Why is verbal bullying not as consistently punished as physical bullying / fighting in schools?

All of us in the USA, and probably the world, heard about the Columbine High School shooting many years ago (I believe that was in 1999).

Immediately afterward, awareness of bullying and its very detrimental psychological effects (imo, moreso than physical bullying) have been brought to light and USA schools cracked down on bullying in all forms immediately after this incident.


But nowadays, that "light" on bullying has faded, and bullying isn't handled by school authority figures (schoolyard proctors/security, teachers, principals) unless physicality (pushing, fist-fighting) is included.

The ironic thing...is verbal bullying is more psychological damaging to someone than physical bullying is.


Meanwhile, verbal bullying is swept under the rug by school authority figures...


...until it festers into physical bullying, or even worse, a psychologically damaged student bringing weapon(s) to school and seriously injuring/killing the students that psychologically tortured him/her for the 35hrs a week he/she is on school grounds.

Everyone has their breaking point in anything.


My question to all of you is: why do you think that verbal bullying is so commonly "brushed off" by administration?

Do you think that school administration should take on more responsibility to combat verbal bullying, or do you think that administration should "back off" and ignore verbal bullying?


Share your thoughts and experiences with bullying (either as the "bully" or the "bullied") while in public school.

Please be respectful of other people's views.

  • Schools should take on more responsibility to punish students for verbal bullying
    84% (62)82% (36)83% (98)Vote
  • No, administration should "stay out of the way" when it comes to bullying unless it's physical bullying
    16% (12)18% (8)17% (20)Vote
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Most Helpful Girl

  • For nearly half a school year, my younger sister was verbally abused by a girl who accused her of stealing her boyfriend. The girl called my sister a slut, whore, etc. and basically spread the rumor that my little sister slept around and stole her boyfriend by throwing herself at him and having sex with him. None of which my sister did.

    My sister has been verbally bullied before. She's a 4'11" ginger covered in freckles in high school, who likes poetry and video games rather than shopping or sports and dresses a little on the "scene" side. She has a relatively rough time making friends as it is, and the girl did a lot of damage that year.

    It got to the point where my sister decided to just ignore the girl. This pissed the bully off, and she began threatened my little sister, telling her and her friends that she was going to beat her, hurt her, and even at one point, kill her. I convinced my sister to go to the principal about it (she only consented to go if I went with her), and once we explained the situation to the principal and SRO, I was absolutely appalled at the way they handled it.

    "Well, can't do anything about it unless you have proof" was what they said. We tried at least four different times to bring the attention to their eyes, and every time, we were turned away.

    A month later, the girl found my sister in the halls during class, pulled her to the ground by her hair, and started punching her in the back of the neck and head. My sister was shaken, but thankfully not too badly injured, even though the girl managed to bend her glasses out of place so they now sit unevenly on her face.

    My mother and I were quite livid.

    It usually does have to get to physical violence for the schools to step in and do something, and it's absolutely ridiculous. It took my sister being absolutely humiliated (the girl was screaming at her while she hit her, so tons of students got up to look out the doors and saw) in order for the girl to be removed from the school permanently.

    I think the reason why principals brush it off so often is because it's too much of a hassle, and the students being bullied are the shy, meek ones who don't have much of a voice. It needs to change. And soon.

    • I would seriously kick the ass of ANYONE who did that to my family or friends. If not give them a serious talking to meaning they will never try that crap again. I can be pretty intimidating.

    • I haven't seen the girl since, but you can bet I'll be scaring the piss out of her (I can't touch her; she's underage). Trust me, I can be scary as hell when it comes to my family, especially my little sister.

What Girls Said 23

  • Harder to prove. Unless it was said in front of a lot of people, and those people are willing to corroborate that claim, it often is seen as he said she said

  • Verbal bullying can be harder to monitor. People are less likely to realize that what is being done to them is actually bullying, and authority figures are less likely to be aware that it's happening because it doesn't draw quite as much attention. But I definitely think people need to work harder to prevent it, and actually I think a lot of schools are taking steps in the right direction.

  • Well, I'm definitely quailfied to answer this question. This is a topic, I'm very

    senstive about and probably won't be able to make it though it, with out crying,

    I'll try.

    First, I was bullied, but not in a public school. It was a Catholic school.

