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Bullying in teaching

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School teachers are commonly the instigators of bullying within a school environment, and are often the subject of bullying themselves.


While teacher bullying is recognized as serious and harmful, there are no statistics on either teachers bullying others or teachers being bullied.[1] However, according to an article, a high percentage of teachers admit that they bully their students.[2]

Comprehensive research carried out in the UK found that teaching was one of the occupations at highest risk from bullying:[3]

  • 15.5% of teachers stating they were currently being bullied
  • 35.4% saying they had been bullied over the last five years.

In another survey, the Economic and Social Research Institute found bullying to be more prevalent in schools (13.8%) than other workplaces (7.9%).[4]

Students with learning disabilities may be especially at risk for teacher bullying.[5]

Complex dynamics[edit]

There are complex issues with reporting bullying by teachers, not only for children, but also parents. By means of their position of power over the child, power that enables them to impact the child's present and future,[6] children and parents are reluctant to report.[7] There are specific signs that parents should watch for as their child is unlikely to disclose that the teacher is in fact the bully.[8]

Furthermore, a teacher who bullies may present as a Jekyll and Hyde figure: they are often celebrated and popular so their abuse can go on for long periods of time undetected.[9] Research on teachers in classrooms is lacking and it is unclear how much these activities go undetected or rewarded by teachers in the classroom. For coaches teaching a sport, it can be seen that adults are often rewarded for bullying conduct that would never be tolerated or condoned if done by a child.[10]

Parsons identifies teacher bullying as often being part of a wider bullying culture within a school, with a complex web of dynamics such as:[11]

  • Teachers may be bullied by: other teachers, students,[12] office staff, principals,[13] school governors or parents
  • Teachers may bully: other teachers, students[14] or parents
  • Bullying teachers may themselves get bullied by others in turn

Staffroom bullying[edit]

A common manifestation of teacher bullying is staffroom bullying where teachers are bullied by other teachers or school managers.[4][15][16][17][18][19]


In investigating teacher bullying, it is important to differentiate a teacher or coach who is demanding versus one who is demeaning. So "yelling" for instance can be highly productive and motivating, but if it involves belittling and is laced with putdowns, personal attacks, and insults, it becomes abusive.[20] Bullying by teachers can take many forms in order to harass and intimidate including:[21]

  • Swearing, or yelling, especially in close proximity to the child
  • Using homophobic, sexist,[22] racial slurs, or direct personal attacks, comments targeting a child's disability or difference
  • Humiliating
  • Berating
  • Ignoring or shunning
  • Throwing objects
  • Raging
  • Expressing disgust at the child through gestures or facial expressions
  • Muttering obscenities so only the targeted child or children hear
  • Hypocrisy (ex: telling a student not to say "well" despite using the same word while communicating)
  • Physical assault

Bullying of teachers can take many forms in order to harass and intimidate including:[23]

Bullies often exploit positions of seniority over the colleagues they are intimidating (see rankism) by:[23]

In some cases, teachers are ignored and isolated by colleagues in the staffroom or turned down for promotion or training courses (see silent treatment).[23] Other times, teachers are ostracized as whistleblowers when they report to administrators on students' reports of bullying being done by their colleagues.[24]


The power imbalance of teacher to student is greater than peer to peer and may well intensify the impact. The possible impacts on a child of bullying by teachers include:

Notable incidents[edit]

In April 2012, Stuart Chaifetz, a father of an autistic boy, released a video on YouTube[26] providing evidence that his son was allegedly the subject of emotional abuse at the hands of his teacher and aide at Horace Mann Elementary School, in the Cherry Hill Public Schools district.[27] The evidence was secured when Chaifetz wired his son with a microphone before sending him to school. When he listened to the audio recording, according to one news report, "Chaifetz says he caught his son's teachers gossiping, talking about alcohol and violently yelling at students. He took the audio to the Cherry Hill School District, where officials fired one of the teachers involved after hearing the tape. Chaifetz's son was relocated to a new school, where Chaifetz says he is doing well."[28][29] However, it appears that students with learning disabilities may be especially at risk for teacher bullying.[5]

In June 2014, Britain proposed the "Cinderella Law" which would put emotional abuse in the Criminal Code.[30]

In popular culture[edit]

Teachers being portrayed as bullies have made into popular culture, along with works with teachers being bullied by other teachers, students, and even the principal.


  • Kids in America, a group of students with help from some teachers tries to stop their bully of a principal from becoming Superintendent, realizing the harm she can cause.
  • The Nutty Professor, The School Bully bullies the Professor.
  • Matilda, based on the novel of the same name, a student with psychokinesis helps her fellow students and a teacher to stop a cruel principal's reign of terror in the school.
  • The Breakfast Club, Principal Vernon is often seen as a bully to the students serving detention.
  • Mr. Woodcock, the film focuses on a man who is outraged that his former gym teacher, who bullied him and his classmates, is about to become his stepfather.
  • A Little Princess, the main character is the target of a corrupt principal at a boarding school.
  • The 400 Blows, Antoine Doinel is tormented by his insensitive teacher Guy Decomble.
  • Whiplash,[citation needed] Andrew Neiman is bullied by his abusive teacher Terence Fletcher.[31]


  • The Harry Potter series features bullying teachers, mainly Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge.
  • British girls' comics often featured bully teachers and principals in serials and regular strips. Examples can be found in Wee Sue, The Girls of Liberty Lodge and The Four Friends at Spartan School, (Tammy), and Hard Times for Helen (Judy). Patsy on the Warpath (June) reversed the trend to show a teacher being bullied by toughs in her class.


