A quarter of American students report being bullied, according to data released today by the San Francisco-based nonprofit YouthTruth Student Survey. While this number is consistent with previous research, the survey findings also provide insight into the types of bullying that students experience. Drawing on responses from nearly 80,000 students across the country in grades five through 12, the findings show that most bullying is happening in person, not online. Of students who experienced bullying, 79 percent experienced verbal bullying, 50 percent experienced social bullying, 29 percent experienced physical bullying, and only 25 percent experienced cyberbullying.
However, the survey also found that when students are victims of cyberbullying, they are usually being bullied in person, as well. Specifically, of students who are cyberbullied, 74 percent are also being verbally harassed, 68 percent are being socially harassed, and 38 percent are being physically bullied by their peers.
“Bullying is a topic that many students are still reticent to talk about, especially with adults,” said Sonya Heisters, YouthTruth’s director of partnerships. “But that does not mean that we stop asking the questions. These findings underscore that bullying is happening in our schools and is very often based on race or sexual orientation. It is our hope that this data can help advance the conversation.”
The survey found that almost half of all bullied students — 44 percent — cited their appearance as the reason they were bullied. Furthermore, 16 percent of students report being bullied by their race or skin color, and 14 percent of students report being bullied due to others’ perceptions of their sexual orientation.
Rates of bullying can also vary widely across school environments. The proportion of bullied students ranged from a low of 12 percent in schools with the least amount of bullying to a high of 59 percent in schools with the most. This variation can have critical implications for school and district leaders, as it is unlikely that students are having uniform experiences with bullying across all schools in a district.
YouthTruth works with schools across the country to use student, family, and school staff feedback to inform educational improvements. Utilizing sophisticated technology to analyze student feedback against a large library of aggregate data, YouthTruth also consults and informs school leaders to make meaningful decisions on other hot-button issues such as school safety, professional development, and classroom engagement.