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Bullying "Hotspots"

An expert talks to Scholastic News Online about bullying.

By Tiffany Chaparro | October 20 , 2006

Ronald Pitner
(Photo: Courtesy Ronald Pitner)

Most programs to stop bullying focus on the bully, but new research has shown that the bully may not be the only problem. Ronald Pitner, a violence expert and assistant professor at Washington University, focuses his research on where the bullying takes place."Oftentimes children will identify more than a few areas in their school as being unsafe and it's because violence occurs in those areas," Pitner told Scholastic News Online. "Several studies have shown that there are definitely areas or what I call 'hotspots' in common areas that children talk about feeling unsafe."

In his studies, Pitner asks children to look at a map of their school and point out spots where they feel uncomfortable or scared. He also asked them the time of day they feel most unsafe. The kids pointed out the same spots: the bathrooms and the stairwells.

Usually, these areas aren't highly monitored, Pitner said. Without an adult presence in these places, violence is more likely to occur.

"We would identify all the spots that children felt were unsafe, so it would be a large map where everybody [in the school] could see the different areas," Pitner said. "We would use dots to show all the different spots and you could see the dots were clustered in certain areas."

Pitner presented this information to school officials so they can take action to stop the bullying. Pitner believes that monitoring those areas can help cut down on the number of opportunities bullies have.

"Overwhelmingly, it seems like a lot of the children talked about how having someone there as a monitor would make it safer because that would cut down on the chances of a fight occurring," Pitner said.

What You Can Do

One of the best things you can do to help is to report bullying. Tell teachers or school officials when a fight is occurring or places where lots of fights occur. This gives the school an opportunity to put monitors there.

“Clearly you have to address the individual as well,” Pitner said, “But I do think that identifying hotspots will cut down on the opportunities for bullying.”




About the Author

Tiffany Chaparro is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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