"The Effects of Bullying Among Middle School Gifted and Talented Children"


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PAPER - An Independent Learning Project presented by Helen Tsipliareles-Pryor to
James J. Smith, Ed.D. Faculty Advisor in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Education in the field of School Administration - Cambridge College Cambridge, MA Chesapeake, VA Campus January 2011

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"The Effects of Bullying Among Middle School Gifted and Talented Children"

  1. 1. Gifted Children and Bullying 1 CHAPTER IINTRODUCTION
  2. 2. Gifted Children and Bullying 2 Chapter I “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no ones definition of your life, but define yourself” (page 6). Harvey S. Firestone (2001)Introduction The link between bullying and school violence has drawn increased attention ever sincethe Columbine High School massacre which occurred on Tuesday, April 20, 1999. This massacreat the Jefferson County, Colorado high school left twelve students and one teacher dead, withtwenty-one other students injured directly, and three more injured while trying to escape. Thetwo gun-wielding high school seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were both identified asgifted and were bullied for most of their formative years due to this identification of academicsuccess. An analysis by officials of the U.S. Secret Service found that “this bullying caused thepremeditated shooting, ending with Harris and Klebold committing suicide following the directact” (Newman, et al. 2004, p. 380). Gifted children who are bullied and tormented often turn their rage on others, and insome situations, they suffer silently and turn the despair inwards. In 2002, J. Daniel Scruggs wasa slight-built twelve-year-old boy with an IQ of 139 and attended Washington Middle School inMeriden, Connecticut where he excelled in their gifted program, particularly in science andmathematics. However, Scruggs was a lonely kid who was tormented at school because he oftenwore mismatched clothes, acted ‘nerdy’ and was told that he smelled by his classmates. Veryoften during the course of his school day, Scruggs was hit, punched, kicked, spit on and laughedat, and ‘Kick Me’ signs were often affixed to his back; he had been thrown down a flight of stairsseveral times, and sometimes made to eat his lunch off the cafeteria floor. Many of the teachers
  3. 3. Gifted Children and Bullying 3and administrators were aware of the abuse but failed to intervene because they felt this wasnormal middle school behavior amongst peers, in essence “innocent rights of passage”(McIntosh, 2006, p. 4). On January 2, 2002, Scruggs walked into his bedroom closet and hunghimself.Statement of the Problem All children are vulnerable to the effects of bullying, but gifted children differ from otherchildren in several significant ways. Most gifted children are already very intense and anxious, aswell as highly sensitive due to their own and others’ high expectations of them. Gifted childrenconsider social justice issues very important to them, and “with their own hyper-sensitivity toself-criticism and perfectionalism, they struggle to make sense of this cruelty and aggression;many times blaming themselves and withdrawing socially in order to hide from bullies” (Clark,2008, p. 151). These gifted and talented children are “more susceptible to the severe emotionaldamage that bullying can inflict” (Bosworth, 2009, p. 342). Take into consideration that giftedstudents “tend to strive towards perfectionalism and consider their lives less fulfilling without thepursuit of high goals, some impossibly high” (Lumsden, 2002, p. 346). Due to these tendencies,“gifted students possess a multitude of behaviors ranging from healthy to dysfunctional”(Lumsden, 2002, p. 346). Attributes of ‘healthy’ behavior among gifted children include “an intense need for orderand organization, time-management skills, self-acceptance of mistakes and efficiency incorrecting, meeting high parental expectations, and great pleasure in achievement” (Bosworth,2009, p. 343). “They have a use of positive coping strategies within a structured gifted climateand they view personal efforts as an important part of success and happiness” (Clark, 2008, p.187-188).
  4. 4. Gifted Children and Bullying 4 Attributes of ‘dysfunctional’ behavior among gifted children consist of “anxiety aboutmaking errors, extremely high standards for oneself which are sometimes unachievable, andperceived excessive expectations and criticism from others” (Clark, 2008, p. 188). This causesthe “questioning of one’s own judgment, the lack of effective coping strategies, and the need forconstant approval and acceptance” (Clark, 2008, p. 189). Bullying children within the gifted andtalented population is “an overlooked problem that leaves many of these students emotionallyshattered, which creates additional issues such as extreme depression and anxiety that maymanifest itself into violence or suicide” (Romain, 1997, p. 16).Research Method and Questions Researchers have been actively seeking answers to many commonly asked questionsinvolving adolescent bullying and victimization; however, “posttraumatic stress and dissociationare limited areas of study in relationship to bullying, particularly among gifted children” (Rigby,2003, p. 16). The Reynolds Bully Victimization Scale for Schools (BVS) is designed to assess bullyingbehavior and bully-victimization experiences in children and adolescents. This assessment isused to identify students who are bullied as well as those who are doing the bullying. Measuredthrough the Reynolds Bully Victimization Distress Scale (BVDS), the scale “evaluatesinternalized symptoms such as depression, anxiety and fear, as well as externalized symptomssuch as anger, acting-out, and defiance” (Reynolds, 2009, p. 8). The BVS and BVDS are the most commonly used standardized instruments to form acomprehensive picture of a child’s experience of peer-related threat, level of distress, and anxietyrelated to school safety. These benchmarks are used to identify a child in need of intervention, orfor identifying what students perceive as a threatening or unsafe aspect of their school
  5. 5. Gifted Children and Bullying 5environment. The limitations of both the BVS and the BVDS are that neither is specific to theneeds of gifted children. Therefore, “an interdisciplinary approach for assessment has beenformulated to assess the wide scale psychological impacts associated with bullying to includeintrapersonal and interpersonal difficulties associated specifically to gifted children” (Reynolds,2009, p. 3). In order to understand the research methods for this study, take an opportunity to reviewthe categories of questions which will be presented in order to formulate the data regarding thebullying of gifted and talented children in the middle school environment. Category Onequestions will pertain to how safe gifted and talented students feel about bullying. Questions willinclude how safe do they feel in their general and elective classrooms, as opposed to their giftedclassrooms; as well as areas such as the gymnasium and athletic fields, cafeteria, and hallways.These questions will extend the safety issue out to walking to and from school, as well as takingthe school bus with all the other students of the school. Category Two will allow them to discusshow others treat them, with questions such as how often do other students bully them by layingtheir hands on them, including incidents of hitting, kicking, pushing, or hurting their bodyotherwise. Questions will ask how often do other students bully them by saying mean things tothem, things which hurt their feelings, how often do other students bully them by spreading meanrumors about them, and how often do other students bully them by leaving them out of theiractivities. Further insight will be acquired by asking in what grade is the student or studentswhich bully them, and have they ever told or asked for help when being bullied. Category Three will question what they have seen or heard, such as how oftenthey have seen another student bully others by laying their hands on them or by saying meanthings to them, things which hurt their feelings. Also, how often have they seen another student
  6. 6. Gifted Children and Bullying 6bully others by spreading mean rumors about them, and how often have they seen anotherstudent bully others by leaving them out of their activities. Category Four questions will ask howthey reacted, such as what have they done when they have seen a student being hit, kicked,pushed, punched or otherwise physically hurt in school or on the school bus; and if they helped astudent in a bully situation, what was the outcome, and whether it was positive or negative.Category Five pertains specifically to gangs due to the demographics of the subjects, such as dothey know of students in their school who are members of a gang, or are wanna-be’s of a gang;and exactly how much of a problem do they think gangs are in their school. Category Six willcomplete the questionnaire with an essay question asking how much of a problem do they thinkbullying is in their school. Participants will be asked to give some examples and specificsituations, and no names are to be included.Rationale for the Study The significance of this study is not to review bullying in gifted and talented childrenversus common classroom children; however, it is to study the prevalence and impact thatbullying has on gifted and talented children specifically. The most common type of bullyingduring the middle school years is “name-calling, teasing about appearance, pushing and shoving,and insults regarding their intelligence and grades” (Smith, et al. 2008, p. 3). Regular childrenget bullied too but gifted children are most often bullied based on their school performance,which “turns their strength into a weakness and a source of shame” (Smith, et al. 2008, p. 7).Certain challenges due to emotional immaturity come automatically with exceptional intellectualabilities, therefore, gifted children are extremely sensitive to bullying. Take into consideration the general traits exhibited within the gifted community, such aswhat gifted children say. Statements such as “If I can’t do it perfectly, what’s the point? I should
  7. 7. Gifted Children and Bullying 7excel at everything I do. The task should be done before anything else and every detail should beperfect” (Clark, 2008, p. 57). These statements manifest themselves into more intense anddepressed reactions, such as “I’d better not make a mistake or people will think I’m stupid.Everything should be clearly black or white. Gray is a sign of confused thinking” (Clark, 2008,p. 57-58). Also, take into consideration other general traits exhibited within the giftedcommunity, such as what gifted children think and feel. Mostly they are “deeply embarrassedabout mistakes that they make and disgusted with themselves when criticized, anxious whenstating an opinion rather than a fact and afraid of rejection, and afraid of appearing incompetentor stupid” (Clark, 2008, p. 59). Therefore, plagued by self-hate when feeling guilty about lettingothers down, these attributes lead to them being “discouraged, anxious and exhausted due tobeing unable to ever relax, and stressed when their routine is interrupted” (Clark, 2008, p. 59). In essence, they are accustomed to easy success and praised for work requiring modesteffort, and they often do not develop a work ethic or learn to meet a challenge. When thesechildren grow up, they seek applause constantly without knowing how to get it. Children held toimpossibly high standards and deprived of praise may get “caught in a cycle of hopeless,misdirected perfectionism, trying to please parents, teachers, or bosses who never can besatisfied” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p.14). “The words that are put on them when they’re young arelikely to stay with them the rest of their lives” (McIntosh, 2006, p. 5). It is important toremember that although gifted children are cognitively advanced, the same cannot be said ofthem physically, socially and emotionally. In actuality, their emotional maturity is even lessdeveloped due to their excelled anxieties and stress-levels. Teachers, administrators, parents, andeven counselors usually miss the indicators of stress; and “the lack of opportunity for giftedstudents to discuss these social and emotional issues contributes to their vulnerability to bullying
