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1 in 4 students report being bullied, and experiences can vary by gender identity, national survey of 180,000 students finds

Mike Szymanski | September 26, 2017

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(Courtesy: The YouthTruth Student Survey)

A national survey shows that 1 in 4 students experienced bullying, and those who identify as something other than male or female are bullied at slightly higher rates.

The YouthTruth Student Survey, released Tuesday by the San Francisco-based education nonprofit, found that more than 48,000 students — or 25 percent — surveyed in 34 states said they were victims of bullying.

This is the second bullying report by YouthTruth, which this time looked at students’ self-reported gender identity to see how it factored into incidents of bullying.

That is particularly timely because of the recent series of legislation involving bathrooms, the proliferation of gender-neutral bathrooms in schools, and the increased awareness of trans-inclusive issues at schools. Also, October is National Bullying Awareness Prevention Month.

Having a specific focus on gender orientation can help better target where anti-bullying efforts should be focused, said YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka.

“Bullying is an issue that can often be difficult for students to talk about, which heightens the importance of anonymous, candid student feedback,” Wilka said in an email. “These findings illustrate that bullying is prevalent in the lives of many students, and that some students may be experiencing bullying differently than their peers.”

The 1-in-4 statistic is similar to last year’s results, which surveyed 80,000 students. Here are highlights of this year’s survey of 180,000 students in grades five through 12:

  •    22 of the male students and 30 percent of female students reported being bullied.
  •    44 percent of the students identifying in another way reported being victims of bullying.
  •    73 percent reported being verbally harassed.
  •    Most bullying happened in person.
  •    61 percent of girls and 62 percent of those who identified as other than male or female reported social harassment, compared to 45 percent of boys.
  •    Nearly half of the students cite their appearance as the reason they are bullied.
  •    17 percent report being bullied because of race or skin color, while 15 percent said it was because of their perceived sexual orientation.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to ending online and offline bullying noted the importance of the survey findings. Joseph Clementi co-founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation, named after his son who was cyberbullied to the point of suicide.

These latest YouthTruth findings on bullying are crucial to understanding bullying as a public health epidemic that touches children of every school at every grade level. It has been shown that bullying can lead to a host of negative behaviors, from poor grades to drug abuse and depression,” Clementi said.

YouthTruth partners with groups across the country to use student, family, and school staff feedback on the themes in education by using technology and data. The survey is being used as a learning tool for teachers, principals, and students with sample discussion questions at the end.

“All students have the right to feel safe at school,” Wilka noted. “We hope that this data helps to spark conversations and inform anti-bullying efforts.”

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