Headline English: Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

The New York Times this week ran (published) a story about online bullies. A bully, as we discussed in ESL Podcast 372, is a person who uses either verbal (spoken) or physical violence to prove his or her own strength, power, or position over another person.  The term is usually associated with (connected to) schools, where some students (usually, but not always, boys) try to intimidate (scare; make fearful) other students into doing what they want.

The newest form of bullying (note that “bully” can be a noun or a verb) is online or cyber-bullying, where students use the Internet or phone text messages to scare or intimidate other students.  This usually happens when the students are at home, not in school, but some parents think that the schools should discipline (punish) online bullies even if they do their bullying outside of school.  This has always been a difficult area for schools: Should they punish students who misbehave (act badly) when they are not in school, or only when they misbehave in school?  There is no easy answer to this question, and every school in the U.S. deals with (handles; takes care of) the problem differently.

To pull (someone) into (something) means to involve someone in an action or situation when that person doesn’t really want to be involved.  A fray is an argument, fight, or contest.  So the headline means that students who are harassing (bullying) other students using the Internet or texting are forcing schools to get involved in an area where many of them don’t want to be involved — punishing students for bulling outside of school.

For some possibly tragic (very sad) consequences (results) of bullying, see our English Cafe 242.

Should schools discipline students who misbehave outside of school hours?  How do schools in your country handle this problem?


Photo: Scene from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Public Domain

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16 Responses to Headline English: Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

  1. Renato says:

    It´s so tragic things like that still happens cause everyone has the right to be respected and not be constrained for anyone.
    Thank you Lucy and Jeff to carry on this hard task of doing all these podcasts for us. You both are angels

  2. francesco (ITALY) says:

    Hi Jeff, nice to read your topic today. Actually, this never happened when I was at school, I mean high school, but I do think schools should take actions against any form of bullying, even if it does at home rather than at school. Why? Because the bull does this to scare the other guy, in order to take advantage of him when in school! So, school should fight against it, absolutely. Take care all. Nice days in L.A.

  3. Alvaro Barbosa da Silva says:

    Nice post again!!! I work at one school here in Brazil and this topic has been discussed around. We’ve always had this problem here, but it seems like the problem is getting worse day after day. Altough we are trying to deal with that, I think it’s now a world culture problem and I don’t really think that we will be able to solve this problem.

    Just to remember, we also can count on Warren Ediger on this blog he is great also!!!

  4. emiliano says:

    I am very upset about this kind of behaviour and I don´t know why this bullying has been spread so fast all around the world.
    What is the reason to be so cruel with other boys or girls at the school? or out of it?. I can´t understand anything, and I am completely out
    about the matter.
    I know it exists more frequently of what we can imagine and here in Spain the last horrible circunstances has been up till
    the killing of a girl by two school girl mates, or another girl by other girl mate three months ago, some suicides have happen too or very bad
    hitting of a boy or a girl out the school taken in video by the phones of others who saw the abuse.
    It begins at the class and follows by internet till the direct hitting, to me all is incomprehensible and I don´t know anything
    about where this way of acting is coming from or what is the reason to have so bad behaviour among some young boys and
    What society can do about the matter?
    Well, it is a good question that I don´t know the reply.

    Replying Jeff´s question I can´t say if here the school responsibles are doing anything about the problem, it´s possible but I don´t
    think it is enough as some of the teachers are suporting themselves some bullying in other way from the pupils and they are afraid of being hitting by the boys or their parents some times.

    Yes, I think this society has a big problem and it is necessary to confront it as soon as possible with all kind of ethical strong measures.
    Who knows the measures or the way of implement them among the young or sometime not so young?…….
    (Yes, because there is also bullying in the work or other comon places among adults and it´s going on, not only among boys and girls at the school).

    Well that´s a good question for a big problem that I don´t know how to reply by the moment, but I think it´s necessary to do something
    about it, and soon.

  5. Noor says:

    How about parents? Lately, it seems that the task of educating,at least in Spain, is a teacher’s matter. I do not think that teachers should punish
    misbehaviours when they happen outside school hours. Teachers should talk about it but no discpline bullies.
    Sorry about my English 🙂

  6. Alessandro (Brazil) says:

    Hi Dr. Jeff,

    That is a pretty timely issue, because here in Brazil it has been discussed a lot, after a girl was victim of bulliers because of the way that she was dressed in the University. Today the government of state where that girl lives sanctioned a law against bullying on schools. According this law the main actions against bullying on the state will be lectures and debates for teachers, parents, students and psychological support for victms of bullying. Bus this law doesn’t foresee punishments at students. I think schools should care about only what happens inside schools, what happens outside it isn’t responsability of them, it’s case for police.

  7. Julie says:

    Hello! I have taught at a number of schools in the U.S., and I can say that teachers have a responsibility to address bullying, no matter where it happens. Students can’t learn, if they feel threatened (no matter where it is happening – in school, outside of school, online, etc). It’s a teacher’s responsibility to make sure that their classroom is a safe place for everyone to learn. I think Columbine was a real turning point for all of us in education, and change has been slowing happening.
    There was a recent case back East, where a girl committed suicide, after relentless cyber-bullying. It has now come out that the teachers were aware of this girl being victimized, and did nothing to stop it. It’s just wrong.
    I’ve found that parents and bullies are more responsive to stopping this behavior, if there are negative school consequences involved (i.e., suspension). A strict, consistent policy can help prevent these tragedies.