  8. 8. Gifted Children and Bullying 8(McIntosh, 2006, p. 5). Bullying creates a sense of fear that disrupts the learning environment, and we mustactively address the impact of bullies on school climate and academic success of students.Administration, educators, parents, coaches and even trained counselors may miss the indicatorsof their distress, and the lack of these opportunities for gifted students to discuss concerns relatedto social and emotional development potentially contributes to vulnerability A student that hasbullied can have far-reaching effects in a school and “create a climate of fear and intimidationnot only in his or her victims, but in fellow students” as well; therefore, students who bully, theirvictims and bystanders are all affected (Milsom, et al. 2006, p. 38). Bullying sets a tenseenvironment in a school and as addressed earlier, can lead to violence towards others or suicideby the victims. Although freedom from the fear and shame of bullying does not necessarilyensure academic success for all students, it is indeed “a necessary condition to promote effectivelearning in a positive classroom culture” (Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 363).Anticipated Outcome Once scores and summaries have been created, this study intends to reflect differentapproaches to bullying issues among the gifted and talented population of middle schoolchildren, providing information intended for positive intervention programs. Approaches willinclude “the responsibility to the victim by assisting in developing the skills and capacity toresist bullying,” and intervention techniques to deter it from occurring or re-occurring (Reynolds,2009, p. 12). Administrators, teachers, counselors, and school personnel have a responsibility tothe bullies as well, to treat them with consequences and a firm manner in order to deter theirbehavior. Providing these problem solving skills to school staff and administrators, they wouldhave the tools required to “reach constructive outcomes and develop programs to support
  9. 9. Gifted Children and Bullying 9emotional and social rehabilitation for the bully and the victim” (Reynolds, 2009, p. 12). Being bullied has already been “recognized as a health problem for children because oftheir association and adjustment problems in adolescence, and leads to poor mental health andeven violent and suicidal tendencies” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p. 77). It is therefore important toassess how these children are affected, reflect on the outcome of this study and those within theliterature review, and create pro-active programs and classroom environments to nurture thespecific needs for these gifted and talented children, considering that their needs have shown tobe more pronounced and profound.Definition of Terms Gifted and Talented Gifted and talented students are those who give “evidence of high achievement capabilityin such areas as intellectual, creative or artistic, or in specific academic fields; and who needservices or activities provided on the gifted and talented curriculum in order to fully developthose capabilities” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p. 19). Children capable of high performance includethose with demonstrated achievement or potential ability in any of the following areas, including“general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking,leadership ability, visual and performing arts, and psychomotor ability” (Milsom, et al. 2006, p.37). Bullying When using the term bullying, it is used to describe a child being “teased, terrorized orsystematically victimized by his or her peers” (Burrill, 2006, p. 85). Further descriptions includethe concept that there is a difference in power between peers in this bullying dynamic in which“one imposes negative consequences towards another individual” (Burrill, 2006, p. 87). Bullying
  10. 10. Gifted Children and Bullying 10has also often been defined as “a behavior that occurs repeatedly over time as well as behaviorthat can occur as an isolated incident” (Juvonen, et al.2003, p. 1233). For the purposes of thisstudy, bullying will refer to “one or more perpetrators, directly or indirectly; and attacking avictim or a group of victims, one time only or repeatedly over time” (McIntosh, 2006, p. 4). Organization of the Study This study has been organized within five chapters. Chapter 1 includes an introduction tothe study, statement of the problem, the research method and questions, the rationale for thestudy, the anticipated outcome, the definitions of terms, and the organization of the study.Chapter 2 is comprised of a literature review, dealing with studies previously done on the effectsof bullying on gifted and talented middle school children; as well as the instruments of measureused to conduct these studies. Chapter 3 provides an introduction to the methodology of thestudy, as well as the purpose of the study, and research questions. Within the methodologysection are also descriptions of the setting, participants, measures, instruments, and procedureused for the study, as well as the rationale for the study. Chapter 4 includes the purpose of thestudy and the research questions implemented, as well as the presentation of the data and results.Chapter 5 concludes this study with the findings and a summary of the findings, the implicationsof the study, and recommendations for further studies.
  11. 11. Gifted Children and Bullying 11 CHAPTER IILITERATURE REVIEW
  12. 12. Gifted Children and Bullying 12 Chapter II “We are not all the same, we do not all have the same kinds of minds; education works most effectively for most individuals if these differences are taken into account rather than denied or ignored” (p. 36). H. Gardner (1995)Introduction Research began in the early 1970’s in the areas of bullying and victimization, andresearchers have been actively seeking answers to many commonly asked questions such as“which children bully, who are the targeted victims, where does it happen, why does it happen,how can we prevent it, how can we identify it, what causes it, what are the effects, and is itgetting worse?” (Peterson, 2004, p. 135). Existing literature agrees that bullying is “a complexprocess that involves multiple facets on many levels” and studies conducted over the last 40years provide evidence that there is some consistency pertaining to certain patterns and trends(Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 341). This literature review will provide an overall perspective on theeffects of bullying on middle school gifted and talented children, including what constitutes agifted and talented child, as well as the definition of bullying, bullying and school climate,psychiatric and psychological factors, meeting the social and emotional needs of bullies and theirvictims, bullying intervention, and bully victimization instruments of measure.Defining Giftedness and Talent In order to fully understand the effects of bullying on gifted and talented children, it ismost important to be able to identify these children first. Through this identification process andunderstanding of their unique makeup, we can further delve into why bullying impacts themdifferently than the children in the common or traditional classroom settings or school
  13. 13. Gifted Children and Bullying 13environments. Gifted children are those considered by educational systems to have significantlyhigher than normal levels of one or more forms of intelligence. During the 20th century, thesechildren were often classified by the use of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests but recentdevelopments in theories of intelligence have thrown doubt on the use of such tests exclusively.The fact remains that “these students are beyond their peers and often feel they are alienated orlimited by those around them,” including but not limited to teachers, coaches, and administrators(Bradshaw, et al. 2007, p. 362). Many schools in the United States now attempt to sort out thesestudents, and offer additional or specialized education and counseling in the hopes of nurturingtheir giftedness and their talents. Gifted and talented children are capable of high performance, and include those childrenwhich demonstrate achievement or potential in such categories as general intellectual ability,specific academic aptitude, and creative or productive thinking. Over the years, these categorieshave been expanded to include leadership ability, psychomotor skills, and visual and performingarts. Using these categories, “a school system could expect to identify 10%-15% of its studentpopulation as gifted or talented” (Clark, 2008, p. 28). Understanding each of these categoriesallows for a better understanding of giftedness as a concept more meaningfully with parents,administrators, school board members, gifted advisory committees, researchers, and anyone whoneeds to understand the dynamics of the term.Identification of Gifted and Talented Children The process of identifying students for gifted and talented programs must be based onmeasurable practices, and in recent years there has been a focus on identifying those students thatare typically under-represented. This includes “culturally and linguistically diverse and low-income students, and the use of alternative assessments such as verbal ability tests and creativity
  14. 14. Gifted Children and Bullying 14profiles” (Lane, et al. 2006, p. 391). The assessments referenced below are aimed to be inclusiveof students from different cultures, races, and economic circumstances. In addition, the use ofmultiple assessments in the identification process is done not only to identify those students thatare in need of instruction beyond the regular curriculum, but also “those students who display thepotential for high-level learning beyond their current accessibility” (Lane, et al. 2006, p. 394). General intellectual ability or talent is usually defined in terms of “a highintelligence test score or a series of test scores, and in which the student has measured twostandard deviations above the mean” (Reynolds, 2009, p. 2). These children are often recognizedby their “wide-ranging knowledge of general information as well as high levels of vocabulary,abstract word knowledge, abstract reasoning, and memory” (Schuler, 2002, p. 3). Additionally,they tend to have longer attention spans, they understand directions and complete tasksindependently as well as do more than is expected on an assignment, and they use complex,normally compound sentences. Since they grasp new concepts quite easily, they ask probingquestions and apply information to formulate solutions. Specific academic aptitude or talentapplies to students identified by their outstanding performance on an achievement or aptitude testin one particular area such as language arts, mathematics, science, history or social studies, orforeign language. In their particular area, they are self-motivated and risk-takers, and able torecognize relationships between concepts and comprehend their meanings. Furthermore, they“analyze and reason out complicated theories and apply their knowledge to reason things out”(Schuler, 2002, p. 3). These students “normally score on the 97th percentile or higher on standardachievement tests” such as the Virginia Standards of Learning, and later on higher educationtests such as the PSAT and the SAT (Reynolds, 2009, p. 3). Creative and productive thinking is “the ability to produce new
  15. 15. Gifted Children and Bullying 15ideas by bringing together elements usually thought of as independent or dissimilar, and theaptitude for developing new meanings that have real-life relevance and social conscious value”(Piechowski, 1999, p. 218). Characteristics of creative and productive students include“openness to experience, setting personal standards for evaluation, ability to play with ideas,willingness to take risks, preference for complexity, tolerance for ambiguity, positive self-image,and the ability to become submerged in a task” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 218). Creative andproductive students are identified through the use of tests such as the Torrance Test of CreativeThinking (TTCT) or through demonstrated creative performance. Recently, the Minnesota Testsof Creative Thinking (MTCT) have been used in order to assess verbal and nonverbal tasks, anduses techniques outside the norm to scale these tasks such as taking common problems andapplying an impossibilities task, or develop a just-suppose theory. Gifted students with talent inthe arts demonstrate special aptitude in visual arts, music, dance, drama, or other related studies.These students can be assessed and identified by using task descriptions such as the CreativeProducts Scales (CPS). Indicators of these tests include the inclusive assessment of particularcognitive abilities as well as “problem-solving skills, perseverance, and high levels ofmotivation” (Cukierkorn, 2008, p. 27). Leadership ability is identified as the ability to direct individuals or groups to a commondecision or action, and students “who demonstrate giftedness in leadership ability use groupskills and negotiation techniques in difficult or controversial situations” (Polgar, 2007, p. 78).These skills are normally recognized through “a student’s keen interest in problem solving, andsome of the characteristics include self-confidence, responsibility, cooperation, a tendency todominate, and the ability to adapt readily to new situations” (Polgar, 2007, p. 78). These studentscan normally be identified through using instruments such as the Fundamental Interpersonal
  16. 16. Gifted Children and Bullying 16Relations Orientation Behavior Assessment (FIRO-B). Psychomotor ability involves kinesthetic motor skills such as practical, spatial,mechanical, and physical skills; however, it is seldom used as a criterion in acceptance into agifted program. Updated criterion now includes classroom observations of students’ behaviors,collected by the use of Gifted Rating Scales (GRS) designed to assess “student characteristicsand behaviors, and student interviews provide useful supplemental data” (Lane, 2006, p. 418).Teachers and administrators use GRS in the identification process because they are “based on amultidimensional model of giftedness” (Pfeiffer, 2006, p. 107). The levels of achievementpossible for each demonstration or performance are defined by the use of rubrics. Rubrics areoften developed within these scales with the quality of achievement defined, and “rated from 1 to6, with 6 being high, and there can be as few as three levels of achievement: minimum,competent, and exemplary” (Koth, et al. 2008, p. 101). When these rubrics are developed, thereis an understanding of the expectations and quality of the demonstration or performance thatmust be met for each level of evaluation. This knowledge of expectations and quality allows fora fair and meaningful evaluation, and “observing the various levels of proficiency provides betterinformation on the strengths and weaknesses of the student” (Koth, et al. 2008, p. 101). These gifted and talented children are not only different from the general adolescentpopulation, but they are different among themselves in personality types, usually measured bythe Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Personality dimensions have also shown to beassociated with academic achievement, intelligence, and talent development; and normally fallinto two categories, attitude-related types and function-related types. Using the indicator scales,these children exhibit either extraversion or introversion traits. The extraverted types normallydevelop “a strong awareness of their environment and have a strong propensity to influence
  17. 17. Gifted Children and Bullying 17others, but are highly unlikely to be influenced by others” (Sak, 2004, p. 72). These childrenusually seem “confident, accessible, and expansive in their manner” but harbor a need foracceptance and praise” (Sak, 2004, p. 72). Introverts, on the contrary, are somewhat “moreindependent and idea-oriented than extraverts, as they usually get their excitement from the innerworld” (Sak, 2004, p. 73). They may sometimes seem “lost in thought or inaccessibleemotionally” but they too harbor a need for acceptance and praise (Sak, 2004, p. 73). Using thesetwo dimensions of extraversion and introversion, indicators provide data between two differenttypes of judgment used by gifted children. Feeling types usually “value harmony and humanrelationships, and make decisions subjectively with a consideration of society’s values” (Sak,2004, p. 75). In contrast, thinking types emphasize logic and objectivity in reasoning, and “thispreference suppresses values and uses impersonal feelings in making objective decisions” (Sak,2004, p. 77). Using these categories as a guideline, “gifted and talented children are those identified byprofessionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of highperformance” (Schuler, 2002, p. 4). Gifted and talented children are usually not the first groupthat comes to mind when educators think of diverse populations or differentiated instruction,however, “these students constitute a distinct group of individuals who, as a result of their gifts,share common experiences and have unique needs” (Shepard, 2008, p. 11). In accordance withthese unique needs, many gifted programs have developed their own multidimensional screeningprocesses, such as the one referenced below. These are the children who require differentiatededucational programs and counseling services beyond those normally provided by the regularschool program in order to realize their contribution to self and society.
  18. 18. Gifted Children and Bullying 18Table 1: Multidimensional Screening ProcessStep One: 1. Nominations - teacher, principal, counselor, parents, peer, self 2. Teacher report on student functioning 3. Family history and student background 4. Peer identification 5. Student inventory of works, achievements, and interests 6. Variety of testsStep Two: Development of Profile (done by Coordinator)Step Three: Coordinator decision to refer to committee and parental consent to referStep Four: Development of Case Study (Coordinator) 1. Screening data 2. Parent interviews 3. Test protocols a. Individual intelligence b. Content area c. Creativity (tests)Step Five: Committee meeting for consideration Committee decision to identify and place in appropriate program Parental decision to placeStep Six: Placement in Gifted ProgramStep Seven: Assessment for Individual Educational Plan (IEP) 1. Case study material 2. Functional assessmentStep Eight: Assessment of Appropriate Educational Program and IEP PlanGrowing Up Gifted: Part II: Educating the Gifted Student, Chapter 6: Assessment andIdentification of Gifted Students, by B. Clark, Columbus: Pearson Publishing, Seventh Edition,Copyright 2008, p. 203.
  19. 19. Gifted Children and Bullying 19Mental Self-Management and Multiple Intelligences Robert Sternberg (1982) had suggested that giftedness is a type of mental-selfmanagement, and “the mental management of one’s life in a constructive, purposeful waynormally possesses three basic elements which include adapting to environments, selecting newenvironments, and shaping new environments” (Clark, 2008, p. 66). According to Sternberg, “thekey psychological basis of intellectual giftedness resides in insight skills that include separatingrelevant information from irrelevant, combining isolated pieces of information into a unifiedwhole, and relating newly acquired information to information acquired in the past, as well asactivating prior knowledge” (Clark, 2008, p. 67). Sternberg emphasized problem-solving abilitiesand viewed the gifted student as one who processes information rapidly and uses insight abilities.Researchers continue to challenge the traditional definitions of intelligence, and Sternbergdeveloped the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence which suggests there are actually threedimensions to intelligence, thus three components to consider when testing for giftedness.Compotential intelligence consists of mental mechanisms for processing information,experiential intelligence involves dealing with new tasks or situations, and the ability to usemental processes automatically, and contextual intelligence as the ability to adapt to, select, andshape the environment (Clark, 2008, p. 37-38). Howard Gardner (1983) suggested a concept of multiple intelligences, stating that thereare “several ways of viewing the world including linguistic, logical or mathematical, musical,bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence” (Gagne, et al. 2003, p. 69).Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is more widely known among educators because itreflects what teachers already know, which is there are many different ways of being smart.Gardner developed his theory by combining studies of the brain with research on the contextual
  20. 20. Gifted Children and Bullying 20aspects of intelligence. He believed that “only if we expand and reformulate our view of whatcounts as human intellect, we will be able to devise more appropriate ways of assessing it andmore effective ways of educating it” (Clark, 2008, p. 37). These processes resulted in three typesof giftedness, according to Gardner, and modified the concept of intelligence. The first type ofgiftedness being analytic giftedness, which is “the academic type of reasoning, measured byintelligence tests” (Clark, 2008, p. 38). The second type as synthetic giftedness, which refers tocreative and intuitive thinking; and the third as practical giftedness, which is “the ability to applyanalytical and synthetic abilities to everyday problems and issues successfully” (Clark, 2008, p.38). In the process of formulating his original theory, Gardner drew from a wide range of studieson subjects including prodigies, gifted individuals, brain-damaged patients, normal children andadults, and individuals of diverse cultures; and developed the seven steps to optimizing learning.Gardner’s theory addresses many areas that had not previously been seen as a part ofintelligence, and “he brings additional clarity to the critical importance of the interaction of bothgenetics and environment in its development” (Clark, 2008, p. 37).Table 2: The Seven Steps to Optimizing Learning Step 1: Understand brain development as a basis for learning Integrative Standards Step 2: Create a responsive learning environment * Intuitive Step 3: Integrate the intellectual process * Cognitive Step 4: Establish the continuum for learning * Affective Step 5: Assess the students level of mastery * Physical Step 6: Differentiated and individualize teaching and learning * Sensing Step 7: Evaluate teaching and learning, reflect and reformGrowing Up Gifted: Part II: Educating the Gifted Student, Chapter 7: Optimizing Learning:Using Brain Research in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms, by B. Clark, Columbus:Pearson Publishing, Seventh Edition, Copyright 2008, p. 227.
