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Myths About Bullying

Rethinking popular beliefs about an age-old problem.

Do bullies have low self-esteem?

Consider the kid accused of surreptitiously filming that New Jersey college freshman while he kissed another boy, and then broadcasting that video on the Internet. According to The New York Times, he was a a fine student who took Advanced Placement classes, a break-dancer, and a member of his high school’s track team who “excelled at the long jump.”

Bullies don’t lack self-esteem; they never have. Bullies bully because they like to. They enjoy the attention and the “peer recognition,” says Meredith Monteville, retired counselor and trainer. Recalling a middle-school bully who had teased and tormented another student until she sobbed, Monteville says, “This kid thought he had every right to pick on her because she was a wimp.” Confronted, he said, “Yeah, she cried — and she deserved to.”

Can a kid handle bullying alone?

Might it help prepare him for that bully boss some day? That’s laughable, says Phil Johnson, NEA trainer. “People can’t handle this on their own. It’s silly. It’s a myth. But it’s a common attitude. The kids who are getting bullied are the very ones who can’t fight back.”

Is peer mediation the answer?

While peer mediation is a great approach to many classroom disputes, it assumes the two parties have equal power and responsibility.

“The victim should not be victimized twice, by the bully and by a process which somehow assigns responsibility for being a victim with her/him,” says New Jersey middle school teacher David Austin. “There can be no compromise: Bullying is always wrong.

Does zero tolerance work?

Zero tolerance also is an ineffective approach, Monteville asserts. “Sending someone home for three days to play Xbox just allows them to come back to the same situation they left! Zero tolerance is a waste of time. You aren’t changing the behavior of a bully.” Again, what really works is a whole-school approach to climate change.

For more on bullying see:


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