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
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
Click any of the section titles below to view related graph and information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Research shows that targets of bullying are more likely to be depressed, feel lonely, be anxious, feel unwell, have low self esteem, avoid social situations, self-medicate (substance use), have lower school performance, and think about suicide (www.stopbullying.gov; Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School, AAUW, 2001).
- Children who are the target of bullying or who are bully-victims are at a significantly higher risk for a variety of psychosomatic problems (Gini & Pozzoli, 2009).
- Peers are involved in 85% of bullying episodes, either as observers or by joining in the aggression (Craig & Pepler, 1995). The bystanders – students who are aware of bullying – can have a powerful effect on bullying, positive or negative. However, bullying also directly affects the bystanders: Observing bullying at school predicted risks to mental health (Rivers, et al., 2009).
- Students who repeatedly bully are more likely to get into frequent fights or be hurt in a fight, carry a weapon, vandalize property, drink alcohol or smoke, and be expelled or suspended from school (www.stopbullying.gov; Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School, AAUW, 2001).
- High school students who bullied or were perpetrators and victims of bullying were at the greatest risk of being involved in violence, engage in multiple types of substance use, and have academic problems. The link between bullying and other risk behaviors was particularly noted among urban and African American students (Bradshaw, Waasdorp, Goldweber & Johnson, 2012). (link to disciplinary referral indicator page)
- 60% of students who bullied were convicted of a crime by age 24 and 35% had 3 or more convictions by age 24 (Fox et al., 2003).
- Youth who report being bullies and victims are at the greatest risk for social maladjustment and for physical and emotional dating violence victimization (Espelage & Holt, 2007).
- Youth exhibiting bullying behaviors are also more likely to sexually harass same- and opposite-sex peers and be physically aggressive with their dating partners (Pepler et al., 2006; Williams, Conolly, Pepler, Craig, & Laporte, 2008; Brendgen, Vitaro, Tremblay, & Wanner, 2002).
- All forms of bullying are significantly associated with increases in suicidal ideation, both for the victim AND the offender. However, bullying and cyberbullying victimization was a stronger predictor of suicidal thoughts and behaviors than was bullying and cyberbullying offending. Bullying victims were 1.7 times more likely and offenders were 2.1 times more likely to have attempted suicide. It should be acknowledged that among teenagers who committed suicide after experiencing bullying or cyberbullying many had other emotional and social stressors in their lives that may have been exacerbated by bullying. (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). (Link to suicide indicator page)
- Among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students 85% report being bullied or harassed because of their sexual or gender identity. In part because of this, the suicide rate for LGBT students is 3 - 4 times higher than that of the general student population. (Biegel & Kuehl, 2010).
- Witnessing family violence is one of the risk factors for experiencing or perpetrating bullying. 97% of children exposed to family violence reported that they were bullies and victims in different situations (Lozano et al., Pediatrics, Fall 2006).
Some Local Efforts to Improve the Indicator
- AISD is Committed to Respect for All: The Austin Independent School District is dedicated to providing a positive school climate and believes that all students have the right to learn in an environment free of harassment, bullying and violence. The district continues to work with staff and community partners to prevent harassment and to foster supportive learning environments for all students, families and staff members. AISD's Respect for All initiative (www.austinisd.org/respectforall) focuses on building awareness and encouraging tolerance through social emotional learning, student-led initiatives and ongoing dialogues.
- The Austin Independent School District (AISD) developed policy addressing discrimination and harassment among students (FFH Local 227901, last revision October 15, 2013. The policy defines discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, dating violence, bullying and cyberbullying, and includes reporting procedures, complaint process, and a response protocol. Training on implementing the policy is provided annually to administrators, counselors and staff.
- AISD is implementing Social and Emotional Learning with the goal of district-wide implementation by 2015-16. AISD is working through the Vertical Team approach to implement Social and Emotional Learning. A vertical team consists of a high school and all of its feeder schools. Two additional Vertical Teams will be selected for implementation each year. For the 2011-12 school year, the Crockett and Austin High Vertical teams were chosen. For the 2012-13 Eastside Memorial, McCallum and Travis Vertical Teams were added. Akins and part of LBJ Vertical Teams are starting in 2013-14. During 2013-14, SEL is being delivered to 73 schools serving 55 percent of the students in AISD. By 2015-16 the goal is to offer SEL in 120 schools serving all of the district's 87,000 students (https://www.austinisd.org/academics/sel/implementation). Elementary and Middle Schools implement curriculum for students from Second Step. Lessons are taught weekly and reinforced in all areas of the school. High Schools are using School Connect as their resource. In 5 high schools, a Methods for Academic and Personal Success (MAPS) class is being taught to Freshmen to develop SEL and study skills, supporting students as they make the transition to high school. SEL is implemented through explicit instruction, using district curriculum and resources, within a positive school climate. Additionally, the AISD Athletics Department is implementing a Character Education Program in collaboration with SEL.
