Sexual Orientation as Reason for Bullying/Harassment, by Gender and Grade Level
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Learn More About Bullying and Harassment at School

Measures of Bullying and Harassment at School on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, measures of harassment and bullying come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) through a partnership with WestEd, which developed and administers the CHKS, and the California Department of Education. Indicators include: student reports of having been bullied on school property in the past year for any reason or for any bias-related reason (i.e., on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity or national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or a disability). In addition, kidsdata.org offers data on student reports of being bullied or harassed based on their disabilitygenderrace or national originreligionsexual orientation, or any other non-specified reason, each as separate indicators. These data are available by grade level (7th, 9th, 11th, and non-traditional students), gender, race/ethnicity, and level of connectedness to school. School connectedness is a summary measure that includes the following elements: being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school.
Bullying and Harassment at School
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Community Connectedness
Dating and Domestic Violence
Disconnected Youth
Emotional/Mental Health
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Juvenile Arrests
School Safety
School Connectedness
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Why This Topic Is Important
Bullying and harassment can have both short and long term harmful effects on children and youth (1, 2). In addition to the risk of physical injury, research shows that victims of bullying are at higher risk of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts than those not involved in or exposed to bullying (1). They also are more likely to experience physical health problems and difficulties with academic performance and school engagement (3). Any young person can be bullied, but certain groups may be particularly susceptible. For instance, according to a 2009 national survey of middle and high school students, 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth reported experiencing some form of harassment at school the year before (4).

It is important to note that any involvement in bullying, either as a victim, witness, and/or as a bully, is related to negative outcomes (1, 2). In fact, youth who bully others also have increased rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts than those not involved in bullying behavior (1, 2). Bullies also are more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs, engage in other risky behavior (e.g., early sexual activity), abuse others in intimate relationships, and engage in criminal activity as adults than non-bullies (3). Youth who witness frequent bullying, perhaps because of their social environment, also are at increased risk for alcohol and drug use, depression, or anxiety (3). Further, the fear of being bullied or harassed can cause extreme anxiety and disrupt a child’s ability to excel in school and life (3).

For more information on bullying and harassment at school see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Klomek, A. B., et al. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(1), 40-49.

2.  Vanderbilt, D. & Augustyn, M. (2010). The effects of bullying. Paediatrics and Child Health, 20(7), 315–320.

3.  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Stopbullying.gov. (nd). Effects of bullying. http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html

4.  Kosciw, J. G., et al. (2010). The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2624.html?state=research&type=research

How Children Are Faring
According to 2008-10 data, 42% of 7th graders, 35% of 9th graders, and 28% of 11th graders in California report being bullied or harassed at school at least once in the past year for any reason. The percentages of 7th grade girls and boys who reported being bullied at least once because of their race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability has increased slightly since 2004-06, though the patterns are not as clear for 9th and 11th graders.

When youth are bullied or harassed at school, the most common specific reason cited is because of their race or national origin, with 19% of 7th graders, 17% of 9th graders, and 14% of 11th graders in 2008-10 reporting at least one bullying incident in the past year for this reason. Among African American/Black students, 25% said they had been bullied due to their race at least once in the past year, followed by 24% of Asian American and 23% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. Other reasons cited include sexual orientation (8-12% of students in grades 7, 9, and 11 citing one or more incidents at school in the past 12 months), gender (7-11%), religion (9-10%), disability (4-6%), and “any other reason” (15-27%).

Seventh- and ninth-graders in California reported more bullying or harassment than 11th graders and non-traditional students (those enrolled in Community Day Schools or continuation programs) in 2008-10. Students who report feeling less connected to their schools more often report being bullied or harassed.
Policy Implications
Bullying and harassment at school have taken on new forms in recent years with the advent of digital technologies (1), and the issue has come under closer scrutiny by schools and policymakers (2). While some whole-school, systemic interventions (focusing on bullies, victims, and bystanders) have shown positive results, the majority of curriculum-based, anti-bullying programs have not been proven effective (3). Many schools have adopted “zero tolerance” discipline policies to address misbehavior, which actually may result in students feeling less safe than students at schools with more moderate discipline policies; the “zero tolerance” approaches also may deter reporting of misbehavior (4, 5). Although any student could be a victim, students who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, or who are perceived to be so, are at particularly high risk of being bullied or harassed (6).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could improve school safety and prevent bullying and harassment include:
  • Supporting well-implemented, age-specific, whole-school approaches to bullying prevention that involve multiple systems and methods, the entire school community, and long-term involvement by staff (3, 5)
  • Instituting discipline policies that respond effectively to aggressors, victims, and bystanders, while avoiding unintended consequences of “zero tolerance” policies (4, 5)
  • Crafting anti-bullying policies that increase the likelihood that victims will report bullying, rather than those that may inadvertently create a school culture that deters it (5, 7)
  • Implementing a multi-pronged strategy of staff training, student support, information sharing, and public statements of policy to reduce harassment of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students (6)
For more policy ideas and information, see the federal government’s StopBullying.gov, the California Department of Education, and the writings and presentations of Dan Olweus and Barbara Coloroso. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under School Connectedness, Pupil Support Services Personnel, and Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Hertz, et al. (2008). Electronic media and youth violence: A CDC issue brief for educators and caregivers. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/EA-brief-a.pdf 

2.  New York Times Topics:
Bullies. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/b/bullies/index.html

3.  Vreeman, et al. (2007). A systematic review of school-based interventions to prevent bullying.
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161(1), 78-88. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/161/1/78

4.  McNeeley, et al. (2002). Promoting school connectedness: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
Journal of School Health, 72(4), 138-146. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12029810 

5.  Sampson, R. (2009). 
Bullying in schools. U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/files/RIC/Publications/e07063414-guide.pdf

6.  O’Shaughnessy, et al. (2004). 
Safe place to learn: Consequences of harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender non-conformity and steps for making schools safer. California Safe Schools Coalition and 4-H Center for Youth Development. http://www.casafeschools.org/SafePlacetoLearnLow.pdf

7.  Petrosino, et al. (2010). 
What characteristics of bullying, bullying victims, and schools are associated with increased reporting of bullying to school officials? Regional Educational Laboratory for WestEd. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/northeast/pdf/REL_2010092.pdf
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