ISSN 1089-5701

Volume 5 Number 1 Spring 1996
From Rebellion to Responsibility

Table of contents

Confronting the Bullying Problem
Richard J. Hazler & John H. Hoover 2

The Bullying Experience

Remembering Brian
Rita Head 6

Why I Study Bullying
John H. Hoover 10

You Girl!
Surviving Harassment in School and Beyond
May R. Laycock 12

Research on Bullying

Bully/Victim Problems at School: Facts and Effective Intervention
Dan Olweus 15

Victims of Peer Abuse: An Overview
Ernest V.E. Hodges & David G. Perry 23

The Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire
Tarv Tobin & Larry K. lrvin 29

When Girls Become Bullies
Mary Pipher

Building Positive Youth Cultures

Bully-Proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach
Carla Garrity, Kathryn Jens, William Porter, Nancy Sager, & Cain Short-Camilli 35

From Harassment to Helping with Antisocial Youth:
The EQUIP Program
John C. Gibbs, Granville Bud Potter, Arnold P. Goldstein, & Larry K. Brendtro 40

Proactive Alternatives to School Suspension
Conrad D. Farner 47

Suburban Youth Gangs and Public Policy: An Alternative to the War on Violence
Evan McKenzie 52

A Double Struggle Incident
Nicholas I. Long & Larry K. Brendtro 56

From the Editors

Confronting the Bullying Problem

Richard J. Hazler and John H. Hoover

Intimidation and bullying hurt everyone involved, including the aggressors, the victims, and those bystanders whose silence sanctions the violence. Most of us can recall childhood experiences of persistent physical, verbal, or social abuse by peers; and most of us have left these memories and their frustrations behind. However, some people carry into adulthood the scars of these destructive early peer relationships. We c~n reduce such lasting trauma by creating prosocial schools and communities where young people take responsibility for each other�s well being.

In this special issue of Reclaiming Children and Youth, we seek to enhance the dialogue about bullying and to motivate researchers, educators, youth professionals, and parents to take meaningful action.


Bullying is more than just one person threatening another. It is a social phenomenon. Mihashi (1987), a Japanese anthropologist, examined the social rituals employed to demean people by setting them apart. He found that children often were forced to perform humiliating behaviors in public, which turned them into what he termed "polluted persons." They were made to seem less than human, and this status provided permission for others to further abuse the dehumanized individual with little risk to themselves. Such lessons about dehumanizing others may be a necessary prerequisite for those who take part in drive-by shootings, gang rapes, ritualistic killings, and other behaviors in which people are treated as non-human objects.

Thousands of children are abused at the hands of their more powerful peers (HazIer, Hoover, & Oliver, 1991; Hoover, Oliver, & HazIer, 1992). This bullying corrupts relationships between students and interferes with their learning and development. In addition, it teaches coercive models of human interaction that persist as these youth become spouses and parents themselves. Clearly, bullying is more than child�s play.

A common reaction of adults is to ignore bullying and to treat violence among youth as individual, isolated criminal offenses. Schools install metal detectors. Society incarcerates youngsters for longer periods and segregates troubled youth at increasingly younger ages. But this is a very limited response to these problems, and it is counterproductive. With the massive amount of resources mustered to identify and punish lawbreakers, there is little left to intervene at the origins of abusive behaviors.

Common sense directs us to intervene before problems reach their most disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, logic does not always prevail. A few years ago, for example, federal money was made available under the National Education Goals 2000 for "creating safe schools." In a discussion with an official of the U.S. Department of Education, he described how these resources could fund developmental interventions in elementary schools, where today�s youth and future adults could be changed. However, he realized that little of this new money would be spent on sensible interventions. "We�ll use it to create fortresses to cage the animals, rather than trying to make children into better human beings who would need fewer restraints," he said.

Indeed, it is not just the bullies who learn these lessons of dehumanizing others. Otherwise peaceful and considerate people eagerly embrace the idea of "giving those bullies a taste of their own medicine!" They are thrilled about victims turning the tables and, in the end, becoming bullies themselves. Even the most peaceful of people often favor revenge and the abuse of power by former victims.