  21. 21. Gifted Children and Bullying 21 Joseph Renzulli (1986) stated that gifted behavior reflects “an interaction among thebasic clusters of human straits which include above-average general or specific abilities, highlevels of task commitment and motivation, and high levels of creativity” (Gagne, et al. 2003, p.71). Gifted and talented children are those who possess or are capable of developing thesecomposite of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance.While a few students will demonstrate these behaviors consistently and across the disciplines,other students may demonstrate them in specific activities and interest areas. Renzulli contendsthat the most effective approach to educating high-ability students is for teachers to choosecontent, instruction, activities, and opportunities according to a student’s learning needs andchallenges. “Higher-order thinking, investigations, innovative learning links, and creativity areall essential teaching techniques in order to empower learners and inspire teachers” (Evans,2008, p. 85). The recent growth of charter schools have become a more promising environmentfor gifted and talented children as well due to their ability to “provide varied instructionalprograms and employ recommended practices, such as acceleration and project-based learning”(Buchanan, et al. 2006, p. 128).Differentiating Between Giftedness and Talent The definitions of giftedness and talent “designate the possession and use of superiornatural abilities, aptitudes or gifts, in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places anindividual at least among the top 10% of his or her peers” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p. 31-32).Francoys Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT) proposes that thereare four aptitude domains, which are intellectual, creative, socioaffective, and sensorimotor.These natural abilities “whose development and level of expression is partially controlled by theindividual’s genetic endowment, can be observed in every task children are confronted with in
  22. 22. Gifted Children and Bullying 22the course of their schooling” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p. 41). The intellectual domain consists offluid reasoning, including inductive and deductive; as well as memory, a keen sense ofobservation, and judgment skills. The creative domain is mostly inventiveness and imagination,with skills in retrieval fluency and problem-solving. Within the socioaffective domain liesperceptiveness, and empathy and tact within the communication skills; with a strength ininfluence due to advanced leadership and persuasion skills. Finally, the sensorimotor domain areadvanced visual, auditory, and olfactory skills, with an aptitude for strength, endurance, andcoordination. The developmental process is dependent on the learning, training, and practice ofthese aptitude domains, and supports Gagne’s theory that “giftedness designates the possessionand use of untrained and spontaneously expressed natural abilities, called aptitudes or gifts, in atleast one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of agepeers” (Delisle, et al. 2002, p. 44). If this model which supports multiple intelligences is applied to educational curriculum,by providing lesson plans and programs “in a way that all students are encouraged to developtheir stronger area, and at the same time educators provide opportunities to enhance the learningprocess in the less strong areas, academic success may be attainable for all children in our schoolsystem” (Delisle, et al. 2002, 45-46). For instance, the intellectual abilities needed to learn toread, speak a foreign language, or understand a new mathematical concept, the creative abilitiesneeded to solve many different kinds of problems and produce original work, or the socialabilities that children use daily with classmates, teachers, administrators, coaches, and parents.Table 3: Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent Catalysts (Positive/Negative Impacts) GIFTEDNESS MOTIVATION TEMPERMENT TALENT
  23. 23. Gifted Children and Bullying 23 Aptitude PERSONALITY Field Domains Domains Intellectual Initiative Adaptability Academics reasoning, verbal, needs, attitude, English, History, spatial, judgment, interests, values, Math, Science, memory perseverance competitiveness, Foreign Language Creative self-esteem Games of Strategy originality, humor, chess, puzzles, video interpretive DEVELOPMENTAL PROCESS Technology Socioaffective Learning - Training - Practicing mechanic, model leadership, empathy, Arts self-awareness ENVIRONMENT PERSONS visual, drama, music Sensorimotor home, school, parents, peers, Social Action strength, endurance, relatives, church teachers, coaches tutoring, politics flexibility UNDERTAKINGS EVENTS Business Others activities, sports, encounters, trips, sales, manufacturing ESP, gift of healing community events vacations Athletics / SportsWhen Gifted Children Don’t Have All The Answers, Chapter 2: Identifying Gifted Children, byJ. Delisle and J. Galbraith, Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., Copyright 2002, p. 45. High aptitudes or gifts can be observed more easily and directly in young childrenbecause “environmental influences and systematic learning have exerted their moderatinginfluence in a limited way only” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 221). However, “they still showthemselves in older children and even in adults through the facility and speed with which
  24. 24. Gifted Children and Bullying 24individuals acquire new skills in any given field of human activity” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 223).The easier or faster the learning process, the greater the natural abilities and achievementsthrough aptitude, and “talents progressively emerge from the transformation of these highaptitudes onto the well-trained and systematically developed skills characteristic of a particularfield of human activity or performance” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 223). These fields can beextremely diverse and given natural ability can express itself in many different ways, dependingon the field of activity preferred and adopted by the individual. For example, manual dexterity asa natural physical ability can be modeled into the particular skills or talents of a painter, a pianist,a jewelry maker, or a video-game designer. Similarly, intelligence as a natural ability can bemodeled into the figurative language of a poet, the scientific reasoning of a chemist, themechanics of an architect, or the strategic planning of an athlete.Defining Intelligence The attempts to define giftedness in one way or another are reliant on intelligence and tobetter understand giftedness, a closer look will be taken on the concept of intelligence.Significant efforts have been made to measure intelligence but since the concept is elusive, testconstructors aim at testing what they feel are typical manifestations of intelligence in behaviors.Often these tests of intelligence create other terms in defining a child, and educators becomeconfused regarding the actual intellectual ability of their students. The term ‘genius’ used to bewidely employed but now is reserved for reference only to the “phenomenally or profoundlygifted person” (Evans, 2008, p. 84). The term ‘talented’ tends to be used when referring to aparticular strength or ability of a person” (Evans, 2008, p. 85). However, thought should be givento whether the talent is truly a gift or is it rather an ability that has become a highly developedskill through practice. Terms such as ‘prodigy’ or ‘precocious’ are more commonly used when a
  25. 25. Gifted Children and Bullying 25child shows a “decidedly advanced degree of skill in a particular endeavor at an early age, aswell as a very disciplined type of motivation” (Evans, 2008, p. 84). ‘Superior’ is a comparative term, meaning that when the term is used, it should be“referenced in accordance to whom or what group is the student superior to and to what degree”(Evans, 2008, p. 84). A child may be “markedly superior to the majority of children in a specificmental ability such as verbal comprehension, and at the same time be equally inferior in anotherspecific mental ability such as psychomotor” (Evans, 2008, p. 84). ‘Rapid learner’ is a helpfulterm in understanding giftedness because it is “a distinct characteristic manifested by theidentified gifted child” and the term ‘exceptional’ is appropriate when referring to the giftedchildren being different in their characteristics of intelligence (Evans, 2008, p. 85). The termwhich is used often in referencing gifted children is ‘elitism,’ which means the choice, best, orsuperior part or class of persons. However, the misunderstanding of this word has given thenegative connotation of implying snobbishness, selectivity, and unfair special attention ortreatment. The fact is that gifted and talented children are elite in the same way someone is arecord champion holder or a leader in their field, and the negative connotations of the word neednot apply since they are not accurate in their definition, thus they are not credible. The levels of giftedness are measured by intelligence tests and although most IQ tests donot have the capacity to discriminate accurately at higher levels, they are able to provide a rangeto distinguish levels of aptitude. “The Stanford-Binet is the only test that has a sufficient ceilingto identify the basic bright child from the profoundly gifted; and teamed with the use of theWechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, they provide the guidelines for the assessment of thegifted population” (Parker, 2008, p. 102). As of 2008, the ranges are as follows: Bright: 115+, or 1 in 6 (84th percentile)
  26. 26. Gifted Children and Bullying 26 Moderately Gifted: 130+, or 1 in 50 (97.9th percentile) Highly Gifted: 145+, or 1 in 1,000 (99.9th percentile) Exceptionally Gifted: 160+, or 1 in 30,000 (pp.997th percentile) Profoundly Gifted: 15+, or 1 in 3 million (99.99997th percentile) David Perkins (1995) synthesized much of the research and theories of intelligence andgrouped them into three strands. Neural intelligence is “rooted in a biological system anddetermined by neural efficiency, which is the brain’s physical process” (Peterson, 2003, p. 66).Experiential intelligence involves know-how or knowledge of typical patterns and situations andas a result, “intelligence is a matter of experience with thinking in particular contexts” (Peterson,2003, p. 66). Reflective intelligence is “based on knowledge of thinking strategies” whichmeans knowing how to think (Peterson, 2003, p. 67). This includes how to monitor one’sthinking and how to persist, and Perkins contends that “not one, but all three strands contribute tointelligence and behavior” (Peterson, 2003, p. 68-69). As the concept of intelligence becomes more multidimensional, the concept of giftednessalso evolves; and if intelligence is not a single quality, there cannot be a single definition ofgiftedness. Schools are becoming more specific about identifying abilities and areas of strengthrather than giving students the generic gifted label. If intelligence is not static and can be learned,then the assumption is that giftedness and talent can be developed. This further supports the needfor the use of multiple assessments in the identification process, as well as the need to be able toidentify the characteristics of gifted students. Therefore, you not only identify those students thatare in need of instruction beyond the regular curriculum, but also “those students who display thepotential for high-level learning beyond their current accessibility” (Lane, 2006, p. 394).Table 4: Characteristics for Helping to Identify Gifted Students
