Teachers as bystanders: The effect of teachers' perceptions on reporting bullying behavior
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Tables
List of Figures
Review of the Literature
Analysis of the Data
Appendix: Survey Instrument
LIST OF TABLES
Hawai‘i Youth Risk Behavior Survey (responses from students)
Three categories of bullying behaviors
Decision model (Latane & Darley)
Participating Complex Areas (Hawai‘i State DOE)
Participants by school position
Participants by age group
Behaviors you would report
Age group, gender and reporting
Actionable behavior by gender
Reporting verbal abuse
Reporting social abuse
Ta ble 14.
Who handles bullying behavior?
People you would report to (top 4)
Why you would report to that person/office
Top reasons why people are likely to intervene
Barrier s to reporting
Findings related to the Bystander Theory
LIST OF FIGURES
Students ages 12 - 18 who reported bullying problems at school
O‘ahu Complex Areas (school districts)
Number of years in educ ation
This paper examines the role of educators as it relates to the reporting process of bullying incidents. Since bullying behaviors have negative effects on student health and educators have regular contact with students, this study looks at teacher perceptions of bullying behaviors and how these perceptions influence the reporting process. Using the theoretical framework of bystander behavior by Latane and Darley (1970), the purpose of this study was to examine the teachers’ bystander exp erience by: 1) looking at how teachers interpreted an incident as a problem – in this case that was accomplished by examining the bullying behaviors teachers considered “actionable”; 2) determining whether educators felt responsible for dealing with bully ing incidents by g athering data that revealed teacher reporting habits regarding “actionable” behaviors; and 3) exploring available resources and tools for intervention by examining the school climate, the personal characteristics of the teacher and other influences on the reporting process.
Data for this study was collected through a questionnaire using educators from public elementary and middle schools in the State of Hawai‘i. A total of 195 surveys were used for data analysis. The results found that t eachers did not agree on which behaviors should be reported. Gender differences were found regarding which bullying behaviors teachers considered more serious. Physical and verbal behaviors were considered more actionable than social behaviors.
Teachers’ views on the severity of verbal and social bullying behaviors did not match their data on reporting. In many classrooms, verbal and social bullying
often went unreported. Factors such as the location of the incident and the physical state of the victim affected the intervention process.
Many teachers in Hawai‘i have not had formal training to handle bullying problems. Some of the schools that participated in the study have school policies for behavior, yet many of the teachers believe that the schools d o not enforce these policies.
Bullying, defined by Olweus (1993) as repeated negative actions by one person towards another (p. 98) and by Rigby (2008) as the systematic abuse of power in interpersonal relationships (p. 22), is cons idered an international crisis and is one of the most highly researched topics in education (Espelage & Swearer, 2003). Over 20, 000 scholarly articles and books have been written on the subject since 1978 (Google Scholar). Indeed, incidents of bullying have been reported in homes, on college campuses and in the workplace (Chapell, Hasselman, Kitchin, Lomon, MacIver & Sarullo, 2006). But the most common site for bullying is the school ( Mishna, Scarcello, Pepler, Wiener, 2005; Akiba, LeTendre, Baker & Goe sling, 2002).
To illustrate the severity of the problem, information is presented here beginning with data from international sources. Following the international sources is the data from resources within the United States and finally, the data available on bullying in the State of Hawai‘i.
Background of the Problem
The problem of bullying is an international concern as evident through published research findings from Norway, Finland, Israel, Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Japan and Aus tralia (Akiba, LeTendre, Baker, Goesling, 2002;
Benbenishty, Astor & Zeira, 2003; Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 2003; Schafer, Korn, Brodbeck, Wolke & Schulz, 2005; Salmon, James, & Smith, 1998; Khoury - Kassabri, Benbenishty & Astor, 2005; Green, 2007). Bullying b ehaviors affect 30 - 40% of students both nationally and internationally from elementary school through high school and beyond (Astor, 2002; Behre, 2001; Khosropour, 2001; Unnever & Corneli, 2003; Olweus, 1993). Students from elementary school through high school are affected by bullying behaviors, but the largest number of bullying incidents occurs in the middle school grades (Astor, 2002; Behre, Astor & Meyer 2001; Khosropour & Walsh, 2001; Unnever & Corneli, 2003; Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005).
