[Referencing: “Survivors of School Bullying: A Collective Case Study,” Octavio Ramirez, Children & Schools, Volume 35, Issue 2 (April 2013), pp. 93-99.]
Much attention has been brought to bear in recent years on the problem of bullying in schools. Social workers and social work educators have done much research on this problem, using an array of analytical tools and surveys to gather data and offer insights. One method not often used has been direct interviews of those who have been bullied. In a recent article in Children & Schools, Octavio Ramirez documents the responses of five junior high students who’ve been subjected to bullying in school. He interviewed the students, observed their interactions in the school, and reviewed the school records in order to explore their coping strategies.
Ramirez’s interviewees were:
- Ricardo, an 11-year-old male Hispanic in the seventh grade
- Aaron, a 13-year-old male African American in the seventh grade
- Tammie, a 12-year-old female African American in the sixth grade
- Sandra, a 12-year-old female African American in the sixth grade
- Iris, a 13-year-old female Hispanic in the seventh grade
The participants of the study were selected on the basis of a history of peer victimization. The aim of the study was to identify the various coping mechanisms used by the participants of the study, to describe how those strategies were implemented, and discuss the immediate implications of using those strategies. Ramirez found that the coping strategies he discovered could be grouped into two distinct clusters: problem solving strategies that de-escalate and resolve conflicts; and aggressive strategies that perpetuate and escalate the problem.
For instance, he reports that Tammie found a classmate to help her cope with the bullying. “When bullies say ugly things to me, I get quiet and go to my friend. He always makes me laugh.” Citing an example of trying to forestall bullying, Ramirez reports that Aaron said, “When I see that bystanders are instigating bullies, or I think there’s a good chance I will be attacked, I look for a way to leave the area.”
Ramirez points out the value of this kind of research:
School social workers are in an excellent position to identify and reinforce problem-solving skills. According to the findings of this study, instrumental coping strategies such as seeking support from parents, teachers, and friends helped decrease the intensity of the attacks while providing an opportunity for participants to share their experiences with individuals they trusted. Moreover, school social workers can teach students to use simple in-class techniques such as getting the attention of the teacher, requesting permission to use the bathroom, or seeking the assistance of a resource teacher to avoid attacks by bullies.