  27. 27. Gifted Children and Bullying 27 Positive Negative Characteristics Characteristics able to generate many ideas FLUENCY many dominate others, may to solutions and problems have difficulty closing task has high tolerance for FLEXIBILITY may be impatient with details ambiguity or restrictions, unproductive able to express ideas in ORIGINALITY may be considered unusual or unique ways, fantasy, fun CREATIVITY silly, may refuse authority interested in a wide variety of CURIOSITY may ignore activities in order things, asks many questions to pursue individual interests has knowledge which is KNOWLEDGE may be intolerant of others, unusually advanced for age, SKILLS may dominate, bored with progress at a more rapid pace routine relates positively to peers and SOCIAL may have difficulty relating adults RELATIONSHIPS to peers and adults persistent, self-motivated and TASK COMMITMENT may have difficulty bringing able to stay on task task to closureAdapted from Challenge: Reading and Teaching The Gifted Child, by Judy Luker, Good ApplePress, www.sengifted.com, Copyright February 2002, Volume 48, p. 21.Special Needs of Gifted Children In order to understand the true meaning of giftedness, it is necessary that we separate theconcept of giftedness from academic or talented achievement. High achievers are those who aremotivated to do well in school, and gifted students may be high achievers or they may be highschool dropouts. They have learning needs that differ from other students, just asdevelopmentally delayed students have different learning needs as well. “When giftedness isseen as the ‘mirror image of retardation,’ it becomes clear that there is a responsibility to meettheir needs, whether or not they are high achievers” (Lind, 2001, p. 4). In the past, the concept of
  28. 28. Gifted Children and Bullying 28giftedness was associated primarily with a high IQ and it was assumed that gifted students wereborn with high intelligence which was identified by their grades and test scores, and werecapable of excelling in all areas of school and life. These assumptions are still prevalent, butthere have been a lot changes due to “cognitive science, developmental psychology, and newunderstandings of how learning takes place” which are influencing the way gifted is defined andhow the special needs are conceptualized (Polgar, 2007, p. 79). Many students who are achieving A’s may be severely underachieving and by the sametoken for gifted children, achieving an A may not be a goal. The real purpose of education is tolearn new information, and students who achieve A’s based on what they have already learnedare gaining daily practice in underachievement. All students have a right to struggle andstruggling is essential to growth, and it means that the student is stretching to attain new power inlearning. “Gifted students actually enjoy struggling to master new material and when notpressured about their grades, they welcome the challenge” (Polgar, 2007, p. 79). Teachers havean enormous impact on the lives of their gifted students, and underachieving students have beensalvaged by one or more teachers who took an interest in them. The investment of time andenergy in differentiating the curriculum for gifted students can inspire them to have higheraspirations, to win scholarships, to choose demanding and fulfilling careers, and to use their giftsfor the betterment of society.Defining Bullying Now that the identification process for gifted and talented children has been presented,we can further explore the research on why bullying impacts these children differently than thechildren in the common or traditional classroom settings or school environments. When using theterm bullying, it is often used to describe a child being “teased, terrorized or systematically
  29. 29. Gifted Children and Bullying 29victimized by his or her peers” (Burrill, 2006, p. 85). Further descriptions include the conceptthat there is a difference in power between peers in this bullying dynamic in which “one imposesnegative consequences towards another individual” (Burrill, 2006, p. 87). Bullying has also oftenbeen defined as “a behavior that occurs repeatedly over time as well as behavior that can occuras an isolated incident” (Juvonen, et al. 2003, p. 1233). Berthold and Hoover (1987) argued thatbullying exists when students are “exposed repeatedly or over time to a negative action on thepart of one or more students” (Berthold, et al. 2008, p. 65). Bullying is invoked when“aggression is directed on purpose to one student by another student that enjoys physical orpsychological power over a victim” (Berthold, et al. 2008, p. 65). Mobbing occurs when “anindividual is bullied collectively by several bullies” and these behaviors range frompsychological abuse to physical altercations (Burrill, 2006, p. 89). Victims tend to worry, dislikethemselves and “desire to stay home from school for the sake of their physical safety” (Berthold,et al. 2008, p. 72). Relational aggression is also considered a form of bullying, which is essentially “non-physical aggression but deeply psychological” (Peterson, et al. 2007, p. 149). This form usespeer and social relationships as the weapon to harm someone, meaning that the bully threatens todestroy a victim’s relationship with the few peers and friends they presently have, thusdestroying their social life. Examples of this type of bullying include spreading rumors, ignoringthe victim completely, and telling others to specifically ignore the victim. Burrill’s study (1990)shows that “relational aggression is more common in girls than in boys, as girls have a tendencyto place a higher value on friendships and social status than boys” (Burrill, 2006, p. 88). Burrillsuggests that “boys are more likely to use physical means of aggression on their victims whichgains them social power, ultimately rewarding them for their negative behavior” (Burrill, 2006,
  30. 30. Gifted Children and Bullying 30p. 89). Bullies are more likely than other students to spend time at home without adultsupervision; they drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, cheat on tests, and bring weapons to school.Bullies also fare poorly as adults, and they are “more likely to receive attention from lawenforcement officials, as well as seek mental health services from early adolescence into theiradulthood” (Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 359). The aggression they exhibit from their childhoodtends to become a lifestyle as they grow older, and “these types of antisocial behavior lead tofailure in school, failure in the work force, and failure in their interpersonal relationships”(Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 360). The primary purpose of the Berthold and Hoover (1987) study was to examine therelationship between bullying and risk factors among 591 fourth through sixth grade students in amid-sized Midwestern town in the U.S. They found that “more than one-third of the respondentsreportedly experienced bullying, while one-fifth reported that they themselves did the bullying”(Berthold, et al. 2008, p. 73). Implications of this study were outlined including various bullyingintervention strategies and suggestions for assessment and therapeutic approaches of addressingthe presence of psychological symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and dissociation. Additionally, technology has brought us a new type of problem called cyberbullying, andthis social cruelty is widespread, growing, and children are often not telling anyone.Cyberbullying can include sending mean or threatening messages or images, pretending to besomeone else to make a person look bad, or sharing private information about another person.Cyberbullying is the sending or posting of harmful or cruel texts or images using the Internet orother digital communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging (IM), text messages ordigital images sent on mobile phones, social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace,web pages, blogs, virtual worlds, chat rooms or discussion groups, and interactive game sites
  31. 31. Gifted Children and Bullying 31such as Xbox. “The biggest problem with this type of bullying is that it can be difficult to trace,can happen at any time, day or night; and the messages can be sent out quickly to a large groupof people” (Kirk, 2009, p. 24). Cyberbullying can be conducted 24 hours a day and 7 days aweek, making the victim a perpetual target at any moment in time. The harassment can beanonymous, and a single message posted online or sent to a mobile phone can be spread andcirculated to a wide audience quickly and efficiently. Hurtful or embarrassing messages orimages can remain online indefinitely to damage the childs reputation, social life andfriendships, and possibly their self-image. Many researchers agree that the duration of bullying, the number of bullies, andthe profile of the victims are all very integral factors in the bullying victimization process. Thereare also different types of bullying dynamics, “such as direct bullying as an open verbal orphysical attack on an individual, and indirect bullying which indicates that much of the bullyingis proactive aggression” (McIntosh, 2006, p. 5). Proactive aggression, as described by McIntosh,is aggressive behavior that usually occurs “without any apparent provocation or threat on the partof the victim” (McIntosh, 2006, p. 5). For the purposes of this study, bullying will refer to “oneor more perpetrators, directly or indirectly; and attacking a victim or a group of victims, one timeonly or repeatedly over time” (McIntosh, 2006, p. 4).Bullying and School Climate In the Bosworth and Simon study (2001), bullying was examined as a “continuum ofmild to extreme behaviors” in order to improve identification and targeting of those individualsmost at risk for bullying (Bosworth, et al. 2009 p. 342). “Demographic, behavioral, andpsychosocial correlates were tested on a continuous measure of bullying behaviors, and wererated according to the number and frequency of the behaviors” (Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 342).