    Second, though I imagine it is hard to prove verbal bullying, they should still

    at least try. But, you know why they don't, it's really simple I can break it down.

    A) People are lazy, and don't want to have to try or do more then they're hired for.

    B) People don't give a flying fig, about anybody but themselves. It's all about

    numero uno. So, nobody really cares if someone is being bullied or not.

    C) Even if they could prove it, money talks. I know this,because there was

    incident and it's the one and only time I told. So,long story short, I go to

    school the next day and the teacher takes me out in the hall to talk.

    And, gives me this grand speech , but one thing she said that always sticks

    in my mind is quote "They would never do that, their parents pay good money

    to the school." Another words, even if they could prove the bullying, there'd

    be some rich parent donating money to the school in attempt to sweep it

    under the rug.

    So, though one day, I hope they find a way to punish bullies and make it stick,

    until then, it's just gonna be one of those things that runs ramped and people

    making excuses for why that can't or won't try and stop it.

    By the way, my bullying was all verbal, but I still fight everyday to overcome it. I'm

    better then I was,but I still have aways to go. It will always be with me though and

    it's questions like this that make it come back to the suface, but I think that's a

    good thing. Because in this superficial, materalistic, money hungary, sex crazed

    world, it keeps me humble and real.

    Sorry, my answer is all over the place, I hope you can make sense of it.

  • In the big picture, I actually agree with handsomejackk. But I do think that, if we're not going to have massive educational reform, yes, schools need to do a better job at combating all bullying.

  • Verbal bullying is harder to pinpoint. It is ALWAYS wrong to hit someone... but verbal bullying is more cleverly disguised. Girls can bully other girls by saying, "I LOVE that dress! Is it a size ten?" No clear mockery, sounds like an innocent question, but the two girls involved know that it is bullying, implying that the girl in the dress is fat.

    Also, without physical documentation, how do you really know who's bullying whom? How do you know that Frances is really bullying Kara? Maybe Kara misunderstood. Maybe Kara is pretending that Frances bullied her as a means of bullying Frances back.

    Verbal abuse is also more common. Only one child will strike another, usually. Fights rarely include entire classes. But kids will all join in on bullying one child, and then what? Do you punish the entire class? How do you know it's going on if the entire class is on it, or how do you know the extent?

    How do you propose the school combats verbal abuse? First you have to define verbal abuse. Is "Sally said my skirt is ugly" verbal abuse? Because in girl world, that can really torture someone. Tell her her clothes are ugly every day and I guarantee she will stop coming to school. But how do you punish someone for an allegedly innocent comment like that?

  • Personally from experience I almost got EXPELLED for "bullying" when really some girl's friend were going around saying I threatened her and I almost got in trouble for bullying. I personally was verbally bullied a lot in school, but not for what you'd think. I got made out to be the bad guy by the students and 2 faculty members to everybody else except my own teachers even my poor principal began to figure I was the problem. (I'm talking entire high school)

    That being besides the point, in some schools verbal bullying is punished in some schools. However in the majority of the middle and high schools I've attended (there have been many), the reason is it's not a threat to bodily harm, and is other wise seen as "sticks and stones..." HOWEVER I was in a incident where me and another classmate where about to get in a physical fight with weapons. I told the secretary who said "hey that's up to ya'll" (this was in the suburbs by the way).

    I feel lie if more people PRESSED it and PRESSED it as a issue and showed the many victims of bullying and where it took them it would create harsher consequences for bullies. I'm a victim of bullying it has led me to multiple suicide attempts, cutting, and basically severe depression. I'm someone who always stands up for those who get bullied, because I know it does hurt.

    Schools always want to stress self image in health classes but never enforce any punishments or even recognition for verbal harassment. because it's not a "threat of physical harm" it's not a threat to kill the outside, no, but it does kill people on the inside. "...words can never hurt me." Tell that to all the kids who harm themselves, and have killed themselves, because of words.

    • and reading this over I sound crazy but honestly. There are ways to stop it people just don't put much of an effort into it because it hasn't taken enough young lives yet. And some ids DON'T report verbal bullying either. Why? Because like so many other voices, kid's are afraid their's won't be heard. -Shrugs-

  • I've gone to private schools all my life so verbal bullying was never swept under the rug for me but I guess in other schools, technically the whole freedom of speech thing comes up. I think it's totally unacceptable but public schools are a forum for people pushing the boundaries of the bill of rights and technically in a public school, you can say whatever you want. It's absolutely ridiculous but then there are also the ridiculous cases where an atheist student says they're offended that something says amen on their school walls. It's all exploiting the Constitution and it's sad and ridiculous.

