing interventions or create their own to address the particular forms of violence that exist in their schools and communities.

Article

Gender and Bullying  

Elizabeth J. Meyer

The field of bullying research initially paid minimal attention to the influences of gender role expectations (masculinity, femininity, and gender role conformity), as well as heteronormativity, cisnormativity, homophobia, and transphobia in understanding the phenomenon. This has shifted since the late 2000s, when more research emerged that analyzes gender as an influential factor for understanding bullying dynamics in schools. More recent studies have focused on LGBTQ youth, issues of disability, and racialized identities, as well as the impacts of online interactions. When examining gender and bullying, it is important to also examine related forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, dating violence, and other forms of sexual and violent assault such as transphobic violence and murder. In order to more effectively support schools and professionals working to reduce bullying, there must be a deeper understanding of what is currently known about gender and bullying, what works to reduce it in schools, and what still needs more attention in the research literature.

Article

Masculinities and School Gun Violence in the United States  

Samantha Deane

Schools are sites of personal, political, and symbolic violence. In the United States acts of rampage school gun violence, themselves symbolic, are connected to acts of personal violence via the inscription of social gender norms. Carried out by White teenage boys rampage school shootings call us to grapple with the ways in which schools form and discipline gendered subjectivities. Central to the field of masculinity studies is R. W. Connell’s theory of masculinity which draws on a Gramscian theory of hegemony rather than a Foucauldian theory of power. Whereas Gramsci focuses the ways in which power moves down, Foucault studies the impact of small interaction on our subjective sense of self. When addressing the phenomena of rampage school gun violence where White teenage boys target their schools in acts of gendered rage, a Foucauldian theory of power helps us to take seriously the significance of everyday interaction in legitimating gendered ontologies. Jointly Foucault and the contemporary works of Jane Roland Martin, Amy Shuffelton, and Michel Kimmel point towards an avenue that may afford us the opportunity to root out practices and environments wedded to hegemonic masculinity (and thus rampage school gun violence): the everyday celebration of gender-inclusive and egalitarian ways of learning and living.