  32. 32. Gifted Children and Bullying 32Among the 558 middle school students surveyed in the study, only 20% reported no bullyingbehavior and in multiple regression analysis, it was found that misconduct, anger, and beliefssupported in violence encouraged bullying behavior. However, confidence in using non-violentstrategies, and intentions of using non-violence or alternative strategies were associated with thelowering of the levels of bullying behavior. Although boys reported more bullying behavior thandid girls, “gender was not a significant predictor in the multiple regression analysis” (Bosworth,et al. 2009, p. 361). These studies were inconsistent with the perspective that early adolescentswere either bullies or non-bullies, and indicated the need for a comprehensive approach topreventing bullying behavior. Peterson found that the actual school climate leads to the vulnerability of gifted childrento bullying, with one student subject stating “our classes are different, so the other students don’teven know us” (Peterson, et al. 2006, p. 258). Furthermore, another student subject of the studystated that “there are groups that are protected, such as you don’t say bad things about differentraces; but there are other groups, if something’s said, nobody does anything – like smart or gaypeople, or groups that people are uncomfortable thinking about. The administration may say theydo something about it, but they don’t” (Peterson, et al. 2006, p. 258). Since many gifted childrenare perfectionistic, they feel that telling an adult what is happening is “a reflection on their abilityto control their lives” (Schuler, 2002, p. 3). To their detriment, however, many adults tell thesechildren that this is a form of tattling, snitching, or story-telling, therefore, leading these childrento distrust all adults and withdraw into themselves, often causing them to suffer silently assituations escalate from their tormentors. Some studies in the past have challenged the myth that gifted children do not have uniquesocial and emotional concerns, and when the myth prevails, “pertinent concerns are not
  33. 33. Gifted Children and Bullying 33recognized and addressed formally or informally, proactively or reactively” (Milsom, et al. 2006,p. 36). Administration, educators, parents, coaches, and even trained counselors may miss theindicators of their distress, and “the lack of these opportunities for gifted students to discussconcerns related to social and emotional development potentially contributes to vulnerability”(Milsom, et al. 2006, p. 38). A student that has bullied can have far-reaching effects in a schooland “create a climate of fear and intimidation not only in his or her victims, but in fellowstudents” as well; therefore, students who bully, their victims, and bystanders are all affected(Branson, et al. 2009, p. 8). When asked the number one reason for not returning to school, “10%of high school dropouts reported fear of being harassed, teased, or attacked” (Walker, 2009, p.7). Similarly, more than one-third of middle students felt unsafe at school because of bullyingand did not report such behaviors to school personnel because they were “scared, lacked theconfidence or parental support to make a report, and felt that adults would not be supportive oftheir dilemma” (Walker, 2009, p. 8). Teachers and administrators working with gifted children should be aware that thesestudents can and do drop out, and individual case studies need to be taken into account whenresearching this trend. Although many drop out for the same general reasons that regular studentsdo, such as disinterest, a need to find employment, or they are underachievers; teachers andadministrators should be “particularly sensitive to gifted students who show attendanceproblems, discipline problems, or academic problems” (Matthews, 2006, p. 220). Giftedprograms continue to strive to “identify and serve an even greater proportion of students fromnon-mainstream cultural and economic backgrounds,” however, with this also comes the issuesof discrimination and harassment, thus raising the probability that these students will be bullieddue to their academic and environmental makeup (Branson, et al. 2009, p. 15). It is becoming
  34. 34. Gifted Children and Bullying 34increasingly important to “understand how giftedness or talent may interact with socioeconomicand cultural factors to influence students’ educational decisions” (Matthews, 2006, p. 220).Improving understanding will hopefully lead to more effective bullying interventions andreduced dropout rates. Peterson and Ray (2006) surveyed 432 gifted and talented eighth graders in eleven statesregarding bullying during their school years and used structured interviews to explore the livedexperiences of being bullied or being a bully. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods,they researched “bullying as related to giftedness by examining prevalence and the effects ofbullying among gifted individuals specifically” (Peterson, et al. 2007, p. 149). They found that“67% had experienced bullying by the eighth grade, 16% defined themselves as bullies, and 29%had violent thoughts” with the vast majority expressing depression, hopelessness, unexpressedrage, and most often school absenteeism as responses to their bullying experiences (Peterson, etal. 2007, p. 152). Further analysis of the interview information and data found that even just oneincident was distressing for some. “All children are affected adversely by bullying, but giftedchildren differ from other children in significant ways, and what they experience may bequalitatively different,” said Peterson, whose study was conducted at the time with doctoralcandidate Karen Ray (Peterson, et al. 2006, pg. 149). “It is important to remember that althoughcognitively these children are advanced; physically, socially and emotionally, they may not be”(Peterson, et al. 2006, p. 259). “The most disturbing thing about this study is that we do notknow what those violent thoughts are,” was Peterson’s major concern upon completion of thestudy (Peterson, et al. 2007, p. 167). Peterson states that they could be anything from kicking atrash can to blowing up the school but they have no concrete evidence. However, just the factthat there are violent thoughts should be enough to make everyone stand up and pay attention,
  35. 35. Gifted Children and Bullying 35and Peterson calls for further studies to identify these perpetrators and their level of aggression. Although most studies have found that gifted children, especially those with high verbalaptitude, are more sensitive than their less-gifted peers and worry more about their socialstanding, we must remember than most regular kids get bullied as well. The issue is that “giftedkids are bullied based on their superior school performance, which makes the child’s strengthinto a weakness” (Peterson, 2003, p. 65). Inevitably, their advanced academic or talentperformance turns into a source of shame for the child and unable to cope with this shame, theyturn to violence to deal with their frustrations. Due to the fact that bullying behaviors arouse asense of fear and can lead to major physical altercations that disrupt the learning cycle,“educators are urged to address actively the impact of bullies on their school culture and on theacademic success of all students” (Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 362). Bosworth and Simon (2001)concluded that freedom from fear of bullying is not enough to ensure successful learning, but itis “a necessary condition for effective learning” (Bosworth, et al. 2009, p. 363). In the last decade, “Columbine-style plots involving students as young as twelve havebeen erupted in more than half a dozen American communities” (Peterson, 2009, p. 282).Bullying has been cited as the motive in the majority of these incidents, all because “theconspirators were considered different due to their academic precocious” (Peterson, 2009, p.282). In 2003, sixteen-year-old Jaysen Kettl was sentenced to four years in prison plus ten yearsof probation for conspiracy to commit capital murder by killing twenty fellow high schoolstudents plus four of his teachers. Kettl acknowledged that he first started having problems inschool when he was about nine due to his high grades and good relationships with his teachers,but all took a turn for the worse when he entered Vidor High School in Orange, Texas. The samestudents he had attended intermediate school with took to “name-calling, mocking, stealing his
  36. 36. Gifted Children and Bullying 36school books, and pushing him down the stairs” (Walker, 2009, p. 8). After confiding in whatKettl considered the few friends he had that he was a homosexual, the bullying became moreviolent when his sexuality was made public. He turned to the school administration and evensecurity and asked for help and protection, and he attested that they did nothing. Through thisprocess, he met three other students all going through similar experiences in the high school, and“a strong bond was formed based on mutual misery” (Walker, 2009, p. 8). Kettl and the fourother students created a book which named all the students that bullied them over the years andnamed the teachers that did nothing to stop the bullying, and the book went into detail on howthey planned to kill these individuals. Although the plot was foiled three days prior to takingeffect due to one girl in Kettl’s group turning them in after confiding to her parents, Kettl attestedthat he just wanted the people in his book to get off his back and there was nothing he could doto change it besides the plan he came up with; and even if he could go back and change things,he said “high school is nothing but hell nowadays anyway” (Walker, 2009, p. 8). Statistics show that “up to 85% of bullying happens in front of a large group, and aplayground or classroom makes a great theater” (Schuler, 2002, p. 3). During the school yearsthere are many physical and emotional changes in girls and “many girls will go along withbullying or not intervene because they just want to ‘fit in’ themselves” (Phoenix, et al. 2003, p.162). In addition to the behavioral and psychosocial measures in these studies, many participantsanswered questions which led to the revelation that they “perceived access to guns as a relevantcorrelate” (Walker, 2009, p. 8). Immediate access to firearms brings an increased risk forhomicide, suicide, and even unintentional firearm deaths through horseplay or carelessness.Psychiatric and Psychological Factors Previous research suggests various psychiatric and psychological factors contribute to