In 2004 the Wo rld Health Organization published selected key findings from the Health Behaviour in School - aged Children study showing that the percentage of bullying (at least twice a month) ranged from 1% to 50% across all countries, regions and age/gender groups. Bull ying was found to be more prevalent among boys than girls and increased slightly between 11 and 15 years of age (WHO, 2004). The report is a good indicator to participating countries on how well their bullying prevention programs are doing.
After the 200 2 report (the reports are done every 4 years although the 2008 report is not yet available to the public), the PREVNet organization in Canada stated on their website that Canada’s drop in ranking from the previous report showed that countries such as Norwa y and England have made progress through national campaigns to address bullying issues. Canadian children who died from bullying raised their awareness of bullying problems for bullies and victims and sparked
interest in promoting prevention strategies (P REVNet, 2010). Canada’s renewed interest in bullying prevention demonstrates the importance of international reports such as the Health Behaviour in School - aged Children study.
Although bullying is a problem for educators, it is not often a ddressed in U.S. schools (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons - Morton, Scheidt, 2001). Initial studies on bullying took place in countries such as Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom (Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 2003; Smith, Pepler & Rigby, 2004), however the issue was not a major concern for the United States until the Columbine shootings in 1999 (Koch, 1998; Dake, Price & Telljohann; Gladden, 2002). The connection between extreme violence and bullying became national news when the U.S. Secret Service re vealed that two thirds of the 37 different school shootings in the United States were triggered by previous acts of bullying.
In March of 2010, the American public was again reminded of the impact of bullying when 15 year old Phoebe Prince of Hadley, Massa chusetts committed suicide. The event happened in January of 2010, but news of the event spread across various television stations, newspapers and magazines within two months. Due to the fact that legal action was taken against the six high school studen ts who were accused of verbal bullying and threats of physical violence, wide - spread attention was given to the fact that bullying continues to be a problem in our nation’s schools
(Smolowe, Herbst, Egan, Rakowsky & Mascia, 2010). Also important to this s tudy is the fact that verbal and social bullying has devastating effects on students.
According to Nan Stein, Senior Research Scientist at the Center of Research on Women at Wellesley College, there is very little research on U.S. bullying. She believes t hat more research must be done in the United States because strategies developed in other countries, such as implementation of a nation - wide curriculum, are not appropriate for America’s education system. Stein also criticized the use and application of i nternational data collection by American teachers because the studies used predominantly homogeneous populations (Geffner, Loring, Young, 2001).
Abigail McNamee and Mia Mercurio (2008) report that “…half of all children in the United States are bullied at some time in their lives; one in two is victim on a regular basis.” In 1998, after the United States became a part of the World Health Organization (WHO, 2010), one of the first studies on bullying the United States surveyed 15,686 students in grades 6 - 10 from both public and private schools across the country (part of the World Health Organization’s Health Behavior in School - aged Children Survey). The data revealed that bullying was most prevalent among 6 th to 8 th grade students. The report showed 29.9% of students were involved in bullying behaviors and 13% bullied others. The percentage declined in grades 9 - 10 (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons - Morton & Scheidt, 2001).
The National Center for Educational Statistics published a report on the indicat ors of school crime and safety in 2007 (the most recent set of published statistics). The indicators were compiled from national surveys taken by students,
teachers and principals. The type of behavior reported and the percentage of students who were vic timized by these behaviors are found in Figure 1 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
Figure 1. Students ages 12 - 18 who reported bullying problems at school in 2005
NOTE: "At school" includes the school building, on school property, on a school bus, or going to and from school. Types of bullying do not sum to total because students could have experienced more than one type of bullying. In 2005, the unit response rate for this survey did not meet NCES statistical standards; therefore, int erpret the data with caution. Population size for students ages 12 – 18 is 25,811,000 in 2005 (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement [SCS] to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005).