  • From my experience, administrators and teachers "brush off" verbal bullying as if it is nothing because they can't do anything if there isn't proof. I can't tell you how many times I've been verbally harassed by kids and if by chance I chose to tell an adult, I always got the answer "Well, I didn't see it. Lets get their side of the story." So basically many administrators act like what they can't see never happens. I get bullied at school by practically everyone, and at home by my mom and sister. In both cases, I have people telling me that I'm worthless, stupid, a failure, ungrateful, deceiving and the list can go on and on. I guess it's human instinct to deny that those statements aren't true, so it's not my call to say I'm not. Either way, words do hurt. But they don't leave marks. No one can see the hurt they inflict on someone else they show it in they're body language or cry. I've felt so horrible about myself for so long, that some days I pray some one will actually take the step to hurt me... to physically hit or punch me. Maybe then I can truly get help from some one, with out having my story doubted.

    I most certainly do think that the school administrations should take more responsibility for verbal bullying. Anyone who thinks that "backing off" is a smart idea, thinking about the physical AND emotional well being of the students, are crazy! I think the emotional well being of some one is in fact more important than their physical, because at least physical pains heal. Yes they may leave scars and such, and cause some emotional distress, but when anyone of any age get's in a hurt verbally and emotionally I think it leaves a more permanent scar.

  • My guess would be that its harder to prove than physical violence. It would essentially just be a case of "he-said/she-said" and could lead to punishing the wrong people.

    Physical bullying can show up on security footage while verbal bullying cannot.

  • Verbal abuse/bullying can be very difficult to prove sometimes, and difficult to regulate. It's very clear-cut to say "You hit this student," where people for some reason think that saying hurtful things reaches an arguable point. It's also a bit easier to say something unintentionally.

    But there are plenty of times where repeated verbal bullying happens. Name-calling, insulting and threats are rarely a one-time thing, and the effects of verbal bullying can be just as strong as physical. Verbally hurting someone can lead to depression, anxiety, long-term social difficulties, violent tendencies, and ultimately even suicide - it's not about not being "dramatic" or about "growing a thicker skin," which is often the retaliation when a student stands up to it or becomes upset.

    I think it's difficult to combat, but possible, and I think schools should make it clear that students are expected to be respectful of one another.

    I was verbally bullied in high school and it felt horrible. I've mostly gotten past a lot of it now, but it affected me for years. The worst of it was when a boy I'd been friends with for awhile got in on it and said that he was hoping one day I'd kill myself. Another boy that liked me and I turned down began telling people that someday I would be a crackwhore because that's all I was good for anyway. I still have no idea how I brought on that much animosity since I was mostly quiet and academic. They weren't beating me up, but it was enough to make me hate myself.

    I've only ever once been involved in bullying someone else. I apologized to him profusely afterward for what I said, and we ended up becoming good friends.

  • I think it's pretty hard to say. I guess it depends on the individual situations.

    I think that if a teacher were to overhear students being verbally bullied, they should step in and reprimand the culprits.

    I definitely think there should be some form of punishment when elementary students bully verbally.

    However, high school kids should be able to handle themselves. If school officials get involved every time someone gets called a mean name, we will have the biggest generation of pansies on our hands. High school should be more like the real world in that respect, because they won't be prepared for reality if they are protected from every little thing.

  • Verbal bullying is defiantly a very hurtful thing- and frequently is the main weapon of teenage girls.

    The problem from an administrative standpoint is its a lot harder to make calls on. It quickly becomes a mess of he said, she said. Also, depending on how it's handled, can completely backfire on the one they're trying to protect- especially with all the non-school ways they have now- Facebook, twitter, etc. It can follow a kid home.

    (reasons I'm glad none of this was around until right after I graduated...)

    I defiantly think that schools need to take a strong stance on it and stay consistent about it. Schools aren't just places of book learning, they're environments kids grow up in.