  37. 37. Gifted Children and Bullying 37bully victimization, however, posttraumatic stress and dissociation are presently limited areas ofstudy in relation to bullying. The overall purpose of the Burrill study (1990) was to address thesocially relevant issue of bullying in schools across grade level, age, and gender. A correlationstudy was conducted with 147 middle school children using a bully index and a victimizationindex, and the measures included anxiety, depression, anger, stress, and dissociation. However,these measures did not note differences across the original factors measured, they were actuallynoticed between regular classroom children, special education children, and talented and giftedchildren, “with the talented and gifted children scoring highest among the bullying victimizationscale” (Burrill, 2006, p. 87). Research related to giftedness has not focused on the inner life ofgifted children and adolescents until recently, and “the inability to respond to negative behaviorsfrom others is related to the vulnerability to bullying” (Robinson, et al. 2006, p. xi). Robinsonnoted that the most highly gifted and talented, because of their normally poor fit to schoolprograms, are the most vulnerable to poor peer relations. The issue precipitates itself in thesituation that they are “unable in finding compatible friends, especially when they are young andtheir social sphere is restricted to a particular classroom, school, neighborhood, or small town”(Robinson, et al. 2006, p. xii). Due to these dynamics, they are “likely to be less socially adept,more introverted, and more inhibited than other gifted children” (Robinson, et al. 2006, p. xxiv). There are two categories of self-concept that help identify gifted students, “the academicself-concept, which most often they rate quite highly in; and the social-self concept, an area thatreceives a very low rating” (Pittinsky, et al. 2008, p. 134). All children need positive responsesfrom others, starting with their home and school environment, in order to “experience well-beingand self-satisfaction” (Pittinsky, et al. 2008, p. 134). Responses received by gifted children fromthose outside of the family are often less than positive and can lower their views of themselves,
  38. 38. Gifted Children and Bullying 38usually from statements such as “if you are so gifted, figure it out; you seem to know everything”(Clark, 2008, p. 146). This gifted label can create problems within itself, as these children feeldifferent and alienated, and unable to find a group to belong. Unfortunately, many teachers donot relate to these children in ways other than their levels of achievement, and these childrenhave “a need to feel valued for some reason other than their giftedness” (Clark, 2008, p. 148). Most gifted and talented children are already very intense and anxious, as well as highlysensitive due to their own and others’ high expectations of them. They consider social justiceissues very important, and with their own hyper-sensitivity to self-criticism and perfectionalism,they struggle to make sense of this cruelty and aggression. They develop low self-esteem whichresults in even higher levels of anxiety, less effectiveness, and even destructive behavior; andbegin to believe themselves to be powerless and even unworthy of love or attention. Many timesthey blame themselves for the lack of adult support, and respond by withdrawing socially inorder to hide from bullies. In essence, their vulnerable areas have been attacked, and “giftedchildren become more susceptible to the severe emotional damage that bullying can inflict”(Schuler, 2002, p. 3).Table 5: Vulnerable Areas for Gifted Children Personal Characteristics Motivation School Conditions Perfectionism leads to self- Too easy or difficult a task If individuality is not valued, criticism, competition, and/or limits the students possibility then social isolation occurs unrealistic expectations for success Supersensitivity to social The student feels fear from Teachers have unrealistic feedback leads to withdrawal high expectations expectations of high success in all areas consistently
  39. 39. Gifted Children and Bullying 39Desire for independence leads Desires and abilities may not Teachers are uncomfortableto attempts to control the match opportunities, no with differentness, they fearsituation positive image of the future superior student knowledgeGiven an intense desire to Unable to control emotions, School activities are notsatisfy curiosity, the student easily frustrated, ashamed, differentiated or challenging,feels restricted in analyzing the angry at obstacles offer no depth or complexityproblem in the time allocatedUsing advanced problem The student doesnt have The school district does notsolving, student manipulates accurate self-knowledge provide any appropriatepeers and adults about his or her ability educational provisionsDesiring complexity, the The student doesnt have the No positive role model isstudent is not interested in energy to persist to the presentmemorization or repetition completion of a goalAdapted from Giftedness, Conflict, and Underachievement, by J.R. Whitmore, Boston: Allynand Bacon, Copyright 1980, p. 143. Many victims suffer in silence, struggling to understand bullying, make futile attempts tohalt bullying, despair when it continues, and formulate violent thoughts. Most victims associatenot being well-known or popular as the reason for being bullied, and most definitely for beingclustered within a gifted program which identifies them for their select abilities and focuses ondifferentiation, therefore, once again setting them apart from the rest of the school population.Differentiation is designed for instruction in mixed-ability classroom regarding multipleintelligences, as referenced earlier; and not for meeting the special needs of gifted children.Many peers, and even adults, do not understand the placement of students in these particular
  40. 40. Gifted Children and Bullying 40classroom environments, and this distinction can be explained and understood quite simply byreferencing the following table.Table 6: Differentiated Instruction for Mixed-Ability Classrooms Differentiation is … Differentiation is not…provision of a variety of ways to explore making all tasks the same, with adjustments bycurriculum content merely varying difficulty level of questionsprovision of an array of processes for marking some students harder than othersunderstanding and owning informationprovision of options for demonstrating or letting those who finish early play games forexhibiting what has been learned enrichment giving students extra problems, extra reports, or extension assignmentsDifferentiating Instruction for Advanced Learners in the Mixed-Ability Middle SchoolClassroom, Dr. Tracy Riley, Massey University, 2000 at http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/diff_instruction.html. Certainly a victim’s apparent tendency not to tell adults about being bullied means thatparents and school personnel are often not aware of the extent of the bullying. Bullying oftenoccurs under the radar, and is “even normalized by adults as a ‘basic rite of passage’ intoadulthood” (Peterson, 2009, p. 280). These behaviors invalidate the feelings of the victim andchildren who try to cope or adapt pay a big price, particularly when it comes to their health. Theyexperience significant physical and mental health problems including, but not limited to “highstress much like post-traumatic stress disorder; and chronic stress which causes physical changesin the brain that can lead to depression” (Peterson, 2009, p. 281). Stress is also linked with highblood pressure, phobias both real and perceived, insomnia, bad dreams and bed-wetting, andeating disorders. Additionally, “many gifted children suffer from extreme self-criticism, and self-
  41. 41. Gifted Children and Bullying 41destructive behavior caused by perceived inadequacies” (Peterson, 2009, p. 281). Theseconditions cause many to self-medicate with stolen or illegal substances and alcohol, followed byfinally dropping out of school in order to remove themselves from the source of their stress. Gifted children that have difficulty coping tend to choose one of three patterns foradjusting to their world. They may choose to withdraw and isolate themselves, and this occursmost often when a situation seems hopeless. They may become disruptive or even class clownsin order to gain acceptance, but this behavior is normally carried to a point that “teachers andpeers reject such attempts as being inappropriate or silly, and view the child as a nuisance” (VanTassel, et al. 2008, p. 55). Finally, some gifted children may hide their superior intelligence, butthis results in “loss of function, and growth cannot be nurtured through this subterfuge” (VanTassel, et al. 2008, p. 55). Gifted students, particularly those inhibited by their need forperfectionism both academically and socially, now account for “as much as 20% of students whodrop out of high school” (Van Tassel, et al. 2008, p. 61).Table 7: Perfectionism At-A-Glance How A Perfectionist Acts overcommits self rarely delegates to others hard time making choices always has to be in control competes fiercely arrives late often does last-minute cramming gets carried away with details never satisfied with their work frequently criticizes others refuses to hear criticism of self checks on other peoples work makes negative comments calls self stupid procrastinates How A Perfectionist Thinks "If I cant do it perfectly, whats the point in doing it at all?" “Every detail of a job should be perfect.”
