Bullying in the Classroom: From Teacher to Student

Marietta, Ohio.  Bullying in schools is a timeless issue and many measures have been put into place to stop it. But what happens when the teacher is the bully? This isn’t a common situation and has not received much attention in the media, but it is happening.

600-Bullying_on_Instituto_Regional_Federico_Errázuriz_(IRFE)_in_March_5,_2007 copyPhoto courtesy of Wikipedia.

The problem is hard to identify from a parent’s perspective because they are not at school when the bullying occurs. It is challenging from the child’s perspective as well because they feel that besides their parents, no one can help them because the teacher is the authority figure in the classroom.

The example of Karen Eubank and her fourth grade son’s experience with a teacher bully in the article “When the teacher is the bully” is a common example of how the bullying occurs. Eubank recalls that her fourth grade son would tell her that he didn’t want to go to school. This was followed by her son telling her everyday that he was nauseated and didn’t feel good about going to school.

Eubank thought maybe this was just his way of transitioning to a new school, but soon found out that this was false. She spoke with other students who observed that her son wasn’t enjoying himself at school. Eubank met with the teacher, who told her that her son’s inattentiveness was the problem. She then met with the principle, who failed to take action.

Eubank recalls that her son claimed the teacher picks on him and he even said “I pay attention, but I look out the window because I’d rather look at trees and listen than look at her angry face.” When this happened, the teacher would yell and slam her hand on the boy’s desk, humiliating him in front of his peers. [1]

The example above demonstrates the significance of teacher bullying and how it can prevent a student from fully reaching their academic potential. But now that we know that this bullying is taking place, what can we do to stop it? Writing down every date and time bullying occurs can be helpful in evaluating the long term situation. Also, learn from others at the school by taking part in school functions.

But, be sure to follow the chain of command rather than speaking directly with the highest authority. Someone who is closer to the problem will most likely take swifter action and if the parent has documented proof, they can’t ignore it. [1]

In a study conducted on the issue, it was found students are being bullied by teachers, but there aren’t many policies in place to stop it. The conductor of the study found that “In many schools – perhaps most schools – at least one or more teachers can be identified as abusive towards students.” [2] These bullies are identifiable by coworkers, who are frustrated that they have no power to put a stop to this behavior.

The study found that teachers most likely to bully students are established in their positions. This makes the teacher harder to remove from their position if a problem occurs. The study also found that “There will seldom be negative sanctions applied to teachers who bully students.” [2] This is because of lack of evidence and lack of school policies regarding the issue. [2]

Students are bullied in classrooms everyday by their teachers, but it is a problem that is often overlooked because the teachers are in a position of authority. While following the chain of command to report the problem may seem like an endless journey, it could get the problem solved faster. Unfortunately, until formal policies are put into place to halt the problem, the bullying will most likely still occur behind closed classroom doors.


[1] Kelmon, Jessica. “When the Teacher Is the Bully | GreatKids.” GreatKids. Accessed November 28, 2015. http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/when-the-teacher-is-the-bully/.

[2] McEvoy, Alan. “Teachers who bully students: Patterns and policy implications.” In Teachers who bully students. Presentation to the Conference on Persistently Safe Schools–Philadelphia (September 11–14. 2005). 2005.

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McKenzie Fleeman
I am a Freshman attending Marietta College. I am pursuing a major in Communication Studies with minors in Leadership and Psychology. I am also a Luce Leadership Fellow at Marietta College!

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