  • They probably avoid it because it's practically impossible to stop it completely, I was verbally bullied for 7 years and no-body did anything except ask if I was okay until I ended up in hospital with a hole in my stomach cause I'd literally been worrying myself sick about going to school :/ It's horrible, at least with physical bullying it's easier to spot and you might be lucky to have someone stand up for you/you might get the courage to stand up for yourself, but with verbal bullying you never fully see what's going on because it's rarely someone standing up and shouting at you, it's usually done quietly and over a long period of time so people don't see it. Even if it's noticed and 'stopped' it's impossible to stop someone from talking to someone or messaging them online/through a phone.

    Personally I think verbal bullying should be taken more seriously because we're all brought up with "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" -it's not true at all, physical is horrible, yes, but in general it's not as bad as verbal. As for how it should be dealt with, I reckon that the punishments should be more severe, with my bullying, all the bullies ever got was a warning and nothing else until I gave up on telling anyone. I know that kids can be mean, it's normal until they develop a sense of right and wrong, but the punishments aren't harsh enough so they don't learn anything. Also, the bully's background should be taken into consideration because a lot of the time nobody looks at the root of the problem. With me, I eventually found out my (main) bully was actually being bullied for his race and religion and one of the others was physically abused at home, I had no idea so that could have been the root of the problem :/ x

  • Because 99% of the time it's all heresay.

  • the thing with verbal bullying is that it can be confused with teasing among friends... the only difference is in fact how the recipient takes it

  • Words hurt just as much as getting kicked in the gut. Think about all the teen suicides. Verbal should not be taken likely because if schools don't do anything the child is going to feel like no one cares about them. The child needs someone to care. Without care the child will feel useless to the world & may consider suicide.

  • I chose B. How would you expect school officials to regulate verbal? It's pretty much impossible. A good analogy would be marijuana use in the USA. It's illegal but people still do it and there's not much you can do to regulate that.

    • If someone told you they were going to kill you at least a few times a week in apparent seriousness for a year, you would vote A. Words can be more damaging than actions. Damaging words and damaging actions together are lethal. But it is psychological abuse and they should find a way to stop it. Pot is nothing like abuse. you crazy?

    • Show All
    • I do care. Who the hell are you to tell me that I don't care about that? I care and I wish it didn't happen. But there is NOTHING they can do about it. It's too lucrative to keep under control. Why don't you just realize that.

    • I simply don't blindly accept someone's view, sweet Texan girl. I didn't mean to come off as an ass. :)

  • Definitely a myth although it would be nice if it were true! Wearing tight clothing will not burn belly fat.

    • Um...did you answer the right question?

      Read the question on this page and you'll realize you don't match! :-D

  • I have a dog-eat-dog view of the world.

    Bullying, and by extent, the suicide/self harm resulting from bullying is human nature's way of ensuring that the strong survive.

    If you can't handle being bullied, then maybe you can't handle life in general. No matter where you go, people are going to bully you. In the work place, the boss will screw you over on hours, in school, a teacher will call you out, kids'll pick on you. If you can't hold your own, maybe you aren't needed.

    Verbal bullying isn't dealt with because you can't see the scars.

    Yeah, it's sad, but being bullied builds character. If you have friends, I don't see why one person should dictate your life. If your friends are telling you you're great, and the one guy is telling you you're trash, I don't see why he should matter.

    And yes, I was bullied when I was younger. I got over it. After putting up with it for a few years, I started standing up for myself. I bullied the bullies right back. And guess what! They stopped. If kids would actually stand up for themselves (yes, this means being mean back sometimes) then there'd be a lot less suicidal kids running around.

    I think that if you can't handle being bullied, then maybe you can't handle life. There're too many humans as it is. But in all reality, it shouldn't be that difficult to stand up for yourself to both verbal, and physical bullies.

    And yes, let the down votes roll in.

  • I think Eric Harris WAS a bully who manipulated Dylan Kleibold at Columbine. Using bullying as a justification to take out your inner rage on others disgusts me. Bullying is WRONG, but saying that someone drove people to kill others, especially at random, is a sick fantasy of someone sadistic wanting to justify their twisted thoughts.

  • My younger brother was verbally bullied his sophomore year in high school. He didn't say anything about it for a while, but we kind of figured it out as his grades started dropping and he didn't want to come to class anymore. As soon as he finally decided to tell the disciplinarian, things got better. The principal sat the bully down and had a little talk with him. He never bothered my brother again. So, it makes a huge difference when the school takes responsibility and does something about it. That way, the bully has someone to be afraid of.