  • iCarly: there have been episodes, like "IHave My Principals", where Ms. Francine Briggs and Mr. Howard clearly bully students, including the main characters, one of whom, Sam, is a bully herself. Mr. Devlin and Lauren Ackerman also bullied the students.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Mr. Sweeney, a science teacher, appears to be evil until the third season, where he appears to reform himself to the point of saving his students from Vice Principal Harvey Crubbs, who also bullies the students, mainly the main characters.
  • Glee, Coach Bieste is bullied by staff, including Sue Sylvester and students.
  • Home and Away, Casey Braxton is bullied by Mr Dave Townsend in Summer Bay High.
  • The Simpsons episode, Black Eyed, Please, Lisa is bullied by a jealous substitute teacher, Miss Cantwell.
    • Later in episode Blazed and Confused, Bart is bullied by his cruel and sadistic new teacher, Mr. Jack Lassen, who shaves off the boy's hair in class.
  • Grange Hill (season four, episode four) Christopher Stewart is bullied by P.E. teacher Mr. Hicks, to the point of physical injury.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bullying Teachers". www.bullyingstatistics.org. 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  2. ^ "Teachers Bullying Students". No Bullying: Anti Bullying Help Center. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  3. ^ Hoel, H. & Cooper, C.L. Destructive Conflict and Bullying at Work, Sponsored by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, Manchester School of Management, UMIST (2000)
  4. ^ a b c BULLYING in the staffroom is having a deeply traumatic effect on some teachers and their families, new research reveals. Irish Independent April 14, 2009
  5. ^ a b "Students with Learning Disabilities at Risk for Teacher Bullying". Kids in the House. 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  6. ^ "Teaching Bullies". Ginger Kadlec: BeAKidsHero™. Archived from the original on 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  7. ^ "Why don't kids speak up about bullying?". The Edvocate. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  8. ^ "10 Signs That Your Child's Teacher or Coach May Be a Bully". Healing Walls. 2015-10-26. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  9. ^ PhD, Jennifer Fraser (2015-08-07). "Recognizing the Abusive Coach as Jekyll and Hyde". Teaching Bullies. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  10. ^ "Rewarding Adults Who Bully". Kids in the House. 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  11. ^ a b c Parsons L Bullied Teacher, Bullied Student: How to Recognize the Bullying Culture in Your School and What to Do About It (2005)
  12. ^ Terry, AA (1998). "Teachers as targets of bullying by their pupils : a study to investigate incidence". British Journal of Educational Psychology. 68 (2): 255–268. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8279.1998.tb01288.x.
  13. ^ de Wet C The Reasons for and the Impact of Principal-on-Teacher Bullying on the Victims' Private and Professional Lives - Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, Vol 26 No 7 Pages 1450-1459 Oct 2010
  14. ^ McEvoy A Teachers Who Bully Students: Patterns and Policy Implications - Hamilton Fish Institute’s Persistently Safe Schools Conference, Philadelphia, September 11-14, 2005 Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b c Field T Staffroom bullying The Times Educational Supplement (TES) Magazine 21 June 2002
  16. ^ Strickland S Bullies in the staff room The Independent 23 November 1995
  17. ^ Dean C Call to beat the staffroom bullies Archived 2012-10-03 at the Wayback Machine The Times Educational Supplement (TES) 16 April 2004
  18. ^ Being bullied in the staffroom BBC News 20 November 2006
  19. ^ McCall B Staffroom suffering Education Guardian, 20 November 2006
  20. ^ "Abuse or motivation? I know it when I see it. Do you? By Matt Davidson, Ph.D., President, Institute for Excellence & Ethics (IEE)". Excellence and Ethics (Blog). Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  21. ^ "Preventing Child Maltreatment: a guide to taking action and generating evidence" (PDF). World Health Organization / International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
  22. ^ "The use of homophobic slurs in sports: It's for the athletes' own good, right?". The Edvocate. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  23. ^ a b c Lepkowska D The shocking stories of teacher-on-teacher bullying Archived 2017-06-19 at the Wayback Machine Secondary Education News (SecEd) 11 Nov 2010
  24. ^ Cribb, Robert (2015-04-02). "Jennifer Fraser says she left because of a "hostile, humiliating, poisoned or intolerable work environment," created after she complained her son was being abused by teacher coaches. The school says allegations have no basis". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  25. ^ Munday K The Bullying of Teachers Through the Use of Formal Disciplinary Procedures 2003 Archived June 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Teacher/Bully: How My Son Was Humiliated and Tormented by his Teacher and Aide", Stuart Chaifetz, video at YouTube, posted April 20, 2012
  27. ^ Horace Mann Elementary School website
  28. ^ NJ Father Records Teachers Bullying His Autistic Child, MyFoxPhilly.com
  29. ^ "Verbal abuse of autistic student sparks calls for reform", Jim Walsh and Phil Dunn, Cherry Hill Courier-Post, reprinted at USA Today website, 29 April 2012
  30. ^ "Should Emotional Abuse Be Criminalized?". www.hautlife.com. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  31. ^ PhD, Jennifer Fraser (2015-08-26). "Whiplash: Drum Solo versus Suicide". Teaching Bullies. Retrieved 2015-11-29.

Further reading[edit]


Academic papers

External links[edit]