Bullying in the Learning Environment

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Bullying in school isn’t anything new, but it does seem that students today are faced with a more challenging learning environment with increased anxiety, stress, and risk. So, let’s talk about bullying and the impact it can have on learning, our schools, and our kids.

Bullying Statistics in the Learning Environment

Physical and mental health issues related to bullying in schools are significant concerns facing today’s students. In 2015, 20% of students reported being bullied.[1] As reported in Pride Surveys’ 2015-2016 national data set, nearly 21% of middle school students and 21% of high school students reported threatening to harm another student. Related points from the same data set showed that 5% of 6th through 8th-grade students “think of suicide often or a lot,” with the corresponding percentage jumping to 8% for students in 9th-12th grade. Research suggests there is a connection between suicidal thoughts and behaviors for both the bully and bullied suggesting that both perpetrator and target are at particularly high risk for psychological distress.[2] That makes for a challenging school environment for everyone.

More recent figures on bullying do reflect a downward trend from 2005 when 28% of students reported being bullied.[3] The focus on talking about, standing up to and ending bullying is having an impact, but the 34% of self-identified gay, lesbian, or bisexual students who reported in 2015 they had been bullied on school property during the previous 12 months, may question if it’s getting any better for them.[4]

Bullies often focus on children who are different in some way: LGBT youth, kids with disabilities or socially isolated children may be at an increased risk of being bullied. Children who are underweight or overweight can also be targets. Recent studies show that students on the autism spectrum can be targets.[5] Students who experience bullying are at heightened risk for “poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression.”[6]

Safety is essential for productive learning. When children feel unsafe in school, there are implications not only for those schools but also in their neighborhoods and communities. The probability of increased involvement in risky behaviors because kids feel unsafe warrants an urgent and carefully-planned course of action.[7] In 2015, about 5% of students ages 12–18 reported that they avoided at least one school activity or class or a place in school during the previous school year because they thought someone might harass, assault or abuse them.[8]

Types of Bullying

There are four types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyberbullying. Social bullying deliberately excludes someone from the group or uses manipulation of higher social standing to lower someone else’s. Cyberbullying has rapidly emerged in the internet age as a means of aggression via social media, texts or chats to threaten and harass. While physical and verbal bullying are more overt, social bullying and cyberbullying can often be nearly invisible.[9]

Peer Bullying Intervention

Teachers and administrators frequently find out about bullying when it can seem too late – after the abuse has intensified to a distressing level. However, initiatives to intervene or prevent bullying behaviors can help the learning environment to be safer. In fact, school-based anti-bullying programs can decrease incidents by up to 25%.[10] Bystanders can make a difference in bullying: studies have shown that having a peer intervene on behalf of the student being bullied can stop 57% of situations.[11] Students report that support from their peers such as helping him or her get away, giving advice, or spending time talking were helpful actions.[12] This data indicates teaching students to help one another can have as much or more of an impact than educators and administrators intervening when it comes to stopping bullying behaviors and safeguarding the learning environment.

 Research has indicated that discrimination and prejudice can be countered when educational environments incorporate more understanding, critical thinking, and positive self-esteem in students. Educators that foster thoughtful conversations about respect and tolerance every day in school can create more inclusive, respectful classrooms.[13] The Anti-Defamation League offers resources for educators on creating an anti-bias school setting.

What Can You Do if You Think Bullying is Negatively Impacting Your Learning Environment?

So, if you believe bullying is impacting learning in your school, what can you do? Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data that can be easily used by educators, parents, and others at the school and community level to study and monitor violent, threatening, and bullying behaviors, and student mental health. We offer four different scientifically proven student surveys that are designed to measure various aspects of student behavior and perceptions related to bullying, mental health, and more.

The Pride Learning Environment Survey is highly-recommended as a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12 because of its effective examination of current issues facing educators and education. These surveys results give insight into the intersection of risk and academic success in the education setting. In fact, Pride Surveys’ learning environment questionnaire has been included in the School Climate Survey Compendium of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments as a valid instrument to assist educators in identifying and assessing their conditions for learning conditions. It’s also one of the National Outcomes Measurement System items required as benchmarks for many grant awards.

Our Social, Emotional and Bullying Behavior Survey collects data that assess middle school students’ bullying perceptions and problem behaviors that affect student engagement. Using SEBBS, schools can determine underlying causes for increased absenteeism, lower academic achievement, and increased substance abuse.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we take the guesswork out of the surveying process to ask the difficult questions. Browse the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why more than 13.9 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.



[1] “Student Reports of Bullying: Results from the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2017015

[2] “Understanding the Link Between Bullying and Suicide.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://theconversation.com/understanding-the-link-between-bullying-and-suicide-39037

[3] “New Data Show a Decline in School=based Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May at https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-data-show-decline-school-based-bullying

[4] “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf

[5] “Are You an Easy Target for Bullies?” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201301/are-you-easy-target-bullies

[6] “Understanding Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying_factsheet.pdf

[7] “Students Feeling Unsafe in School: Fifth Graders’ Experiences.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103144/

[8] “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf

[9] “Creating Control: Managing Bullying in the Classroom.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://online.concordia.edu/education/bullying-in-the-classroom/

[10] “Student Bullying: Overview of Research, Federal Initiatives, and Legal Issues.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43254.pdf

[11] “Naturalistic Observations of Peer Interventions in Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at http://bullylab.com/Portals/0/Naturalistic%20observations%20of%20peer%20interventions%20in%20bullying.pdf

[12] “The Youth Voice Project.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at http://njbullying.org/documents/YVPMarch2010.pdf

[13] Creating an Anti-Bias Learning Environment.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/creating-an-anti-bias-learning-environment

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