School Bullies

This archived article is from January 2002. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

No More Bullies

Ever been beaten up? Threatened? Ridiculed over and over? Ever watched on helplessly while someone was humiliated in front of you? Ever picked on a weaker person because it made you feel better about yourself? Most of us have either seen or experienced bullying.

If a school is rife with bullying, it doesn't feel safe. Bullying poisons the social environment for everyone, has long-term consequences for the bully and the victim, and is a factor in suicides and violent incidents.

The National Film Board of Canada's Bully Dance video uses animated characters to show what can happen in a bullying situation, and how the whole community must be involved in the solution.

Bully Dance is part of the ShowPeace conflict resolution series which has won 21 international and national awards.

Bullying is Bad for Everyone

Bullying is a social relationship where an individual repeatedly picks on another individual. It can be physical, verbal or psychological. Perpetrators are equally likely to be boys or girls. Boys are more likely to be physically aggressive - for instance hitting and kicking - whereas girls are more likely to be verbally aggressive when they bully. Extortion, intimidation and destruction of property are all part of the behavior pattern.

Bullying affects the whole community, not just the bully and the victim. Peers are more important than they realize. They can be part of the audience, support the destructive behavior, or intervene in a positive way, perhaps by reporting the situation.

As they grow up, playground bullies may transfer their abuse of power to other forms of harassment, violence, or abuse, and they may become workplace bullies. Boys who were bullies in elementary school are more likely to have criminal convictions by the time they are in their 20s. This is not surprising, given that many bullying activities are offenses under the Criminal Code.

Victims, on the other hand, typically suffer withdrawal and anxiety. Their school performance may drop and they may try to avoid going to school. In rare cases they lash out in revenge, endangering the entire school.

Hear No Evil, See No Evil....

Most children know when there's bullying, but they don't report it. Bullying problems tend to fester under the surface.

  • A study of Toronto schools found that a bullying act occurred every seven seconds but teachers were aware of only four per cent of the incidents
  • Seven out of 10 teachers but only one in four students say that teachers almost always intervene. Close to 40 per cent of victims say they have not talked to their parents about the problem.
  • Ninety per cent of children say they find it unpleasant to watch bullying.
  • Peers are present in 85 per cent of bullying episodes on the playground and in the classroom.

First Steps

Lack of intervention implies that bullying is acceptable and can be done without fear of consequences. Bullies and their accomplices need to understand the harm they cause and that their behavior will not be tolerated at school. They can change.

Victims are often too fearful to ask an adult to intervene, but they can start by calling Kids Help Phone, or joining a Kids Help Phone online forum. The toll-free number is 1-800-668-6868, and the forum is at

The Canada Safety Council anti-bullying initiative was funded by the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention, the Government of Canada's initiative to help Canadians deal with the root causes of crime and victimization.