New national report offers ideas on scope and impact of bullying in school

New national report offers ideas on scope and impact of bullying in school

As a state task force on bullying in Kansas schools studies the issue this summer and fall, a new national report offers insight into some aspects of the problem.

The report released by the U.S. Department of Education, is drawn from student responses reported in the 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Some caveats: the data is national, so is not necessarily representative of Kansas; and in some cases the results are questionable because of the low number or responses from certain groups. The report was limited to students age 12 to 18. Highlights are listed below.

State officials are asking Kansas students to join the conversation on bullying and share their thoughts by going to this link. For more information on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying, click here. For resources on how to address bullying in your schools, click here. Information on the Kansas Safe School Resource Center is available here.

Here are some key finding of the national survey, which some may find surprising.

  • The good news is that most students – almost 80 percent – did NOT report any experience of bullying. But one in five students DID say they were bullied at least once, most of those said it happened on more than one day, and 40 percent thought it would happen again.
  • While these most common impact on those who reported they experienced bullying was the affected on feelings about themselves, nearly 20 percent it affected their schoolwork, or equal to about four percent of all students.
  • Bullying appears to be a bigger problem for female students: more girls reported being bullied than boys, more experienced on-line or text “cyberbullying,” and more reported a negative effect on physical health.
  • Cyberbullying gets a lot of attention and is much harder for school personnel to address when it takes place away from school, but it accounts for only 15 percent of reported bullying. The most common places bullying occurs is in hallways, stairways and the classroom.
  • Less than half of those who reported being bullied said they notified an adult, making it more difficult for school personal to address. One way to reduce bullying may be to encourage more student to report it so action can be taken.
  • Bullying is not just a public school problem. Fifteen percent of students in private schools said they were bullied, and a higher percentage of private school students reported bullying happened more frequently and said they expected it to happen again than public school students.
  • Bullying is not just a problem in large, urban high schools. In fact, students in rural areas, small towns, small schools and schools with lower pupil-teacher ratios were more likely to report they were bullied. So were students in lower grades compared to older students.

Summary of all results:

Students reporting they were bullied

About one in five students (20.2 percent) said they experienced some form of bullying in the 2016-17 school year.

More girls said they were bullied (23.8 percent) than boys (16.7 percent).

About the same percentage of Whites, Blacks and all other races reported being bullied (around 23 percent), compared to 15.7 percent of Hispanics and 7.3 percent of Asians.

The percentage of students who reported being bullied dropped as grade level rose, with over 24 percent or more of 6th, 7th and 8th graders saying they were bullied; about 19 percent of 9th and 10th graders, and fewer than 15 percent of 11th and 12th graders.

Lower income students are somewhat more likely to report bullying than higher income students.

Differences among schools

Students in the Midwest reporting the highest rates of bullying (23.5 percent) with the lowest rates in the Northeast (18 percent)

Although more bullying is reported by students in public schools, 15 percent of private school students also reported experiences of bullying.

The highest rates of bullying were reported in small towns and rural areas, in smaller schools, and schools with lower pupil-teacher ratios.

There were not large differences based on the percentage of minority or free or reduced-price meal eligible students in the school.

Location of Bullying

For the 20.2 percent of students reporting they were bullied, the most common areas of school where it occurred were in a hallway or stairwell (43.4 percent) or classroom (42.1 percent). The least likely areas were in a bathroom or locker room (12.1 percent) or school bus (8.0 percent).

Over 15 percent of students said their bullying was online or by text, but there was a large difference between boys and girls. Of students who reported bullying, 6.8 percent of males but 21.4 of females reported cyberbullying. Put another way, only 1.1 percent of all boys reported being bullied online or by text, compared with 5.1 percent of all girls.

Although fewer students in upper grades reported bullying, a higher percentage of those students who were bullied said it occurred on-line or by text.

Frequency of Bullying

Of the 20.2 percent of students reporting bullying, nearly 70 percent say it happened on more than one day, and 41.4 percent said they thought it would happen again. White students were more likely than other groups to say they thought it would happen again.

Private school students who were bullied were more likely to say it happened more often, and thought it was more likely to happen again, than public school students.

Types of Bullying

The most common types of bullying reported were spreading rumors (13.4 percent) and being made fun of, called names, insulted (13.0 percent). Other types were being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on (5.3 percent), excluded from activities (5.2 percent), threatened with harm (3.9 percent), tried to make do things they did not want to do (1.9 percent) and had property destroyed on purpose (1.4 percent).

Effects of Bullying

The most common reported negative effect of bullying was feelings about self (26.8 percent), followed by impact on school work (19.4 percent), relationships with family and friends (18.6 percent) and physical health (13.7 percent).

Girls were much more likely to report physical health effects (16.7 percent) than boys (9.7 percent).

Notifying an Adult

Among students reporting being bullied, slightly under half (46.3) said they notified an adult.

Girls were slightly more likely to notify an adult (48.7 percent) than boys (43.1 percent).  Middle-schoolers more likely to notify an adult than older students, as were private school students, students in smaller schools and students with lower pupil-teacher ratios.

Reasons for being bullied

Among students who reported being bullied, the most common reason reported by far was appearance (29.7 percent). Other reasons were race (9.5 percent), gender (7.5 percent), ethnic origin (7.3 percent), disability (7.3 percent) and religion (4.5 percent).

The lowest perceived reason reported was sexual orientation (3.6 percent). However, that is percentage of all students reporting bullying. It does not necessarily mean low percentages of gay and lesbian students are bullied.

Power Imbalance

By far the most common “power imbalance” cited by students who experience bullying was by those with ability to influence what other students think (56.3 percent) and “more popular” (49.6 percent). Other power imbalances cited included physically stronger (40.3 percent), multiple people acting as a team (33.2 percent), more money (31.5 percent) and any other (24.5 percent).

Other School Conditions

Students who reported being bullied were considerably more likely to report other unfavorable conditions at school, like gangs, seeing a student with a gun, drugs, alcohol or hate-related graffiti at schools – generally double the rate of students who did not report bullying.

However, students who said they were bullied reported about the same level of security guards, staff supervision in hallways, security cameras or a student code of conduct in their school as those who did not.

Although nearly 98 percent of students said they were not victimized by theft or violence at school, 2.7 percent those who reported bullying also reported theft and 3.0 percent also reported violence.

Students who reported they were bullied were also much more likely to say they feared attack or harm; skipped school, class or school activities; avoided specific places at school; engaged in a fight or carried a weapon to school.