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Outcome: Socially and Emotionally Healthy and Safe

Youth Who Experience Bullying In School

From 2007-08 to 2014-15 the rate of students who experience bullying at school has decreased.

Significance of Indicator: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying victimization is associated with a wide range of negative outcomes, including feeling unsafe at school, school absenteeism, psychological distress, depression, suicidal ideation, and repeated common health problems. Bullying behaviors are also associated with future violence including dating violence, gang membership, and delinquency. Bullying at school impacts not only the victim and the bully, but also the school climate making school unsafe for all students.

How we are doing on this Indicator: For each of the past eight school years, about half of the middle school students and approximately one third of high school students in Austin Independent School District reported that they have been bullied at school. For middle school students, the rate of bullying has fluctuated in the past five years, with an overall decrease from a high point of 53% in 2008-09 to 45% in 2014-15; for high school students, the rate has decreased from 37% in 2007-08 to 30% in 2014-15.

National and State Data: Data from the report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2011 published by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2012) show that during the 2008-09 school year, 29% of public school students reported being bullied at school during the school year, down from 32% in in 2006-07, with prevalence rates ranging from 39% of 6th graders to 20% of 12th graders.

Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2011 (YRBS) indicate that during the 2010-11 school year, 20.1% of high school students nationally and 16.5% of high school students in Texas reported having been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey.  12.9% of Dallas high school students and 12% of Houston high school students reported being bullied on the YRBS.  Both national surveys indicate that more girls than boys experience bullying, and that bullying declines as students get older.

It is important to note that prevalence rates are not directly comparable because questions used to elicit bullying information vary across surveys. For example, surveys include different types of bullying behaviors. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey only asks respondents whether or not they have experienced bullying on school property in the past 12 months. The School Crime Supplement to the National Victimization Survey asks respondents whether they have experienced specific types of bullying behaviors during the school year. The AISD Student Substance Use and Safety Survey asks multiple questions about bullying including questions about specific types of bullying. However, it appears that students in Austin ISD report higher rates of bullying victimization than their peers nationally and statewide. In Austin ISD, as well as in national surveys, bullying peaks in middle school, especially 6th grade, and declines as students go through high school.

what the data tell us

Percentage of AISD Students who Report Being Bullied at School

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Indicator Definition: Percentage of youth in Austin ISD who reported that they had experienced bullying at school in the past year.

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, Substance Use and Safety Surveys, 2007-15

Data Considerations: The Substance Use and Safety Survey is only administered in middle and high schools. Data on bullying are not available for elementary schools.

Comparisons of local and state level or national data need to be made with caution because questions used to elicit bullying information have not been standardized across surveys.

A closer look at the data

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Frequency of Bullying Experienced by Middle and High School Students in AISD

At the local level, bullying data from Austin ISD suggests that middle school students experience bullying at a greater frequency than high school students. 7% of middle school students reported being bullied daily, compared to 3% of high school students. This rate of bullying has decreased slightly over the past eight school years. More middle school students than high school students also reported being bullied once a week, once a month, and on occasion.

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Definition: Percentage of youth in Austin ISD who reported that they had experienced bullying at school in the past year.

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, 2007-15

Data Considerations: Students responded to the question, "How often have you experienced any type of bullying at your school?" Bullying data is not available for elementary school students.

Percentage of Students Who Were Absent Because They Did Not Feel Safe At School

Data from Austin ISD show that 6% of middle school and high school students missed one or more school days over the previous month because they did not feel safe at school. The local data mirror the national YRBS (2012) data that indicate that nationwide 5.9% of students had missed at least 1 day of school in the past 30 days because of safety concerns. As in AISD, the prevalence of school absenteeism due to safety concerns did not change significantly in recent years.

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Definition: Percentage of students who one or more days of school over the previous month because they did not feel safe at school

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, 2008-15

Data Considerations: Students responded to the question, "During the last month, did you miss one or more school days due to any of the following reasons... You didn't feel safe at school?" Data for this question are not available before the 2008-2009 school year.

Types of Bullying Behaviors

Bullying in middle school and bullying in high school differ not only in prevalence and frequency, but also in type of bullying behavior. In Austin ISD, middle school students experienced disproportionately more physical, social and verbal bullying than high school students. 21% of middle school students reported that they had experienced physical bullying – three times the percentage of high school students. While physical, verbal and social bullying decrease from middle school to high school, levels of racial or ethnic harassment, sexual harassment, cyberbullying and hazing initiation remain fairly constant.

Click on the graph to download an Excel document containing expanded information.

Definition: Percentage of students who experience specific types of bullying behaviors

Data Source: Austin Independent School District, 2015

Data Considerations: The survey provided students with definitions of the bullying and harassment categories. Verbal bullying was described as "you were called names, teased, or threatened"; social bullying as "rumors were spread about you, you were excluded from a group, or given the silent treatment'; physical bullying as "you were hit, kicked, or had your property destroyed"; racial or ethnic harassment as "comments or actions about your race or ethnicity that make you feel uncomfortable"; sexual harassment as "comments or actions of a sexual nature that you make you uncomfortable"; written harassment as "you have seen graffiti, notes, or slam books about you"; and cyber bullying as "when cell phones or internet websites, such as MySpace or Facebook, are used to send or post texts or images intended to hurt or embarrass you." 2009-2010 was the first year that students have been asked about cyber bullying. 2011-12 was the first year that Hazing Initiation was included on the survey.

Cyberbullying is an issue that has received special attention in the past three years. The YRBS (2012) reports that nationwide, 16.2% of high school students had been electronically bullied and the prevalence was higher among female (22%) than male students (11%). A survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2012) identified that approximately 6 % of middle and high school students reported being cyber-bullied. The prevalence rates for Austin ISD appear to be at the lower end of this spectrum.

The Story Behind the Data

The pattern of data across local and national surveys suggests that bullying is more prevalent in middle school than it is in high school. The prevalence of bullying in schools is concerning given the significant consequences of perpetration and victimization:

Some Local Efforts to Improve the Indicator

Recommendations

The following recommendations for effective bullying prevention strategies emerge from recent research: