Equity & Diversity

Study Measures Bullying’s Academic Toll

By Nirvi Shah — August 23, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

While bullying is known to leave physical and emotional scars, a new study finds that victims may suffer long-lasting academic effects, and high-achieving black and Latino students are especially vulnerable.

Building off previous research that found high-achieving black and Latino students are more likely to be bullied, Ohio State University doctoral student Lisa M. Williams and Anthony A. Peguero, an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, found that bullying, in turn, could lead to lower achievement for victims of bullies.

Their study was presented last week at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

The sociologists found that the grade point average of all students who were bullied in 10th grade dropped slightly by 12th grade. By their senior year, black students who had a 3.5 grade point average, on a scale of 0 to 4, as freshmen, lost almost one-third of a point if they had been bullied. The result was more pronounced for Latino victims of bullying: They lost half a point. That compares with a loss of less than one-tenth of a point for white students who had undergone such harassment, the researchers found.

One reason minority students seemed to suffer larger academic aftereffects, Ms. Williams said, could stem from some of the stereotypes about minority students, including that they are tough or street smart, compared to their peers from other racial and ethnic groups.

“Schools may think that because students are black and Latino, they’re better able to handle bullying,” she said, “and their schools won’t have the same type of [bullying prevention] programs.”

Being Proactive

On the other hand, Ms. Williams said, there are often prevention strategies in place at many predominantly white schools. Instead, schools must employ bullying-prevention programs regardless of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of their students, she said.

This fall, the U.S. Department of Education will begin a study that looks at how local bullying policies are put into action in several individual school districts and states. At about the same time, the Education Department will share the results of an analysis of current state anti-bullying laws and model policies. The study will aim to identify promising strategies that school districts are implementing to combat bullying in schools. This information will be used by the department to better support bullying-prevention activities.

Ms. Williams’ and Mr. Peguero’s results were based on the academic performance of 9,590 students in 580 schools. While many factors contribute to students’ academic performance, the researchers controlled for some other variables often associated with students’ academic achievement. They eliminated family background, previous grades, and school characteristics when calculating the effect of bullying on students’ grades.

In a previous study published earlier this year, Ms. Williams and Mr. Peguero found that black and Latino students who have high test scores, countering stereotypes of low academic achievement among such students, are more likely to be harassed or teased at school. They also found that low-achieving Asian-American students—going against stereotype—were also particularly vulnerable to bullying. Another study by Mr. Peguero has found that black and Latino students bullied at school are more likely to drop out than their peers.

Study’s Methodology

For the study released at last week’s conference in Las Vegas, Ms. Williams and Mr. Peguero came to their conclusions by comparing students’ baseline academic performance as 9th graders, before they had been bullied, with their academic achievement four years later as high school seniors. They found that about 40 percent of all students in their study answered yes to questions about being bullied, including whether they had been hit, bullied, or threatened with violence in the previous year.

Earlier this year, another study involving school bullies and stereotypes suggested that the most likely campus aggressors aren’t the most popular or most socially outcast students—those most typically thought of as potential bullies. Instead, mapping of students’ social networks found that children somewhere in the middle of the social hierarchies in their schools were the most likely bullies on campus.

A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2011 edition of Education Week as Study Finds Bullying Takes an Academic Toll on Students

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Students Embrace a Wide Range of Gender Identities. Most School Data Systems Don't
Districts like Philadelphia aren't waiting for the federal government to make their student information systems more inclusive.
9 min read
Illustration showing 4 individuals next to their pronouns (he/him, they/them, and she/her)
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Equity & Diversity Teachers Are Divided on Teaching LGBTQ Topics
Educators say a dearth of curriculum, lack of training, and fear of getting it wrong can cause hesitation to teach about LGBTQ topics.
7 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP
Equity & Diversity 'You're Not Going To Teach About Race. You're Going To Go Ahead and Keep Your Job.'
Educators in Oklahoma say a new law restricting classroom conversations about race and racism is causing widespread confusion and fear.
6 min read
Regan Killackey, AP English Language & AP Research teacher at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, Okla., in his classroom on Nov. 15, 2021
Regan Killackey, AP English Language & AP Research teacher at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, Okla., in his classroom.
Brett Deering for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion The Hidden Toll of Vaccine Mandates on Students of Color: What to Know
If we don’t take care, vaccine mandates could threaten a return to Jim Crow era schooling.
Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
Illustration of broken umbrella only stopping some of the rain
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty