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Study Finds Most Bullying Not Reported; Reporting More Likely When Physical Harm Involved

Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)

Bullying often goes unreported in U.S. schools, making the problem difficult for school officials to identify and manage. However, a new report identifies several factors tied to increased reporting to school officials.

 

The report, entitled What Characteristics of Bullying, Bullying Victims, and Schools Are Associated with Increased Reporting of Bullying to School Officials? was conducted by researchers at the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI) and funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

The research team examined the bullying incidents included in the 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey School Crime Supplement, a biennial survey from the Department of Justice of children who attended school in the prior academic year. The supplement includes over 5,000 students, ages 12–18, from a nationally representative sample of households.

  Using the self-reported data in the survey, researchers analyzed 51 characteristics associated with the bullying incidents and found 11 tied to increased reporting. For example:

 

  • Bullying was more likely to be reported when it involved injury, physical threats or contact, destruction of property, greater frequency, multiple types, more than one location, or at least one occurrence on a school bus.
  • Victims involved in a fight during the school year and victims who reported being afraid of attack and avoiding certain school areas or activities were more likely to indicate that their victimization was reported to a school official.
  • Students in younger grades were more likely to report bullying than students in older grades.

Echoing findings from previous research, the REL-NEI researchers found that nearly 65 percent of victims said the bullying was not reported, either by themselves or others, to teachers or school officials.

"Even when a bullying victim had suffered injury, 40 percent of the time the students said the bullying was not reported," said Anthony Petrosino, lead researcher on the study. "Since schools cannot address problems that they don't know about, increased reporting of bullying is a first step towards creating a safer learning environment for all students."

The study was carried out by REL-NEI, one of 10 Regional Educational Laboratories funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. It is administered by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Learning Innovations at WestEd.

The report comes at a time of increased concern regarding the prevalence of school bullying, and when many states have passed legislation mandating that school districts take action against bullying and develop strategies for handling incidents.

"These findings challenge adults everywhere to help young victims and bystanders feel the motivation, safety, and trust in adults they need to report early incidents of bullying," said EDC senior scientist Ron Slaby. "Early reporting is a key to prevent the harm from continuing and growing into personal tragedy."

Suggestions for future research include examining why such a high percentage of bullying victimization is not reported (for example, fear of retaliation by bullies or belief that the school cannot help).

What Characteristics of Bullying, Bullying Victims, and Schools Are Associated with Increased Reporting of Bullying to School Officials? was written by Petrosino and Sarah Guckenburg of Learning Innovations at WestEd, Jill DeVoe of the American Institutes for Research, and Thomas Hanson of WestEd. To view or download a copy of the report, go to http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/northeast/pdf/REL_2010092.pdf

The Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI) is administered by EDC in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Learning Innovations at WestEd. Visit www.relnei.org. Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) is a global nonprofit organization that develops, delivers, and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world's most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic development. Visit www.edc.org


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