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Bullying Up Slightly in Arlington Public Schools

by ARLnow.com January 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm 8,459 51 Comments

Students are reporting more incidents of bullying at Arlington’s public schools, according to the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is expected to be officially released later this month.

According to the survey, which was summarized at a school board meeting last week, 22 percent of students surveyed said they have been a victim of bullying, compared to 19 percent in 2007 and 22 percent in 2004.

Twenty-seven percent of 6th graders say they’ve been bullied, compared to 22 percent in 2007 and 33 percent in 2004. Twelve percent of 6th graders said they were the victim of cyberbullying in the past year.

Bullying is most prevalent in 8th grade, with 28 percent of students saying they’ve been bullied.

Bullying becomes less common past middle school, the survey found. Twenty-one percent of 10th graders and 14 percent of 12th graders reported being bullied.

Among 6th graders, 27 percent reported having possessions stolen or damaged at school, 7 percent reported missing school because it “felt unsafe,” and 35 percent reported being involved in a fight. The results were all above 2007 levels, but below 2004 levels.

The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, which conducts the survey, concluded that more intervention is necessary to fight bullying, especially in 6th and 8th grade.

Among all grade levels surveyed, more students than ever said they believed that adults would help with their bullying problem. Seventy-six percent of 6th graders, 67 percent of 8th graders, 65 percent of 10th graders and 72 percent of 12th graders agreed with the statement “if I tell an adult about bullying, they will try to help.”

Last week two state legislators who represent parts of Arlington introduced bills to make bullying a crime in Virginia and to better equip public schools to protect bullying victims.

The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families declined a request from ARLnow.com to release the full results of the survey before the group briefs the Arlington County Board on Jan. 26.

Flickr pool photo (top) by Chris Rief

  • Jason S

    At its core, this is a parenting problem. All of the programs in schools have no effect if they are not reinforced at home. The ultimate solution to a bullying problem is to make it a problem for the parents of the bully.

  • Roger

    Not much has changed since I attended Stratford JHS (HB now) in the mid-60s. Bullying was around then as well. Teachers couldn’t be everywhere, and it seemed to me like there was a bully in every hallway where there wasn’t a teacher.It was a scary time. It is still a scary time for the bullied.
    Naturally the bullies choose much smaller, or more peaceful kids than each other. And its very difficult to teach a child that this large person bullying them is actually very much the coward.
    I’ve often thought that a good thing to do would be to start sueing the parents of these bullies. If enough people did that, perhaps the parents would either put the rein on their kid, or they would leave the school. A desirable thot either way.
    One might say a suit couldn’t be done for that. I beg to differ.When a judge can sue a DC cleaners for losing his pants, or a woman can sue McDonald’s for hot coffee, then something as personally degrading, or a threatened assault could easily be sued.

    • Ughhhh

      Yeah, let’s get lawyers involved in something else. Next thing you know they’ll be a suit against McDonalds for serving hot coffee…. oh, wait, a lawyer has thought of that already.

  • Ryan
  • DudeGuy

    Kind of a stupid pole. Sounds to be VERY subjective. “OOoOOooO some kid said I was a four-eyes… he is a bully and hurt my feelings. Mommy and Daddy say that feelings should run my life and I should be depressed and cry about it 🙁 “

    • CadeTyler

      Bully spotted!

    • mehoo

      “Kind of a stupid pole.”

      Oh, the irony of calling something stupid as you misspell it. Maybe you should have paid attention in school instead of beating up innocent kids, genius.

  • Jennifer

    Clearly there are two schools of thought in the above posts.

    One is that people should be able to defend themselves in a non-violent way from being disrespected and humiliated by their fellow man, regardless of the age.

    The other doesn’t really care how people are treated, possibly even finds it amusing.

    I think if Social Darwinism is the yardstick by which we judge today’s attitude, the problem is going to get worse–far worse, before it improves. Too bad for short sightedness.

  • TGEoA

    Coddle your kids. It will prepare them well for life.

    • charlie

      they’ll never handle being on ARLNOW…

    • mehoo

      It’s amazing how the internet brings out the worst in people.

  • Skeptical

    Let’s get real — if some kid who is actually physically assaulted uses Jhoon Rhee karate (or savat, or whatever) to take the bully down, guess who’s going to be suspended, and sent to a mental health person, and written down as a “behavior problem”?

    Yup, you got it — the kid who decided to fight back. On the other hand, the half-dozen snotrags that I slammed into various parts of the locker room after the 99th provocation back in 8th grade, well, they didn’t actually push it that far again.

    But if we can’t get the school system organized to refrain from blaming the victims when they decide to stop being victims, we’ll have to do better than “let ’em solve their own problems.”

    • Bender

      In the end, the only way to deal with this effectively is to teach kids to be assertive and stand up for themselves. But you are right, punching a bully in the nose is likely to get the kid who was bullied suspended or expelled, while the bully ends up with a pat on the back.

  • ctbeachbm

    As a teacher in APS I can tell you that bullying is often over reported. Every time a kid is teased they think they are being bullied. Students simply don’t understand what bullying is and some of the teachers don’t either. It’s nebulous and hard to determine.