Figure 1 shows the res ults of a survey taken by students, ages 12 - 18 who reported selected bullying problems at school during the previous 6 months (prior to the date of the survey in 2005), by the type of bullying. The results indicate 28% of all students reported being bulli ed during the last half of 2005. Students ages 12 - 18
reported that 11% of them were targets of hate related words and 38% were targets of hate - related graffiti. In 2005, 53 percent of students who had been bullied said that the incidents occurred 1 - 2 tim es over a 6 month period; 25 percent experienced bullying 1 - 2 times a month; 11 percent were bullied 1 - 2 times a week and 8 percent were bullied almost daily. Data on the location of the bullying revealed that 79% of the incidents occurred in school, 28% o utside of school grounds, 8% on the bus and 5% elsewhere (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
Approximately 40% of public and private school teachers agreed that student misconduct interfered with their ability to teach. On the elementary sch ool level 79% of teachers and 88% of principals reported that they believed the school rules were enforced by teachers and by the principal. On the secondary level 56% of teachers and 86% of principals believed the rules were enforced by teachers and by t he principal (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
Hawai‘i State Data
Although a significant amount of the available research on bullying is focused on international and mainland U.S. schools (Doll, Song, Siemers, 2004), there are relatively f ew research - based studies that address bullying issues in Hawai‘i’s schools (D’Amato, 1988, O’Donnell, 2003). The most recent statistics on the behavior of middle school students from the Hawai‘i Youth Risk Behavior Survey for Public Middle Schools publis hed by the Curriculum Research &
Development Group from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, College of Education (Saka, 2008) revealed the following:
Table 1. Hawai‘i Youth Risk Behavior Survey (responses from students)
Health Risk Behavior (Middle Scho ol)
Had someone try to hurt them by hitting, punching, or kicking them while on school property during the 12 months before the survey
Had been hurt by having mean things said to them (things that hurt their feelings) while on school property one or more times during the 12 months before the survey
Had been hurt by having mean things said to them or about them (things that hurt their feelings) on the Internet or email during the 12 months before the survey
Had been harassed because some one thought they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual during the 12 months before the survey
Strongly agree or agree that harassment and bullying by other students is a problem at their school
Felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities during the 12 months before the survey
Seriously thought about killing themselves during the 12 months before the survey
Impact of Bullying
Mental Health Concerns
Bullying is a crit ical issue for the health of our youth both nationally and internationally (Nansel, Craig, Overpeck, Saluja, Ruan, & the Health Behaviour in
School - aged Children Bullying Analyses Working Group, 2004). Data from American research studies link bullying inc idents with mental health concerns, anti - social behavior and even suicide (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons - Morton, Scheidt, 2001; Coloroso, 2003; Hazler & Carney, 2002). The National School Safety Center states that, “school bullying affects the saf ety and social well - being of the entire school community.”
Health issues associated with bullying include psychosomatic and psychosocial problems, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide (Quiroz, Arnette & Ste phens, 2006). Bully victims have higher chances of developing new psychosomatic and psychosocial problems (Fekkes, Pijpers, Fredriks, Vogels And Verloove - Vanhorick, 2006; Nishina, Juvonen & Witkow, 2005). A study that compared symptoms of students in 28 countries showed a consistent and strong connection between bullying and physical or psychological symptoms including headache, stomach ache, backache, feeling low, bad temper, nervousness, difficulties in getting to sleep, dizziness, loneliness, feeling t ired, feeling left out, and feeling helpless (Due, Holstein, Lynch, Diderichsen, Gabhain, Scheidt, Currie, and the Health Behavior in School - Aged Children Bullying Working Group, 2005).
Another hazard associated with bullying is posttraumatic stress disord er (PTSD) attributed to exposure to community violence, physical and sexual abuse,
disasters and war. High - risk populations have shown that 1 out of 3 young people will develop PTSD. Often children with PTSD are not diagnosed early enough and the problem continues with them into their adult life. This disorder causes students to show low academic achievement, lower self - worth, anxiety, depression and loneliness (Kataoka, 2008; Mynard, Joseph & Alexander 2000; Storch & Esposito, 2003).
Depression and Sui cide
Victims of bullying often develop symptoms of depression. A recent study on childhood depression revealed that nearly 3 million children and adolescents suffer from depression including very young students. This disorder can be triggered by various reasons including prolonged exposure to violence or physical or emotional abuse. Left untreated, depression can lead to adolescent suicide since students suffering from depression are 14 times more likely to commit or attempt suicide (Koch, 1999).
