‘Frenemies’ do more harm to children than physical bullies.

School officials must take time to review how they respond to acts of bullying. Wolk (2010) states that

“harassment in schools violates Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

And in addition to the legal violations, there are emotional and traumatic costs to the individuals involved in bullying situations.

Bullying needs to be addressed swiftly. The consequences should include recommendation for counseling for the bullies. As noted earlier, many bullies have themselves faced terrible difficulties of their own. Some of these difficulties may be abuses (physical and verbal), violent episodes at home, chaotic lifestyles, and other disturbing experiences. As a result of these factors, these individuals displace their pain on others. (Such factors, incidentally, are also linked to self-harm behaviors.)

It is also powerful for school officials and counselors to perform reflective interviews with bullies. Reflective interviews can involve placing the bully in the shoes of his victim and asking him to think about how his actions have affected the victim.

I have found it especially helpful as a school principal to meet with the bully first, and to have him process and reflect on the situation. I then invite the victim to my office and have the bully and the victim meet. Making things right with the victim lessens the bully’s sense of power and control over the victim. This process also allows me to empower the victim and provide him with new tools of confidence and assertion.

Victims must be encouraged to report the acts and actions of bullies. School leaders and/or leaders in other settings that support youths should be vigilant in sending a clear message to bullies that bullying is not tolerated in their setting. They must also send a clear message to victims that failure to report a single act of bullying will ultimately give bullies the notion that it is okay to continue to bully.