Human beings have shown their ability to overcome violence in themselves, but doing so consistently requires continual work. Thus, attempts to better understand, prevent, and intervene in schoolyard harassment may serve a purpose beyond the creation of safer schools. Progress in this arena also might increase mutual concern among students, thus enhancing the best aspects of our humanity.


The media provide us with a picture of inner-city schools as frightening places where one quickly becomes either bully or victim. The contrasting image of suburbs and rural areas is of idyllic places where children feel safe and secure.

We began our research in the rural Midwest in order to look more closely at this media image. Were fear, bullying, victimization, and associated problems unique to the most terrorized environments, as displayed on television; or were these problems distributed more broadly throughout schools and the youth culture? We were not attempting to make less of the crisis in inner-city neighborhoods. Rather, we sought to determine how widespread were the problems of bullying and victimization.

Our research, conducted with Ron Oliver and Keith Thomson, and the research of others who have studied aggression and violence in schools, has uncovered much distressing data. The following is a partial list of those findings:

  • Ninety percent of rural middle school students and two-
    thirds of rural high school students said they had been
    bullied during their school careers.

  • Roughly one in six American students believed they
    were seriously traumatized by abuse from their peers.

  • Physical appearance (overweight, "the way my face
    looked") and socio-familial context ("who my friends
    were," "I was hot tempered") were the most common fac-
    tors reported by students as reasons for their victimization.

  • While students conmionly condemned the bullies, they
    also found fault with the victims for their scapegoat status

  • Bullying may be both more widespread and more intense
    in the United States than in other societies, though no di rectly comparable data has as yet been published.

  • Most students feel that school officials respond inadequately to episodes of bullying.

Generations have had personal experiences with scapegoating, but it is only recently that such personal tragedies have received serious attention. Several common themes seem to be emerging: Bullying and victimization problems in schools are real; they have a significant negative effect on individuals and on the total school environment; and they have long-term effects.
School officials may dread the idea of having "one more thing to deal with." But more understanding of the problem of bullying and new ways to deal with it are critically needed.


The articles in this issue were chosen not only to provide the best available research on the topic, but also to show the tragic effects it can have on individuals and to provide models for programs to prevent the problem.

Dan Olweus, from the University of Bergen in Norway, has been involved in bullying research longer than anyone else. His pioneering research continues to be the most cited on the subject, and his overview of that work will provide a sound foundation for readers. The article by Olweus is, to our knowledge, the most substantial overview of his work to appear in English since the publication of his book in 1978. Dr. Olweus� research represents an international benchmark for study and program development (see Olweus, 1994).

In addition, Tary Tobin and Larry Irvin provide an excellent paper examining the implications of Olweus� measurement methods. And Ernest Hodges and David Perry provide a far-reaching article on young, chronic victims of peer abuse.

Because so-called objective analysis cannot convey the deeper meaning of bullying and related problems � particularly the nature of individual experiences � we have included papers and art that describe the ways bullying has touched specific lives.

On March 25, 1994, 15-year-old Brian Head took his own life. The suicide in great part was motivated by persistent schoolyard bullying. Brian left behind hauntingly beautiful essays and poetry about these tragic experiences. Rita Head, Brian�s mother, has given us permission to print Brian�s work. In addition, a beautiful essay that Rita Head wrote about their tragedy appears in this journal, along with a postscript that Mrs. Head graciously provided at our request.

Mary Laycock provides a moving account of her struggles with male/female pressures and their relationship to schoolyard bullying. She poses the following question in her piece:

What does "being gendered" have to do with bullying?

Mary Pipher�s book, Reviving Ophelia (1994), is one of the most challenging, spirited, and valuable additions to the literature on adolescence in many years. It describes how teenage girls are weakened by pressure to be something they are not� a topic that aptly fits the theme of bullying. Dr. Pipher graciously has allowed us to include a short piece from Reviving Ophelia in these pages.

