This study examines fourteen conversations from observations conducted on bullying among 8th graders in 2002, in a Middle School in Virginia in the United States of America to: (1) identify power disparity in verbal bullying between bullies and targets, (2) examine how power disparity in verbal bullying empowers the perpetrator against silent targets, (3) explain how targets’ verbal responses neutralize bullies or stop bullying, and (4) design an approach to counteracting verbal bullying –the “agere contra” approach to bullying, which demonstrates how words could also be used, not only to counteract bullying, but also to heal both the perpetrator and the target of bullying with the intervention of third parties. It was hypothesized that targets’ response (silence or verbal reaction) to verbal bullying affects bullies’ attitudes or decision to perpetuate or stop bullying cycle. The study used a mixed-method approach to perform conversation analysis, and semiotic analysis on the data collected. The results show support for the hypothesis. In light of the results, the study advocates for counteracting bullying by using the “agere contra” approach, which translates into a combination of the target’s verbal response and the intervention of third parties, open anti-bullying teams guided by a school conflict resolution specialist.

Author Bio(s)

Jacques L. Koko is Assistant Professor in the Department of Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution in the Fulton School of Liberal Arts of Salisbury University in Maryland. His area of teaching and research includes organizational conflict and dispute system design, cross-cultural conflict and resolution, school conflict and resolution, peacemaking (negotiation and mediation), peacekeeping, and peace building. Office: 410-677-0135 Email: jlkoko@salisbury.edu


agere contra approach, bullying, third-party interventions, violent communication

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