What is Bullying?


The material provided in the Anti-Bullying section is intended for informational use to better understand the problems of bullying that many youth face. If you or someone you know is experiencing any kind of bullying, please contact your teacher, principal, or parents.


Bullying is a prevalent and growing problem in American schools, impacting students of various ages and backgrounds. Muslim students have long been objects of harassment and bullying, but since 9/11 this trend has increased significantly. This guide was designed to help young people and parents as well as others prevent and stop bullying.

What is bullying?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths…that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.

  • Types of bullying
    • Physical Bullying—poking, pushing, hitting, kicking, beating up
    • Verbal Bullying—yelling, teasing, name-calling, insulting, threatening to harm
    • Social/Indirect Bullying—ignoring, excluding, spreading rumors, telling lies, getting others to hurt someone
    • Cyberbullying— tormenting, threatening, harassing, humiliating, embarrassing, or otherwise targeting using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or mobile phones
  • Where does bullying occur most often?bullying2
    • School bus
    • Playground
    • Athletic field
    • Lockerroom
    • Classroom
    • Cafeteria
    • Hallways
    • Residence hall
    • On internet and social networking sites
  • How prevalent is bullying in schools?
    Student bullying is one of the most frequently reported discipline problems at school.Note that statistics on bullying vary between different sources:

    • According to stopbullying.gov, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 students say they have been bullied at school. Most bullying happens in middle school and the most common types are verbal and social bullying.
    • According to the 2017 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice), about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.
    • 70% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
    • Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.
    • 62% of school staff have witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.
    • The 2017 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) found that among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school 15% were bullied online or by text.
  • How prevalent is bullying among marginalized students including Muslim students?
    • According to stopbullying.gov, young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at higher risk for being bullied.
    • According to a 2018 Southern Poverty Law Center Teaching Tolerance report Hate at School, racism appears to be the motivation behind most hate and bias incidents in school, accounting for 63 percent of incidents reported in the news and 33 percent of incidents reported by teachers; 25% were anti-LGBTQ, 18% anti-immigrant, 11% anti-Semitic, 6% anti-Muslim, and 7% other.
    • However anti-Muslim incidents reported by educators were far less likely to make news, and educators reported that they’re also less likely to result in disciplinary action with only a third of incidents resulting in disciplinary action. Anti-Muslim hate was also the least likely to prompt communication with parents or public support of the targeted group. (Hate at School)
    • According to another report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), 42% of American Muslim parents report that their child has been bullied in the past year because of their faith: 14% once, 20% a few times, 8% almost daily or daily.
    • A 2017 CAIR report on bullying of Muslim students in California found that 57% of Muslim students interviewed reported seeing offensive statements by other students about Muslims on social media; 26% reported being victims of cyberbullying due to their faith; 53% reported witnessing or experiencing being verbally bullied for being Muslim; 19% report being physically harmed or harassed for being Muslim; and 19% report seeing other students being physically harmed or harassed for being Muslim.
  • Responding to bullying
    How can you tell if someone is being bullied?

    • If the bully’s aggressive behavior is deliberate.
    • If the bully’s behavior occurs more than once.
    • If the bully’s behavior involves hitting, kicking, shoving, or spitting.
    • If the bully’s behavior involves taunting, teasing, racial name calling, or verbal harassment.
    • If the bully’s behavior is threatening or involves obscene gestures.
    • If the bully and the victim both feel that the bully is more powerful than the victim.
    • If the bully intends to cause emotional distress or physical harm.
  • What you can do to help stop bullying?
    A victim of bullying can help to prevent or stop bullying by doing the following:bullying5

    • Tell an adult.
    • Ignore the bully or walk away.
    • Avoid being alone with a potential bully.
    • Avoid locations where the bullying occurs.
    • Involve a peer mediator
    • Learn techniques to stop or prevent bullying
      • Use humor.
      • Stand up for yourself.
      • Use “I” messages.
      • Make eye contact when you speak.
      • Express confidence in your posture.
      • Take martial arts lessons.
      • Do what it takes to build your self-confidence!
  • How to prevent bullying if you are a witness:
    Most kids are neither a bully nor a victim, but are often a witness to bullying, so the numbers are on their side. Here are some ways for a witness to help stop bullying:

    • Withhold support by not joining in with the bully.
    • Alert an adult that a bullying situation is occurring.
    • Show support for the victim:
      • Publicly in the presence of the bully.
      • Enlist others to support the victim.
      • Support the victim privately without identifying yourself to the bully.
    • Speak to the bully in private and appeal to his better nature or humor.
    • Don’t repeat gossip even if you think it is true as it can hurt someone and encourage bullying.