  • with physical, there is direct evidence of harm, something tangible that shows what happened. verbal is a lot harder to prove, more subjective, there is no tangible evidence. even legally, physical damage is a lot easier to prove and compensate for than emotional or verbal.


What Guys Said 18

  • -verbal bullying is difficult to detect.

    - any normal person can defend himself against it : those who can't should learn it asap before they get into professional life.

  • Verbal bullying is just less apparent.

    This is also why men are viewed as the more abusive gender, even though we have stats like, 57 of all child abuse is committed by a women. Because most of the time female abuse isn't physical. It's emotional and mental.

    Simply put, people traditional view bulling and abuse as being something physical, so like rape, we don't consider it to be bullying/abuse unless it was by physical means.

  • I was bullied growing up and it is nasty. If I didn't have an older sister who looked out for me then, I would have really turned out differently I think. I was verbally bullied in school and physically on the playgrounds at home. My older sister would beat up the boys hitting me and challenge the boys at school to try it again.

    I guess I was one of the lucky kids growing up having a family member standing up for me, when I couldn't.

    I detest bullying so much, I personally see it as a crime and should be punished as a form of molestation.

    In Highschool I stood up for those who also got bullied and even got targeted, but I wasn't the innocent and soft spoken kid anymore like I was in elementary school, so it never succeeded them to make me a victim. I still get thank you's by the guys I stood up for in high school.

    I think that the kids that know better should bundle and take those bullies head on and pressure them to stop and not make it possible for them to bully any person and take the fun out of it. You'll feel the pressure of your own peers more then those of an adult, unless you can scare the bully with police and have him arrested and locked up for a day, this might not work if the bully is a regular juvenile delinquent.

  • It's harder to prove for one thing. Plus different people have different sensitivity levels depending on their personalities and background. What is offensive and hurtful to some people is harmless to others.

  • Any form of bullying should not be tolerated. The person being bullied still suffers even if it is not physical in nature. People don't seem to realize that someone can have emotional scars and those can take a long time to heal

  • Well, the verbal part is just all part of social interactions. And what's supposed to constitute verbal bullying? I mean, if there's a person you don't like who annoys you, and you call him or her a bad name, is that bullying? Or is that just part of life? Whereas with the physical bullying, it's easy to recognize whether or not it's bullying, and easy to control and enforce rules against any violence. With verbal bullying, though, it gets more complicated deciding whether or not something is bullying, and extremely difficult to detect and then deal with it appropriately.

    Back to the social interactions thing. Students should have friends to keep them stable. Even if a student is bullied verbally, if they have friends, they shouldn't be too "psychologically damaged". They won't think that nobody likes them or anything, and they should be confident enough in themselves to be able to deal with the bullying well. But if a teacher notices that someone's having a lot of trouble with their life, and doesn't seem to have many friends, if any, then it might be very important to intervene and make sure that they're doing okay and staying happy and stress-free. In that case, this verbal bullying should be limited as much as possible.

    Neither poll option really works for me since my answer is somewhere in between. Administration shouldn't stay out of the way when it comes to verbal bullying, but there shouldn't be severe punishments for verbal bullying unless it's a really serious case.

  • Because teachers have no idea what actually happens in their schools nor do they have a clue at the effects verbal abuse has on children. Children can be the most cruel thing in the world if given half a reason to, especially to other children. The fact that no teacher or faculty member does d*** about it only tells them that what they're doing is OK. All this does is create a never ending spiral for bully victims. Until school systems and parents wake up, the problem will never end.

  • Because it's nearly impossible to make a rule that says "you can't say this or you can't say that"

    It's the same reason hate speak laws don't work.

    I personally don't think verbal bullying should be against the rules. It's a free speech thing.

    I also agree with handsome jack. Sending your kid to public school doesn't doom him or her, But you have to be VERY careful and VERY supportive and protective.

    I was homeschooled until sophomore year of high school. And here's what I can say about public school

    1) the standards suck: I was assigned COLORING PAGES. FREAKIN COLORING IN HIGH SCHOOL. Now maybe most kids are only smart enough to handle coloring. But for me it was Hell. Me, a kid that derived algebra equations at 10 years old. It was just like a prison

    2) Schools put kids in an unnatural position where the pecking order is decided COMPLETELY by age. And as I'm sure you know. Nobody NOBODY socializes only with people that are their exact same age.

