Student Survey on Bullying

The following excerpts are from “What Students Say About Bullying” by Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon in Educational Leadership, September 2011 (Vol. 69, #1, p. 18-23),; Davis can be reached at, Nixon at

In a recent Educational Leadership article researchers described what more than 13,000 grade 5-8 students said in response to the Youth Voice online survey about bullying (for detailed results, see Students who had experienced bullying were first asked what they did in response, and then whether it made things better or worse. Here’s what students said:

What was least effective: Trying to handle it yourself – These strategies made things worse most of the time:

  • Telling a bully to stop (worse 32% of the time, better 22%);
  • Telling the bully how they felt (worse 32%, better 25%);
  • Pretending the bullying didn’t bother them (worse 22%, better 28%).

Somewhat more effective: putting responsibility where it belongs: Reminding themselves that bullying wasn’t their fault made things better for 37% of high-school students, 35% in middle school, and 25% in elementary school. “These data suggest that as their brains develop and mature, students are increasingly able to offset the pain of being mistreated with their reflective knowledge that they are not responsible for what others choose to do to them,” say Davis and Nixon.

Most effective: Seeking encouragement, advice, and protection from friends and adults:

  • Telling an adult at school (38% said this made things better, 27% worse);
  • Telling an adult at home (37% better, 16% worse);
  • Telling a friend (36% better, 15% worse).

Adult support and encouragement… make things better, say the researchers. These are the key components:

  • Supervising students vigilantly;
  • Soliciting ideas from students and staff on rules, expectations, and consequences;
  • Building a school-wide framework of nurturing, warm relationships;
  • Developing procedures for staff to follow when bullying happens;
  • When appropriate, using smaller, consistent consequences to foster acceptance of responsibility;
  • Dealing with more serious offenses with progressive discipline steps, parent notification, and interventions to help bullies learn more positive behaviors;
  • Making retaliation or threat of retaliation for “telling” a serious offense.
  • Helping chronic bullies develop empathy, self-control, and anger management;
  • Getting students involved in hobbies, service activities, and strong connections with peers.

What can fellow students do to help? They don’t have to “stand up” to bullies. Instead, say the researchers, “small, quiet actions of support, such as calling the bullied student at home to encourage him or her, can also be effective.” The study identified 9,000 “quiet heroes” who behaved in this way and said they believed it made a positive difference.


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