A learner is bullied when s/he is exposed repeatedly over time to aggressive behaviour that intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort through physical contact, verbal attacks, fighting or psychological manipulation. Bullying involves an imbalance of power and can include teasing, taunting, use of hurtful nicknames, physical violence or social exclusion. A bully can operate alone or within a group of peers. Bullying may be direct, such as one child demanding money or possessions from another, or indirect, such as a group of students spreading rumours about another. Cyber bullying is harassment through e-mail, cell phones, text messages and defamatory websites.
Children may be more vulnerable to bullying if they live with a disability, express a sexual preference different from the mainstream, or come from a minority ethnic or cultural group or a certain socio-economic background.
For both the bully and the student who is bullied, the cycle of violence and intimidation results in greater interpersonal difficulties and poor performance in school. Learners who are bullied are more likely than their peers to be depressed, lonely, or anxious and have low self-esteem. Bullies often act aggressively out of frustration, humiliation, anger and in response to social ridicule.
Impact of homophobic bullying
Homophobic bullying has been found to reduce school attendance, lead to early school drop out and poorer academic performance and achievement. Homophobic bullying can also adversely affect young people’s mental and psychological health which in turn can have a negative impact on their education. Studies have shown clear associations between repeated, long-term homophobic bullying and depression, anxiety, loss of confidence, withdrawal, social isolation, guilt and sleep disturbances. Learners who are subjected to homophobic bullying at school are more likely to think about harming themselves and more likely to commit suicide than young people overall.
Homophobic bullying has an impact on those who are bullied, those that do the bullying, bystanders and the school in which bullying takes place. Homophobic bullying has serious educational consequences, it impacts on the right to education and Education for All, it is a form of discrimination and exclusion, and it violates the principle of safe schools. It is an educational problem that needs to be addressed by the education sector.