    • AllenB

      I’d hate to have you as a teacher. If a kid feels as if they are being bullied, they are. You seem like the type to just look the other way or tell them to suck it up. What a great example you are.

      • Set the controls

        ctbeachbm’s take on the situation seems objective and open-minded to me. If you can’t stomach the teacher’s perspective, the closest of all, or keep open the possibility than all is not what it appears to be, you should just go away. Kids exaggerate and lie their butts off all the time.

        • Maria

          If you can’t handle AllenB’s perspective, maybe you should go away.

          • AllenB

            What Maria said. 😉

      • arglebargle

        Um no.

        If a kid gets bumped into in the hall and feels as if he/she was bullied, that doesnt mean he/she was bullied.

      • Josh S

        Sweet personal attack on someone you don’t even know.

        It is not hard to imagine a scenario when a kid gets teased by another kid and no reasonable adult would call it bullying. Just as an example, friends tease friends all the time.

        As I’ve said before here – attempts to legislate the behavior of children are doomed to failure. One, you can’t define bullying in a way that can be applied equally (unless you want to make it so draconian that you’ll capture pretty much 99% of the population) and two, they are biologically incapable of controlling themselves. Over time, with rules, instruction, example and peer pressure, (most) kids learn impulse control and how to be considerate of others. Making “bullying” illegal won’t help.

        As a former teacher and current parent of a student in APS, I know that APS is talking a lot about bullying these days. This talk would almost inevitably, it seems to me, increase the rate at which kids answer “yes” to questions about bullying. I think you’d have to couple the findings from the survey with input from the counselors, for example, to get a better picture of how things are really changing over time. In any case, as many people here have noted, bullying has been (and will be) a fact of life in schools for many many years.

        • Maria

          I agree that legislation is unlikely to solve or significantly lessen the issue in schools and that the best course of action is education. I also agree that talking more about bullying will probably lead to more students answering “yes” when asked if they’ve been bullied (though perhaps for some, it is just teaching them to recognize it more). Finally, I agree that bullying will perhaps, unfortunately, always be a fact of life in schools/the workplace/every day life among children and adults alike. Therefore, we need to be teaching the bullied kids coping mechanisms and, like you said, we need to attempt to teach the bullies impulse control and consideration for others as opposed to throwing them into the justice system.

          However, as a former teacher (and teenager), wouldn’t you know that even friends teasing friends can be called bullying, intentional or not? Not always, of course, but sometimes… especially if it is happening “all the time.” Also, come on: kids are not “biologically incapable” of controlling themselves. That’s such a cop out. I teach 9th grade, so believe me – I see a serious lack of impulse control on a daily basis, but I also see many teenagers control their impulses all day, every day. Yes, some of them have a much more difficult time, and biologically, it is indeed significantly tougher for kids than it is for adults, but to say they are “incapable” is much too black and white.

    • Maria

      “Every time a kid is teased they think they are being bullied.”

      Based on this statement, I’d love to know what exactly is *your* definition of bullying then? Do you allow kids to tease other kids in your classroom because you apparently don’t think it’s bullying? I mean, it’s one thing to say that sometimes kids may exaggerate (because they do) or not know exactly what qualifies as “bullying” (because they don’t), but to qualify it with that statement? Sorry, but I think I’m with Allen on this one.

      • Skeptical

        Bingo. By this alleged APS teacher’s definition, I’d be interested to know how often or cruelly a child has to be “teased” before it qualifies as “bullying.”

        Taunted about her fat every day at lunch time for a week? Oh, only every other day? Never mind. Clumsy boy given a mean nickname for fumbling a ball in gym? Oh, they only call him that when they’re on he playing field? Just part of growing up; he’s only faking those stomach aches before gym class.

        Sounds like the kind of person who wouldn’t call a parent abusive either unless they left black and blue marks.

        School is where children learn, primarily, facts and skills, but also what is and isn’t civil behavior. Telling them that they have a right to expect it, and an obligation to observe it, isn’t coddling.

        • Skeptical

          OK, perfect example of the disconnect that seems to exist in some people’s heads.

          “Somebody taped a sticker on his back and it said, ‘Kick me,’ and people started kicking him. They just started trying to trip him. But he wasn’t being bullied. He didn’t start crying or nothing.”

          The kid described is Jared Loughner, in today’s WaPo continuing coverage. And no, I’m not for a minute trying to suggest there was a direct cause-effect relationship with his later deeds; it just jumped out at me from the story. But kicking, tripping, a Kick Me sign, and “he wasn’t being bullied”? What has to happen, something that between adults would be aggravated assault?

    • mehoo

      Here is the definition of bullying in delgate Adam Ebbin’s bill, the one that would make bullying a crime:

      “recklessly or intentionally endangering the health or safety of a student by exposing the student repeatedly, and over time, to physical aggression or intimidation, whether through direct physical contact or through the use of information or communication technology, resulting in bodily injury or other harm to person or property.”

      His bill is in response to a suicide by a bullying victim.

      • Rover

        Thank you for posting.