  42. 42. Gifted Children and Bullying 42 “I always have to stay ahead of the others.” "Im a wonderful person if I do well; Im a lousy person if I do poorly." "Id better not make a mistake here, or people will think I am stupid." "Everything should be clearly black or white. Grays are a sign of confused thinking." How A Perfectionist Feels anxious and nervous deeply ashamed of mistakes worried about details afraid of rejection angry if routine is interrupted discouraged ashamed of having fears ashamed of being rejected plagued by self-hatred exhausted, unable to relax afraid of appearing incompetent disgusted by criticismWhen Gifted Children Don’t Have All The Answers, Chapter 3: Emotional Dimensions ofGiftedness, by J. Delisle and J. Galbraith, Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., Copyright2002, p. 65-66.Social and Emotional Needs School officials, peers, and adults at one time assumed that gifted and talentedchildren did not have unique social and emotional needs. “Positive stereotypes prevailed basedon media images of confident and motivated students, athletes, actors and actresses, andmusicians;” and these media images did not reflect the underlying concerns of their social andemotional well-being (Young, et al. 2004, p. 529). Early identification of giftedness may havealso “contributed to the notion that high academic capability means solid mental and physicalhealth, and future success in higher education, careers, and interpersonal relationships” (Young,et al. 2004, p. 533). Federal education mandates have also shown little concern for the well-beingof gifted children, and even the field of gifted education itself has not advocated as strongly as it
  43. 43. Gifted Children and Bullying 43could have for “proactive approaches to promote healthy social and emotional development”(Walker, 2009, p. 8). Even past literature suggests that “characteristics of giftedness such assensitivity, intensity and overexcitability are not only overlooked risk factors, but detrimental toa child’s overall well-being if not equipped with coping skills” (Robinson, et al. 2006, p. xi).Gifted individuals differ greatly from less able age peers and among themselves in the actualdegree of characteristics associated with giftedness, making it “difficult sometimes to identify,anticipate, and react to social and emotional concerns” (Young, et al. 2004, p. 534). Giftednessmay also co-exist in a child with learning disabilities; therefore, further contributing tofrustration, behavioral problems, and bully victimization. Asynchronous development is quite common in gifted and talentedchildren, and refers to “uneven intellectual, physical, and emotional development” (Breedlove,2010, p. 48). The developmental rates are usually even within average children, includingphysical, cognitive, social, and emotional. With above-average children, their rates ofdevelopment are a little faster than average children, however, they are still linked. Thedevelopmental rates of these four categories for gifted and talented children are out-of-sync, witheach child normally developing in their own unique pattern. “These children are usuallycognitively gifted, however, there is a less rapid rate of development physically, socially, andparticularly emotionally” (Breedlove, 2010, p. 50). This out-of–sync development, also calledasynchronous, of gifted children is an integral part of who they are and how they interact withthe world; which explains why they may act like an adult one moment and throw a tempertantrum the next. Overexcitabilities are “inborn intensities indicatinga heightened ability to respond to stimuli” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 325). These overexcitabilitiesare found to a greater degree in gifted and talented individuals, as they are generally expressed in
  44. 44. Gifted Children and Bullying 44forms of increased sensitivity, awareness, and intensity. “One who manifests several forms ofoverexcitability sees reality in a different, stronger, and more multi-sided manner” andexperiencing the world in this unique way carries with it not only joys, but great frustrations aswell (Lind, 2001, p.1). There are five overexcitabilities and each once carries with it differentconcerns, particularly in relation to the reactions to bullying. Psychomotor overexcitability is a “heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system,”and this includes a capacity of being active and energetic (Piechowski, 1999, p. 325). Thissurplus of energy is usually demonstrated by “rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physicalactivity, and a need for action” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 329). Many gifted children experience lifemore intensely than others, and they react in big ways to small things. They often get tunnelvision, which causes them to have trouble changing topics or transitioning to the next activitysmoothly. These children tend to not be able to sit still or be quiet, and many teachers and adultsfind them disobedient and distracting; and “often they are misdiagnosed as Attention DeficitHyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” (Piechowski, 1999, p. 329). Sensual overexcitability isexpressed as a “heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure emanating from sight,smell, touch, taste, and hearing” and they have an early and increased appreciation for pleasuressuch as music, art, and language (Lind, 2001, p. 2). These children may find clothing tags,classroom noise, or smells in the cafeteria so distracting that they are unable to function at thatmoment beyond their uncomfortableness. Intellectual overexcitability is marked by “a need to seek understanding and truth, to gainknowledge, and to analyze and synthesize” and these children are intensely curious, and usuallyvery avid readers (Lind, 2001, p.4). There is a strong moral focus which comes at this level, andthey tend to be concerned with issues such as AIDS, Gay and Lesbian Rights, animal cruelty,
  45. 45. Gifted Children and Bullying 45cancer research, the environment, and war. Since these children are so independent andoutspoken, they often appear critical and impatient of others who “cannot sustain theirintellectual pace” (Lind, 2001, p. 4). Imaginational overexcitability reflects a “heightened play ofthe imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image andmetaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams” (Lind,2001, p. 4). These children often tend to mix truth with fiction, and create their own imaginaryprivate worlds with made-up companions and scenarios. They also often sit in class and draw orwrite stories instead of doing their school work; and when they turn in assignments, they usually“are tagged by some incredible idea which sends them off in a different direction from theassigned task” (Lind, 2001, p. 4). The last and most prevalent of the overexcitabilities in gifted and talented childrenis emotional, which is “heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions,identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression” (Lind, 2001, p. 6). Thesechildren are often accused of overreacting to situations, and their feelings are so intense that theycannot return to tasks at hand like homework, chores, or even playing. Often these children have“extremely high energy levels, and require less sleep than their peers, having stopped napping ata very early age” (Lind, 2001, p. 7). This extra energy leads them to prefer faster activities andgames, and a desire to get away from a lesson or a situation that has lost their interest. Since thedegree of social difficulties may increase in proportion to the level of giftedness, not only is aprofoundly gifted child likely to have very few intellectual or interest peers at school or in thecommunity, but also “schools may not be receptive or accommodating to the child” (Breedlove,2010, p. 61). Even moderate giftedness may lead to a poor initial fit in school, with their socialand emotional discomfort levels increasing as they progress through their grade levels.
  46. 46. Gifted Children and Bullying 46 The moral development of gifted and talented children is also woven into their social andemotional development, and from an early age “they show evidence of moral concerns, includingempathy, compassion, idealism, global concern, and advanced understanding and judgment ofmoral issues” (Strip, et al. 2000, p. 47). These children are reported as being far beyond theirage-peers in understanding the “need for fairness, justice, and responsibility” (Strip, et al. 2000,p. 48). Adolescent highly compassionate children are especially vulnerable because they have“not yet developed effective ways to deal with strong emotional content,” and they areoverwhelmed by unclear directions, difficult situations, unfair treatment, and misunderstandings(Strip, et al. 2000, p. 50). The attitudes of teachers and school personnel towards gifted childrenclearly affect not only the students’ social and emotional well-being, but their educationalprogression as well. The concerns of these children have been surveyed below, further enforcingthe issue that an “establishment of a moral climate within the school is required in order for allstudents and school personnel to interactive positively” (Strip, et. al, 2000, p. 53).Table 8: Gifted Kids on Giftedness More than 1,000 gifted middle school children responded to an online survey regarding their giftedness. Here are the responses to some of the questions: Q: Gifted kids are often described as: easily bored when not intellectually challenged, needing a lot of novelty, craving mental stimulation, and are often overexcitable. In general, how true is this for you? 22% All of the time 41% Most of the time 29% Some of the time 8% Infrequently Q: Gifted children are often described as: intuitive, insightful, perceptive, and able to simultaneously see several points of view. In general, how true is this for you?
  47. 47. Gifted Children and Bullying 47 38% All of the time 49% Most of the time 13% Some of the time 1% Infrequently Q: Gifted children are often described as: introverted, preferring privacy, reflective, quiet in large groups, and uncomfortable as the center of attention in a large group. In general, how true is this for you? 24% All of the time 19% Most of the time 21% Some of the time 36% Infrequently Q: Gifted children are often described as: possessing a keen sense of justice, nonconforming, and frequently questioning rules and authority. In general, how true is this for you? 49% All of the time 28% Most of the time 18% Some of the time 5% InfrequentlyWhen Gifted Children Don’t Have All The Answers, Chapter 1: What is Giftedness, by J. Delisleand J. Galbraith, Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., Copyright 2002, p. 35. Being bullied has also been recognized as a major health problem for gifted childrenbecause of their already present association with adjustment problems. This usually manifestsitself into “poor mental health with thoughts of suicide, and more extreme violent behavior suchas homicide perceived as justifiable retaliation” (Juvonen, et al. 2003, p. 1235). Juvonen (2002)found in her research that the bullies themselves were actually psychologically stronger than thevictims, and had a higher social standing. These bullies are often popular within their groups, andtheir groups possess other bullies; therefore making them a “higher population in respect to thegroups of non-bullies” (Juvonen, et al. 2003, p. 1235). To be able to intervene with bullying,Juvonen stresses that it is important to recognize the unique problems of these gifted childrenand address them directly with the assistance of parents, teachers, and school personnel. In