- Last Updated on 02 August 2012
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“These results paint a fairly bleak picture for students with disabilities in terms of bullying, victimization and disciplinary actions,” wrote lead author Susan Swearer, professor of school psychology at UNL.
For the study, researchers followed a group of more than 800 special education and general education students. The participants varied in age from 9 to 16 years and were from nine different elementary, middle and high school systems.
Almost 70 percent of students claimed to have been victimized by bullies, with approximately 38 percent admitting to bullying. Children in special education classes were found to be most at risk for antisocial behaviors, bullying, being bullied, and being disciplined for behavioral issues. Students with what researchers defined as “observable disabilities” had an even higher risk of bullying or being bullied.
Swearer attributes the increased risk to a cycle of being bullied and then seeking revenge through bullying.
Other study findings revealed bullying behaviors in general education students peaked around seventh grade, steadily declining after that point. Both boys and girls participated in bullying, with no major difference seen between genders. For general education students experiencing bullying, the peak appeared around fifth grade. For special education students, there was no difference in bullying related to grade level.
UNL authors highlight the importance of anti-bullying intervention programs. They suggest, regardless of ability, students should be involved in pro-socialization initiatives, role model programs, and integration plans to move special need students into general population classes.
Almost 70 percent of students claim to have been victimized by bullies, with approximately 38 percent admitting to bullying. Children in special education classes are found to be most at risk for antisocial behaviors, bullying, being bullied, and being disciplined for behavioral issues. (Shutterstock photos)
In an interview with the American Psychological Association, Swearer addressed bullying in general, stating no one really knows if bullying has become more prevalent in recent years.
“What we do know is that bullying is a problem that reaches into the culture, community, school, peer groups and families,” she said. “The extent of the problem will vary across different communities and schools. In some schools, physical bullying might be particularly prevalent, whereas in another school, cyber-bullying might be particularly prevalent.”
If bullying is suspected by a teacher or parent, Swearer recommends intervention must take place immediately. The event must be documented, and the bullying parties instructed to stop. Those who are being bullied need support programs and help connecting with peers in school. Swearer also states having a therapy group is beneficial to allow students to openly express emotions.
If intervention comes too late or not at all, serious negative effects can be seen among students, she says.
“I really want the public to be aware of the link between mental health issues and bullying,” she said. “Whether students are involved as bullies, victims, bully-victims (someone who is bullied and who also bullies others) or bystanders, we know that in many cases, depression and anxiety may be co-occurring problems.”
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