The Bullying Word: Exploring how Students, Parents, Teachers and Principals Interpret ‘Bullying’

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Alcock, Keith
Bullying , Inclusion , School , Students
Over the past 25 years, research, policies, programming and news reports have proactively tackled the evolving bullying problem, trying to remain ahead of the issue and provide relevant solutions for all educational community members. As of now, the majority of the literature written on the subject focuses on the changing rates of bullying, the different forms of bullying and lastly the negative impact bullying has on victims, offenders, bystanders and the larger school community. These three areas of research are all predicated on the “bullying” word being understood by different players in the educational community; however, as preliminarily research has started to demonstrate there is a growing and concerning trend of the “bullying” word not being commonly understand, which has the potential to cause problems as they relate to communication, assessment and problem solving. The intent of this study was to use a multiple case study approach to explore how students, teachers, parents and administrators understand the word bullying and how they arrived at their conceptualization. In order to accomplish this goal, individual interviews of each case study group were conducted at two southeastern Ontario elementary schools, specifically working with participants in or associated with the junior grades. The findings reveal that across and within different case study groups the definition of bullying has notable commonalities not yet documented in collective discourse, as well as problematic areas of vast subjectivity. In my study, I introduce the phrase “bullying word phenomenon” to describe the occurrence of the term “bullying” not being commonly understood by members of the school community, which has the potential to make problem solving more difficult and inhibit different research findings (i.e. the difficulties of assessing “bullying” rates if the term itself is not commonly understood). As this is an exploratory case study, my findings are based on my literature review and qualitative case study. With that said, awareness of these trends needs to spread, and more research needs to be done on the “bullying word phenomenon,” so as to assist with school problem solving and inclusion.
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