        “Repeatedly and over time” ring out to me. It would seem documentation would be in order to prove that something was repeated over time. Thus, it seems the burdon is on the school system to document incidents involving individuals within the school. If they are documenting, then they should be held responsible for extreme cases that are missed causing suicide, if the documents exist and they did nothing. This is such a slippery slope.

        When I grew up I was picked on a little bit and, at times with some people often. I realized I had to either fight back, find a way to make good with the person, or remove myself from the situation. I did all three in different situations. I put up with some BS. I actually made a few friends. And, I had a few fights. Unless something gets out of control, this is probably just part of growing up for most people.

      • Lou

        Sounds a lot like assault.

        It’s sad that our schools have become such breeding grounds for criminals. If only the will existed to prosecute them under the current laws. I guess the PR would not look so good though.

        • mehoo

          Well, Lou, the problem is that in the bullying incident in which a victim committed suicide (as opposed to being assaulted), law enforcement concluded that no laws had been broken. That’s why Ebbin wants a new one.

          • Rover

            The only crime committed in suicide is by the person killing themself. No action by anyone else, especially picking on someone because of their clothes or weight, is a reason to commit suicide. Considering suicide as a young healthy person, for whatever reason, is a sign of a mental issue and should be addressed as such. The problem is, in the case in the media I’m not sure anyone knew there were suicidal tendencies until it was too late.

          • mehoo

            That’s debatable. At least we’re talking about the actual issue now. I think harassing a child to death is something you should answer for. I’m not sure it should be a crime either, but it’s certainly worth a wrongful death lawsuit (which has been filed in this case).

          • Rover

            mehoo: Yes, I would agree. A civil suit for actions leading to mental instability and suicide are perfectly justified. But, by law, the crime act is by the person committing suicide. Unjust, but true.

            I don’t support civil action against parents if their kids pick on another kid in a classroom. There has to be a defined point when a suit can be admitted, and it should be moderately severe. Everything else is just a kid’s exposure to the world. It isn’t exactly a kind place all of the time and we all have to learn that.

          • mehoo

            Rover – I don’t think everyday “picking on” should be grounds for a suit either. I can imagine a situation where some severe bullying would be grounds for a suit against the school if it did nothing to stop it though. But as you note, this is about severe cases.

        • mehoo

          P.S. I know you were referring to Rover’s experience, Lou.

          • Lou

            No, I wasn’t.

          • mehoo

            Oh. Never mind.

      • Thanks for the Laugh, Arlington

        There are already laws in the Virginia Code for crimes like assault and coercion. It’s a felony in New Jersey to record and distribute someone’s sexual activies which is the exact “bullying” crime committed by the roommate of Tyler Clementi, RIP.

        Obviously Ebbin has pure intent, but his bill is further criminalization of speech and will probably be struck down as overbroad like similar hostile environment laws.

        For further reading, here’s a research paper on how bullying laws are used to violate first amendment protections on college campuses:


        • mehoo

          “There are already laws in the Virginia Code for crimes like assault and coercion.”

          Read the post. Law enforcement said the incident with the suicide wasn’t a crime.

          • Thanks for the Laugh, Arlington

            Which suicide?

  • JimPB

    It would have been very helpful had the survey asked for a description of the most recent incident of bullying so the incidents could be evaluated for appriateness as “bullying”, and how often bullying was experienced in the most recent full month of school so that the prevalence of repetitive bullying was known (such bullying is arguably that which has the most devastating impact).

  • Bender

    If truth be told — the biggest bullies I ever encountered in school were teachers and administrators.

    • Rover

      Bullies are usually in a position of power. Kids usually see it with size or aggressive behavior. Adults see it in the workplace more often. So, it comes to no surprise that there are teachers and administrators who would thrive on the power and utilize it for their own selfish ego boost. But, we also know there are good teachers and administrators too (not to piss any of them off).

  • Shirlington Guy

    Ok, I think everyone here is missing the point. Let me explain. If there is anything going on in the classroom that would keep a child from their studies, that is a serious problem. To clarify, just because a child is not being bullied violently does not mean that the child is not being bullied. Lets face it, kids are mean, especially in middle school. Middle school is typically when children start to understand what fashion and style are. This means that the children that are not cool enough or wealthy enough to afford all of the nice things their classmates have will sometimes get bullied for how they choose to dress or act. What does this mean, well I will tell you. It means that your straight A Abercrombie wearing son or daughter could easily be considered one of these bullies. Thats right, because you taught them to be materialistic and judge others! FIX IT!

    • Lou

      What’s next, passive bullying? Where non-wealthy kids feel put down by rich kids because they have better stuff? We should sue the rich for that too, right????

    • Rover

      Overcrowding in schools certainly is going on in the classroom and can keep a child from their studies. Let’ sue the county for being a bully by not providing a small enough classroom environment! How dare they crowd me in with a bunch of bullies! Where’s the lawyers?

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  • Smy

    I think that people who get bullied by others whould just kill themselves.

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  • drax

    Did anyone see our very own novasteve made the Washington Post print edition with his insightful comment on bullying today. He thinks bullying motivates the victims to do better in school. What genius!


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