Bullying/Harassment, by 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 bullying and harassment at school come from:
Data based on student reports come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and are available by grade level (7, 9, 11, and/or non-traditional), gender, level of school connectedness,* parent education level, and sexual orientation.

State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools.

*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
Bullying and Harassment at School
Children's Emotional Health
Pupil Support Services
School Safety
School Attendance and Discipline
School Climate
Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Why This Topic Is Important
Bullying is considered a significant public health problem (1, 2). National estimates indicate that between 20 and 30 percent of children and youth are bullied at school each year, with certain vulnerable groups at even higher risk, including students with disabilities and LGBTQ youth (1, 2). This aggressive behavior, which may be physical, verbal, or social—and may occur in person or online—can have long-term harmful effects (1, 2). In addition to the risk of physical injury, victims of bullying are at risk for depression, anxiety, suicidal behavior, physical health problems, substance abuse into adulthood, low academic achievement, and poor social and school adjustment (1, 2).

Any involvement in bullying, whether as a bully, victim, or witness, is associated with negative outcomes (1, 2). Youth who bully others are more likely to experience depression and engage in delinquent and suicidal behavior than non-bullies, and those who report being both a bully and a victim are at even higher risk for suicidal behavior (1, 2). Further, youth who only witness bullying are more likely to report feelings of helplessness and other negative feelings than those who have not witnessed bullying (1, 2). Even the fear of being bullied or harassed may disrupt a child's ability to excel in school and life (2).
For more information on bullying and harassment at school see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Preventing bullying through science, policy, and practice. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23482/preventing-bullying-through-science-policy-and-practice

2.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2014). The relationship between bullying and suicide: What we know and what it means for schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf
How Children Are Faring
According to 2015-2017 estimates, more than one in four California youth in grades 7, 9, and 11 had been bullied or harassed at school in the previous year, and around one in five had been cyberbullied by other students. During the same period, school staff reports that bullying/harassment among students was a moderate or severe problem ranged from 22% of responses from elementary school staff to 44% of middle school staff reports. In each grade level, estimates of bullying and cyberbullying tended to be higher among girls than among boys in 2015-2017. Across all types of bullying and harassment, gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and those with low levels of school connectedness were more likely to be victimized than their straight and more connected peers.

When students are bullied or harassed at school, it is most often for reasons of bias (related to disabilities, gender, race/ethnicity or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation). In 2015-2017, an estimated 25% of 7th graders, 24% of 9th graders, 23% of 11th graders, and 14% of non-traditional students statewide were bullied or harassed in the previous year for one or more bias-related reasons. The prevalence of bias-related bullying/harassment varied widely depending on the reason for bias and the group affected. For example, bullying and harassment for reasons related to race/ethnicity or national origin were twice as common among Asian (27%), African American/black (22%), and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (22%) students when compared with their white counterparts (10%). Among students identifying as gay, lesbian, and bisexual, almost half (45%) were bullied or harassed because they were, or were thought to be, gay or lesbian.
Policy Implications
Bullying and harassment at school have come under closer scrutiny by schools and policymakers in recent years (1, 2). Bullying is pervasive in schools nationwide and can have lasting harmful consequences on child health and well being (1, 2, 3). Although any student can be a victim, certain groups are at higher risk for being bullied or harassed, such as LGBTQ youth and students with disabilities (1, 2).

California has enacted laws to address bullying and cyberbullying, and state and federal policies provide guidance on effective school discipline strategies (4, 5). In particular, schools are required to use alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, as overuse of these practices has not resulted in safer schools or improved student behavior (3, 4). State and federal policies also encourage schools to teach students social and behavioral skills and to create positive, supportive school environments (4). Comprehensive strategies that focus on building protective factors (e.g., social skills, caring relationships with adults, student connectedness to school, etc.) and addressing bullying in tandem with other negative behaviors, such as substance use and violence, are most likely to succeed (1, 3, 6).

Policy and program options that could prevent and address bullying/harassment at school include:
  • Incorporating anti-bullying efforts into a comprehensive, well-coordinated school-wide system supporting student needs and creating positive school climates, as supportive school atmospheres are linked to lower bullying rates and other positive outcomes (1, 3, 6)
  • Engaging all school stakeholders—leaders, teachers, students, families, community members, and others—to develop and disseminate shared anti-bullying mission statements, codes of conduct, school policies, and bullying reporting systems (3, 6, 7)
  • Providing training for staff (e.g., teachers, coaches, counselors, nurses, administrators, etc.), students, parents, and others on how to deal with bullying incidents, focusing in particular on empowering bystanders to prevent bullying (3, 6)
  • Following state and federal law, implementing prevention-oriented school discipline policies that are clear, fair, consistent, and promote a positive learning environment; such policies should be based on a tiered system of appropriate responses to misconduct that keep students in school when possible, and should include clear, equitable classroom behavior management practices (4, 8)
  • Ensuring that school policies and practices are responsive to the diverse cultural norms of students/families and include a focus on reducing harassment of vulnerable populations, including youth with disabilities and LGBTQ youth; this may involve staff training, student support, information sharing, and public position statements (3, 6)
  • Ensuring that anti-bullying efforts address the wide array of settings where incidents may occur, e.g., hallways, restrooms, buses, routes to and from school, and online (1, 3, 7)
  • Providing opportunities for students to develop social and behavioral skills (such as self-regulation, problem solving, relationship building, and decision making) and to build connections with adults fostering supportive relationships and high expectations (1, 3, 6)
  • Encouraging social media companies to publish anti-bullying policies on their websites and to implement, evaluate, and strengthen methods of preventing and addressing bullying online (1)
Find more policy ideas and information at the California Department of Education's School Health Office and the U.S. government’s StopBullying.gov. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under School Climate, Pupil Support Services, and School Attendance and Discipline.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Preventing bullying through science, policy, and practice. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23482/preventing-bullying-through-science-policy-and-practice

2.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2014). The relationship between bullying and suicide: What we know and what it means for schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf

3.  American Educational Research Association. (2013). Prevention of bullying in schools, colleges, and universities: Research report and recommendations. Retrieved from: http://www.aera.net/Publications/Books/Prevention-of-Bullying

4.  Public Counsel. (n.d.). Fix School Discipline: Toolkit for educators. Retrieved from: http://www.fixschooldiscipline.org/educator-toolkit

5.  Cyberbullying Research Center. (n.d.). Bullying laws in California. Retrieved from: https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-laws/california

6.  David-Ferdon, C., & Simon, T. R. (2014). Preventing youth violence: Opportunities for action. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/pdf/opportunities-for-action.pdf

7.  StopBullying.gov. (2019). How to prevent bullying. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention

8.  Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Bullying and Harassment at School