At conferences we often are asked, "Why do you study bullying?" John Hoover�s story of "Boxer" provides a personal rationale for the study of child-on-child aggression. The remaining articles provide a foundation for programs that deal with bully/victim problems. The first describes a model used in the Denver school system. Carla Garrity and her colleagues added practical applications to the concepts developed by Olweus and translated them into a North American context. Here they provide reflections on their experiences and the model they used to bully-proof their school.

Alternative schools and treatment settings for antisocial youth face a special challenge in creating safe environments. These settings need ways for creating prosocial peer cultures, so that youth become partners with staff in their own healing. The article by John C. Gibbs and his colleagues describes a method to enlist antisocial youth in responsible prosocial roles of peer helping.

Many current approaches to youth violence are little more than attacks and include methods that are similar to those used by bullies. Locked in this power mentality, schools harshly punish and expel troubled students, and communities attack and discard young delinquents. Effective programs for antisocial youth must move beyond this reactive mentality. Conrad Farner describes how one school in crisis created a proactive discipline program that teaches disruptive students to accept responsibility. Gang researcher Evan McKenzie calls for replacing the "war" metaphor with a comprehensive "problem-solving" approach to prevention and intervention. Finally, in our regular feature on Life Space Crisis Intervention, Nicholas Long provides additional strategies for confronting the behavior and thinking errors that support bullying and victimization.

The pictures in this issue were drawn by seventh-grade students at Central Middle School in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. We would like to thank the art instructor, Ms. Eunice Kuhn, for her hard work in advising students and gathering their work for us. Mr. Michael Stowell, of Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minnesota, selected the pictures from Mrs. Kuhn�s class to publish. We appreciate his efforts.


Through bullying, children experiment with interpersonal power and influence. It would be nice if children innately knew about power, its positive uses, and the effects it has on others. It would be comforting if children were born with a sense of morality regarding relationships. Unfortunately, human growth and development does not work that smoothly.

Children must make mistakes in order to learn. We expect and even invite mistakes in math or reading by providing increasingly challenging tasks. However, mistakes are not encouraged when developing interpersonal relationships; yet in these situations, it is people, rather than paper-and-pencil assignments, who bear the brunt of our failures.

Schools need prevention and intervention programs to help children develop their relationships. The lessons they must learn about gaining, using, and abusing interpersonal power will follow them throughout their lives. It is up to adults to set the proper learning process in motion and to follow through on daily lessons.

We can try to understand the trials endured by each person involved in the tragedy that is bullying. We can seek answers about what causes individuals to become bullies and victims, and what stops them from behaving in these ways. This knowledge could make a difference for the next Brian or Boxer. It is because of this that we dedicate this special issue to the memory of Brian Head. We also wish to dedicate our efforts to all the victims, bystanders, and, yes, perpetrators, who suffer when one person is abused by another.


Arora, C.M.J. & Thompson. D.A. (1987). Defining bullying for a secondary school. Educational and child Psychology. 4, 110- I 20.

HazIer. RI. Hoover. J.H.. & Oliver. R. (1991). Student perceptions of victimization by bullies in schools. The Journal of Humanistic Education and Development, 29. 143-ISO.
Hoover. J.H., Oliver. R.L., & HazIer. R. J. (1992). Bullying: Perceptions of adolescent victims in the midwestem U.S.A.
School Psychology International, 13. 5-16.

Mihashi, 0. (1987). The symbolism of social discrimination. A decoding of discriminatory language. Current Anthropology, 28, 519-529.

Olweus. 0. (1978). Aggression in the schools: Bullies and whipping boys. New York: Wiley.

Olweus. 0. (1994). Annotation: Bullying at school: Basic facts arid effects of a school based intervention program. Journal of child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 1171 -1190.

Perry. D.G., Kusel. S. J. & Perry. L.C. (1988). victims of peer aggression. Developmental Psychology. 24. 807-814.

Pipher. 54. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the selves of adolescent girls. New York: Ballantine Books.