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Guest Columnist: Dr. Missy, Feelings Helper–Bullying in the classroom

Bullying in the classroom

How does bullying happen in a classroom with a teacher present?

MaryAnn Byrne, a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention consultant reports, “My experience as a trainer of trainers has shown me that the most common place for bullying to occur is in the classroom with the teacher present.” The cafeteria, Physical Education class, playground, and school bus are yet. Her information is from bullying surveys completed by students at schools. Visit

Let’s review bullying. “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time,” according to

But, how does bullying happen with a teacher in the room? Kids tell me that bullies knock books and pencils off desks and pretend it was an accident. Or flip the back of heads when the teacher’s head is turned away. Or whisper derogatory names. Or silently mouth threatening words. Or laugh and roll eyes when a student is discussing a topic in class. Body language is a large chunk of how humans communicate without words. Students who bully will talk before the bell rings and after the bell rings as they walk out the door. Among the chattering students a teacher cannot hear the malicious side conversations.

Warning Signs of Bullying

Your student may be bullied if he or she:

Leaves school with torn, damaged or missing clothing, books or other belongings

Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches

Have few, if any, friends with whom to spend time

Seems afraid to be in school, leave school, ride the school bus, or take part in organized activities with peers

Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to perform poorly

Appears sad, moody, teary or depressed

Complains frequently of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical ailments

Avoids the cafeteria and/or doesn’t eat

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

Signs a Child is Bullying Others 

Kids may be bullying others if they:

Get into physical or verbal fights

Have friends who bully others

Are increasingly aggressive

Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently

Have unexplained extra money or new belongings

Blame others for their problems

Don’t accept responsibility for their actions

Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

Types of Bullying 

Three types of bullying are listed at

Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things and includes: teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, threatening to cause harm.

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships and includes: leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, embarrassing someone in public.

Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions and includes: hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, making mean or rude hand gestures.

What can Teachers Do?

Preventing Classroom Bullying: What Teachers Can Do is a booklet that provides guidelines to help school staff to understand and manage the problem of bullying in school settings. Visit

Teachers need to: (1) assess the extent of the bullying problem in classrooms, (2) ensure the class understands what bullying is and why it is wrong, (3) confront any student engaged in bullying in a firm but fair manner, and (4) provide appropriate and consistent consequences for bullying.

Schools can ask children to complete an anonymous questionnaire that asks if they are bullied, whether they have witnessed bullying, and where and when bullying took place.

Wright, a school psychologist encourages teachers to change classroom layouts or rearrange seating to eliminate ‘blind spots’ where bullies can victimize students outside of view. Circulate frequently throughout the classroom and monitor student conversations and behavior.

Visit, the National Association of Elementary School principals, for multiple articles about bullying in schools.

Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.



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