    3) The whole "School is to teach socialization" is bull crap. First High School especially is nothing like real life so you aren't learning applicable skills. Here's what I learned in High School from the actual school, not from my continuing homeschool studies.

    People suck. There are people who spend their entire lives coming up with new ways to screw you. And no matter what you do, someday you're going to end up getting Shived in the back, and it' won't be your enemy that does it. It will be your best friend.

    Bullying is a natural response to an unnatural toxic situation. The school system Breeds bullying and then dithers about why it's there.

    If the public school system must remain intact, I think they should add a "Fighting Ring," If you've got a problem with someone you both agree with the Principle to settle your differences in the octagon. Any other fighting is strictly prohibited. And if you win the other person has to leave you alone.

    (That's mainly a joke. But for me in High School a system like that would have been a life saver. Mainly because I could beat anyone in a fight. So the "bullies" would ambush me in groups.)

    I was diciplend as a bully many times, because I would stand up for myself and kick the sh*t out of people that tried to mock me. But I knew that would happen so it made me feel noble, and It won me some really great friends. (the people that were impressed and thankful when they realized I would stand up for them. Even faster than I would for myself)

  • Serious fights have lasting effects (I. e bloody noses, bruises on face or throat, swollen parts, etc) and tend to draw more attention then verbal abuse.

  • Bullying is bullying, and you forgot to mention psychological, which was what I faced.

  • verbal abuse kills indirectly

    i think that is the reason why the kid link did what he did

  • Bullying itself is a symptom of a much greater problem, and that is the institutionalization of young people by forcing them into public schools (private schools too).

    Schools are tight artificial communities where people from all backgrounds are forced to be around each other 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week. If most of these people could choose, they would have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

    "But what about the workplace? Isn't that basically the same thing?" No. School students don't get paychecks. Besides the law, there is no immediate incentive to be in school.

    The solution? I'm not saying bring the whole school system down, I'm saying give them a choice. If they hate school, let them leave. Let them home school. Let them go to trade school. Let them WORK.

    "But school is also about character building." There is no greater test of character than being 100 percent responsible for your own livelihood. School is just a buffer against the real world.

    "Kids need somewhere to go everyday to stop them roaming the streets wreaking havoc." Remember the London riots? If kids want to cause trouble, they can do that now. So don't tempt them :)

  • Don,

    We need a system that allows students and really anyone at work/school to file a complaint anonymously. In certain cases if there is harassment the person who did it should be fined.

    The type of harassment that goes on at schools would not be tolerated at any workplace. The employee's would be fired.

    Outfit schools with camera's in the hallways, allow for a anonymous reporting system, with enough complaints a student should be expelled.

    Imagine if you got beat up by someone at work...what would happen? You'd call the police, file a report (possibly ending in that person getting arrested) and file a lawsuit to sue for any damages. You could also file a lawsuit because the employer failed to protect, you...

    it is the schools job to keep the kids safe, they need to hire private security to make sure kids aren't fighting each other

  • Bullying is for the weak, I spit on chumps of the fist


  • Because hurting someones feelings or calling people names isn't against the law. If it is all of us would be in jail at one point or another in our lives. But hurting someone physically is. The reason why its swept under the rug is bullying isn't new. Its been around for hundreds of years as long as schools have. Its only in recent decades when kids have started brining guns to school.

  • Because you can't sanction a student just because he allegedly said something to someone

  • I think it's very hard to stop bullying. It could happen in school, out of school, online, and often not under supervision. It's hard to prove and hard to stop even if you knew it was going on. I think usually the victim is bullied by more than one person, which makes it even harder. A better idea is to focus on more teamwork, self-esteem, leadership programs that help students fend for themselves as well as encourage them to seek help when needed. The only time authority should step in is in more extreme cases. Too much regulation here and there on this and that will make the world less and less "free".

    • Just because we have freedom of speech does not mean we are entitled to say whatever we want to the point of hurting other people. With no regulations in place or limited regulation it will never put a stop to it because these people will never be held accountable

  • discrimination against autistic people. they should allow physical retaliation