Nearly half of elementary school teachers admit to bullying students themselves

Nearly half of elementary school teachers surveyed about bullying in schools, admitted to bullying students, according to a study in the May issue of The International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

The study surveyed 116 teachers from seven elementary schools. While more than 70 percent of teachers believed that bullying was isolated, an estimated 45 percent of teachers admitted to bullying a student themselves.

“It didn’t surprise me that nearly half of teachers admitted to bullying, because they are aware it is a problem,” says former teacher Stuart Twemlow , M.D., lead author of the study and director of the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project of the Child and Family Program at The Menninger Clinic. “Teachers need methods and help with disciplining children. The tragedy is that school districts rarely give teachers any help with discipline. They learn it by the seat of their pants.”

Dr. Twemlow is professor of psychiatry of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., collaborated with him on the study. Dr. Fonagy directs the Menninger Child and Family Program and is the Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis and director of Clinical Health Psychology at University College London.

Drs. Twemlow and Fonagy surveyed teachers who taught kindergarten through fifth grade. They asked teachers about their job satisfaction, experience with bullying teachers, personal experience bullying students and being bullied by students and whether or not schools had a written procedure for handling problem teachers.

The authors found a strong correlation between teachers who were bullied in their past and teachers who bully students. The findings suggest that teachers, who were bullied while they were children, are more likely to be trapped in bully-victim relationships as adults and are more alert to the bullying of others around them.

“If your early experiences lead you to expect that people will not reason, but respond to force, then you are at risk of recreating this situation in your classroom,” says Dr. Fonagy. “The climate you remember from your childhood may even make you feel safe because it is familiar and consistent with your expectations.”

Additional study authors include Frank C. Sacco, Ph.D., president of the Community Services Institute and adjunct professor at Western New England College , and John R. Brethour Jr., formerly with the statistical laboratory of The Menninger Clinic’s Child and Family Program. Research was supported by Menninger’s Child & Family Program and Baylor College of Medicine.

See more information on The Menninger Clinic’s Child and Family Program on the Menninger Web site. For a full text copy of the article contact Anissa Orr , media relations specialist for The Menninger Clinic, phone: 713-275-5038.

The Menninger Clinic is an international specialty psychiatric center, providing innovative programs in treatment, research and education. Founded in 1925 in Kansas , Menninger relocated to Houston in 2003 and is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital. For 14 consecutive years, Menninger has been named among the leading psychiatric hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of America ’s Best Hospitals.

From Menningger Clinic

9 thoughts on “Nearly half of elementary school teachers admit to bullying students themselves”

  1. As a parent i freely admit childern can get out of hand,but i have also witnessed a teacher loosing her cool.My sons first day of kindergarden was a real eye opener for me.I walked into the classroom and saw the teacher grab ahold of a child who was crying(typical the first day)for his mother and the teacher was shaking him telling him to stop.Needless to say i put an end to it right there.I understand non-stop crying can get nerve racking,but to lay hands on a child when you get fustrated is uncalled for.I guess i did some bulling of my own when i made it clear she was to never lay hands on my child or scream in his face the way i caught her with the other child.I also made that childs parent aware of the situation.The teacher even apologized,but i continued to ask my son everyday about his classroom and made several unannounced visits.

  2. We need more people like you in the educational field who understand that you forestall disciplinary problems by taking a strong stand at the very outset; sending the message to the disruptive students that their behavior will not be tolerated.

    It is probably the teachers who don’t do this or feel that they can’t do this that must then resort to “bullying” to regain and maintain control.

    I think it is the liberal, therapeutic mindset so prevalent these days that has lead so many teachers and administrators to loosen all restrictions on student behavior. Which in turn has lead to the proliferation of disciplinary problems.

  3. I find this very interesting. Without a doubt a teacher may be viewed as a bully and in all probability some cases exist. Recently I was asked how to get the students in the high school up to level with reading, English and math expectations. When I said “Spank the Parents” there was no challenges regarding the statement.

    Schools continue to be used as a day care and babysitting service for parents. When the parents are taken out of their “routines” they become agitated and in some cases violent and threatening.

    Threats of law suits are common place when the parent has to answer for a child that has chosen to misbehave in spite of the rules that are placed on ALL students. Yet when a student chooses not to follow procedures, the teachers are usually viewed as in the wrong when student expectations are: be in class, be on time to class, behave in class, bring necessary materials to class, be respectful of teachers, administration and student peers, and do their homework.

    I have seen and heard teachers accused by parents of bullying when teacher has to have a youth removed that has chosen to disrupt the educational process when the teacher is trying to teach their classes, I doubt the bullying is the reason.

    Any teacher ordered to follow the rules–could easily be called bullies just by making students responsible for their actions. Are there bullys?–most definitely. Do they go overboard–?? I don’t know–hopefully not but their are chances of someone somewhere that have overdone their actions. This type of action could be brought about by many situations–in many cases I have studied teacher frustration plays a big part in their actions. Schools and teachers have requirements to be met for all students. Jobs are being threatened at all levels and when a student is made to follow rules to protect learning of all students then the parents come to the defense of their children. Placing requirements on the students to follow rules bring out the worst in parents–TIME TO SPANK THE PARENTS.

  4. I TAUGHT HIGH SCHOOL MATH FOR SIXTEEN YEARS AFTER RETIRING FROM THE MILITARY. MY PRINCIPAL SAID HE WOULD HIRE OLDER TEACHERS (MILITARY) AS A PREFERENCE. I LOVED STUDENTS, I LOVED TEACHING AND I RULED WITH AN IRON HAND. I HAD VERY VERY FEW DISCIPLINARY PROBLEMS WITH STUDENTS.

    MY GENERALIZED OPINION OF ADMINISTRATORES AND TEACHERS IS THAT THEY ARE MICE MORE AFRAID OF ROCKING THE BOAT THAN STICKING TO THEIR GUNS.

    MY GENERALIZED BELIEF OF EDUCATORS,PHDS, IS THAT THEY HAVE NO LITTLE OR NO CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE.

  5. I’d have to see what the definition is for bullying. The many teachers I have known and watched were hardly “bullying.”

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