  8. Massimo says:

    Hi guys, I discovered this blog just now. It’s beautyfull at all (as Los Angeles I suppose 😉 ).

    Just to say: I’m teacher for disabled kids in an Italian School and I’d like to emphatize just 1 thing: ok, we may (and have to) punish bulling but we must also put parents and studens themself into the situation, looking for their cooperation.

    But first of all, all studends must understand that they have their own right: they must not be scared because thery are doing nothing bad! Do not hide yourself in the silence or let bullies to isolate you but go in search of help, because you are right so you are going to be protected. In addition you are the great part of the school, bullies are just a few, so… do not worries and just go to talk with parents and professors, claiming for your rights!

    Thanks to Jeff and Lucy for they great work!
    Nice to hear and read you

  9. emiliano says:

    Absolutely right Massimo and Julie, teacher´s opinion and their direct action with pupils and parents would be the best way to combat the misbehave
    in schools.

    As you said Julie and Massimo and I agree with you wise opinion it´s very important that the students must not be scared and not hide themselves in the silence, but they need to know they are protected instead by the teachers, their parents and the rules of the school.
    They need to know that their schools are a safe place for every student who is in it doing his learning in the right way, also that bullies are going to be punished accordingly.

    Thank you both of you.

  10. José says:

    Answering the question Jeff asks, I have to say absolutely “yes”. It is my opinion about that.

    If somebody is suffering threat by a bully, (I’m speaking about school age people) surely it can be something soft and that this bully just is a wanker or, maybe can be something dangerous.

    Most of those bullies are really jerks that need to do this kind of things to get feel important people because their brains don’t have nothing more. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that the person who is being bullied can suffer such kind of fear or shame that the consequences can be dramatics. That’s why I think school must take on this problems and solve them before they can cause something really bad.


  11. Farahnaz says:

    This kind of problem exists in every school in every country, but not always online. I think family’s behavior is reflected in their children. I mean, students’ behavior shows their family’s behavior.
    In my country schools invite parents to speak about their problems, especially they have a meeting with students’ parents every month or two, it’s up to the school. Schools have consultants who guide the parents how to treat with their children & most of the time it works. As everyone knows our children are future parents, so we must bring them up for good relationship and communicating with others who they will meet.
    Thank you Jeff, as always the text was excellent information..

  12. Eugene (Russia) says:

    Hi Jeff and everybody,
    The post has really stirred up my feelings. I have two sons – fifth and seven graders… I hate humiliation of any kind and especially when it’s related to children. With bullying in schools well known all over the world I’ve never heard of any case of cyber-bullying here in Russia. And considering how small the world is now, that form of bullying can flood our schools faster than we can expect or imagine.
    It’s easy for children to pick up bad things… They do it from the time they start crawling. The first responsibility of the parents from the very beginning is to always be with their babies and never leave them to themselves. As we are close to them we can help them and we can protect them.
    I believe the approach should be the same with the high-school students. Even though we, adults, cannot stay all time with them now, they are still under our responsibility – teachers must take care of them in schools, and parents must take care of them out of schools. And these two groups must be in fellowship and do this job together.
    The link between generations tends to faint as the time goes by. We should do our best to keep it strong by being open, loving, interested, not always teaching but rather listening and, being the best friends to the young people. Some negative forces unite in schools and out of schools to damage our children, our future. They unite to separate, corrupt and sometimes even kill them, and they produce cliques that try to prove their power over others.
    So, in my opinion, the only response to this situation and the only way out is uniting of positive forces. We should be closer to the young people to help them be closer to one another upon some good, positive basis and be more and stronger than any evil stream in their environment.
    Best regards to all of you.

  13. peter says:

    Hi Jeff\
    How have you been

    You always amaze me with the way you express yourself

    you didnt pull me into anything ;you roped me into it :))))))( almost the same )

    speaking of fray ,i am in the middle of a family fued

    My dad is levid big time

    so ,i dont show up as i used to be

    happy jeff ,dont you

  14. peter says:

    I was thinking the Eslpod is just growing on me

    I stand corrected it is growing on everybody world wide

    no wonder, because your world class eEnglish lesssons are beyond and I am not playing up to (flattering ) you bro ;just stating the obvious.

    i respect thaat you do things on your terms and you are successfull

  15. peter says:

    could you be more specific

    you q cover a very broad area

    I guess we need a more focus q

    by discipline you mean corporal punishment or verbal punishment or just giving them a regimented typ of schedule

    Back home as far as I remeber corporal punishment ,physical discipline if you will,was frown upon
    i mean if you do it ,officials couldnt care less
    it is sad, but it is the way things go down back home
    regislaters just make sure there is always some room for that kind of things
    peace out

  16. Luke says:

    Definitely problems like online bullying should be taken care of by the schools. But for that to happen, schools have to know that these sort of problems exist. Thanks to posts like this one the information is spread to wider audience and has better chance of being acted on. I know for a fact those problems are often not reported by students which buries the problem below the surface of understanding.

    Cheers, Luke

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