- The Anti Defamation League (ADL) initiated The No Place for Hate® campaign that provides educators and students with the resources to ensure that anti-bias and diversity education are an integral part of the school curriculum. No Place for Hate® also helps to create and sustain inclusive school environments where all students feel valued and have the opportunity to succeed by promoting respect for individual difference while challenging bigotry and prejudice. In 2012-13 more than 100 schools in Austin ISD earned their No Place for Hate® designation. The Austin ISD is aiming to earn No Place for Hate® designation for the entire district in 2014-15. Other ISDs in Travis County are participating as well.
- SafePlace’sExpect Respect Program promotes healthy teen relationships and prevents dating abuse, sexual harassment and bullying. Serving Austin schools since 1988, Expect Respect provides school-based support groups and counseling, youth leadership activities and educational programs in schools and community settings.
- School-based, psycho-educational support groups are based on a 24-week curriculum and target high-risk students aiming to decrease disciplinary placements, contribute to increased student safety, decrease victimization and increase positive relationship skills. Program evaluation indicates that disciplinary referral rates for program participants dropped, particularly for substance abuse and aggressive offenses. Given that SafePlace aims to affect students’ abilities to communicate and decrease aggressive behavior, these data are very promising (ACCESS, End-of-Year Report, 2010).
- Youth leaders in middle school receive training on bullying prevention, identify specific needs at their school and engage their peers in preventing bullying through PSA’s, poster campaigns, and assemblies.
- School-wide prevention efforts focus on support for policy development, staff training, parent education, classroom curriculum, and youth leadership.
- The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, a collaboration between SafePlace and Creative Action, performs original theatre on teen relationships for youth audiences. Local middle and high school age youth from different schools develop scenes, scripts, props, and scenery for a new production each year. Audience talkbacks and teacher’s guides provide opportunity for dialogue after the show.
- Creative Action, formerly the Theatre Action Project, uses the creative arts to activate the academic, social and emotional development of young people. Through interactive classroom performances, after school residencies and community based programs, a team of professional teaching artists inspire youth to be creative artists, courageous allies, critical thinkers and confident leaders in their community. Creative Action provides a range of classroom and after-school programs from elementary through middle school, and several teen programs.
- Council on At-Risk Youth provides mentoring, case management and Aggression Replacement Training for youth in Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement. Six middle schools, ALC and three high schools currently participate.
- Gay Straight Alliance, Texas GSA Network. This high school-based program creates a safe environment to educate students and fight discrimination, harassment and violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning youth.
- Where Everybody Belongs, WEB Leaders. This anti-bullying program for middle school students provides campuses with a cadre of student leaders who identify bullying behavior and help stop it. WEB gives older students permission to be aware of and report any negative behavior they see, creating a safer school for everybody.
- Rachel's Challenge inspires, equips and empowers K-12 students to make a positive difference in their world to replace bullying and violent behavior on school campuses with kindness and compassion so students can learn in a safe, respectful environment. Rachel’s Challenge provides a menu of options for schools that include an assembly, training for students, an evening community event and intensive small group training.
- Teen Truth works with Austin area schools and provides customized multi-media experiences, events and workshops that raise awareness of key youth, educator, administration and community issues to ultimately help clients build safer, more connected schools and communities.
- Consult YSM to see which programs and services are provided at Austin area schools.
The following recommendations for effective bullying prevention strategies emerge from recent research:
- Increase implementation of school policy through staff training, parent workshops and information for students.
- Improve system for consistent tracking of bullying incidents
- Increase awareness of bullying behaviors among students, school personnel and parents
- Implement bullying prevention programs that address the whole spectrum of relationships including parent-child relationships, peer relationships, teacher-student relationships, parent-school relationships, and community expectations.
- Address the connections between bullying, sexual harassment and dating violence.
- Focus on active engagement of students, mentoring and modeling “caring and respectful behavior.”
- Include youth as active partners in developing messages, campaigns for their peers.
- Provide support for vulnerable students who have been exposed to violence and are at increased risk for bullying victimization and perpetration.
- Critically examine transition from elementary to middle school, considering that bullying peaks in middle school.
- Concentrate prevention efforts at the transition from elementary to middle school.