Not onl y are bullying incidents associated with mental health concerns and social adjustment issues (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons - Morton, Scheidt, 2001; Boulton & Hawker, 1997), but in many cases bullying behavior is also the cause of teen suicide (Color oso, 2003; Hazler & Carney, 2002). Although 40% of adolescent deaths are caused by suicide, it is not clear what percentage of suicides were the result of bullying (NEA, 2008). The most recent statistics from the National Center for Educational Statisti cs show that suicide of 5 - 18 year olds totaled
1,471 between 2004 and 2005 (IES National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007). Coloroso (2002) lists 13 specific cases of suicide due to bullying and comments that hundreds of cases from around the world have been documented to prove the connection between bullying behaviors and teen suicide.
Young people deal with depression, loss, frustration and rejection. Combined with impulsivity due to adolescent hormones, these feelings can lead to suicide (Hosann sky, 2004). In two recent international studies of over 5,500 children, the results indicate that depression and suicidal ideation are associated with being bullied for both boys and girls ages 9 - 15. Indirect bullying was found to be more of a problem th an direct bulling on health outcomes. Suicidal ideation in connect with indirect bullying was more prevalent in girls than in boys (van der Wal, de Wit, Hirasing, 2003; Kim, Koh & Leventhal, 2005).
Long - term Health Effects
Research on the long - term effec ts of bullying show that sometimes months or years after a bullying incident occurs, emotional problems exist for both bullies and victims. Studies found that the future emotional well being of students was related to victimization (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin & Patton, 2001). Findings show that physical or relational aggression in grades 7 - 9 was found to increase the risk of aggression for the next 1 - 2 years or later (Herrenkohl, Catalano, Hemphill & Toumbourou, 2009). Additional studies found that the problem of depression often
continues into adulthood (Lund, Nielsen, Hansen, Kriegbaum, Molbo, Due and Christensen, 2009).
The effect of bullying on students’ mental health status was found to be most prevalent in girls. Recent studies reve al that girls are commonly involved with indirect forms of bullying such as verbal and social bullying including name - calling, teasing and spreading rumors (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons - Morton & Scheidt, 2001; Owens, Shute & Slee, 2000). Direct b ullying is more prevalent among males (Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005). However, several studies have confirmed that verbal abuse, social abuse and practical jokes are just as detrimental to the students’ mental health and social wellbeing as physical abuse (Ol weus, 1993; Glascock, 2008; Owens, Shute & Slee, 2000; Espelage & Swearer, 2003).
Several school strategies have been implemented to address bullying and most include prevention programs such as the Olweus program that help students, faculty an d administrators develop social skills, citizenship and awareness of good behavior (Olweus, 1993). School districts have set up comprehensive and effective student conduct policies and prevention strategies using professional development and encourage sta tes and districts to maintain and report data (National Safe Schools Partnership 2007). Some schools use teaching practices that reduce aggression by
promoting student engagement and positive work habits (Herrenkohl, Catalano, Hemphill & Toumbourou, 2009) . Other schools have reduced the size of the school with positive results on student behavior (Devine, 2004).
Teacher Self - Efficacy and Intervention Skills
Many teachers fail to report bullying behaviors that happen in the classroom due to personal feeli ngs of inadequacy, a high tolerance level for bullying behaviors, or often because the behaviors go unnoticed (Crothers and Kolbert, 2008; Naylor, Cowie, Cossin, deBettencourt & Lemme, 2006). Teachers that view specific bullying incidents as normative beh avior are not likely to intervene (Kochenderfer - Ladd & Pelletier, 2007). Studies show that the role of the teacher is a major factor in preventing bullying behaviors and maintaining a positive atmosphere in the classroom (Mishna, Scarcello, Pepler, Wiener, 2005; Dedousis - Wallace & Shute, 2009).
In order to prevent bullying problems from escalating, it is important to look at teacher perceptions of reportable behaviors, the ability and self - efficacy of the educator to deal with the problem, the availability of support systems and various factors that may inhibit the teacher from reporting. This dissertation will focus on 1) the teachers’ understanding of bullying behaviors and how those perceptions affect the reporting process, 2) compare the behaviors that a re considered actionable with those that are actually reported, 3) observe the influence of the school climate on
reporting process and 4) determine whether the teachers’ perceived self - efficacy interferes with reporting behaviors.
Drawing the Line
The pr oblem of bullying affects more than 80 percent of all middle school students (Bosworth, Espelage & Simon, 1999) yet several issues make it difficult to control the undesired behavior. These barriers include a nebulous understanding on behalf of educators as to where to draw the line regarding bullying behavior – for example, some teachers view physical bulling as serious and worthy of documentation, yet social and verbal abuse is not always reported (Dedousis - Wallace & Shute, 2009; Evans, 2003). Barriers also include confusion regarding who is responsible for reporting; school climates that may not promote student safety and teacher support; a lack of teacher or staff training to deal with difficult situations; and lastly a need for guidelines to determine appropriate interventions based on the needs of individual schools (Astor, Benbenishty & Meyer, 2005).
Behaviors associated with bullying are usually listed under three main categories: physical, verbal, and social . Table 2 lists some of the common terms in each of these categories. Terms that may be less familiar to some readers are defined in the list of terms towards the end of this chapter.
Table 2. Three categories of bullying behaviors
Kicking (not in self defense )
Locking students out/in
Sexual or physical harassment
Stealing or destroying another persons property
Name calling (frequent)
Put - downs
Teasing (repeated )
Cyber - bullying
Humiliation or shaming
Note. List of bullying behaviors compiled using the following journals “School - wide intervention in the childhood bullying triangle,” by A. McNamee & M. Mercurio, 2008. Childhood Education , 84:6; “That's not teasing -- That's Bullying: A study of fifth graders' conceptualization of bullying and teasing,” by S. C. Khosropour & J. Walsh, 2001. Paper presente d at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Seattle, WA, April 10 - 14, 2001); “Bullying and peer victimization: Position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine,” M. E. Eisenberg & M. C. Aalsma, 2005. Journal of Adolescen t Health ,
36, 88 - 91; “Research on school bullying and victimization: What have we learned and where do we go from here,” by D. L. Espelage & S. M. Swearer, 2003. School Psychology Review , 32(2), 365 - 382.
Studies show that teachers differ on their percep tion of reportable behaviors. In a study of UK teachers, 25% of them did not consider name calling, spreading rumors, stealing and intimidation to be bullying behaviors (Naylor, Cowie, Cossin, deBettencourt & Lemme (2006). Teachers in Canada consider phy sical aggression a serious offense, yet verbal aggression and exclusion are not considered behaviors worthy of intervention (Mishna, Scarcello, Pepler & Wiener, 2005).
The theoretical framework
that addresses the teachers’ role in th e intervention process is the bystander theory from Latane & Darley (1970). This theory lists four main points of bystander behavior. The bystander must 1) notice the event 2) interpret it as a problem 3) feel responsible for dealing with it 4) determine
the mode of intervention. If the bystanders in this situation are teachers, the four stages could be modified to show that in order for a teacher to intervene the teacher must 1) notice the bullying behavior; 2) interpret it as a problem that must be add ressed; 3) take responsibility for dealing with the problem and 4) determine how to best handle the situation. Previous literature examined teacher reporting from the perspective of recognizing and reporting bullying behaviors that focus on stages 1 and 2 of this theory – recognizing there is a problem and dealing with it.
The first area of focus for this study will be stage 2 – interpret it as a problem or in this case determine where to draw the line on bullying behaviors that should be reported. It is important that teachers and staff members have a clear understanding of when to intervene. If teachers are uncertain on the nature or severity of the behavior, bullying situations may be overlooked or ignored. Many teachers may not see this as problem bu t it sets the standard for students on which behaviors a teacher will tolerate (Kochenderfer - Ladd & Pelletier, 2008; Dedousis - Wallace & Shute, 2009).
The second area of focus will examine stage 3 – feel responsible for dealing with the problem. Some teach ers see bullying incidents that occur either in the
classroom or on campus, however they ignore the behavior or chose not to report it. Sometimes this happens because teachers do not feel they are adequately training to deal with the situation (Newman - Car lson & Horne, 2004).
The last area of focus will examine stage 4 – determining the mode of intervention. In order for teachers to handle behavioral problems they must have the necessary training or support. Teachers are expected to be competent in dealin g with difficult situations, yet reports show that often educators feel insecure about their skills to handle certain behavioral issues (Crothers & Kolbert, 2008; Rigby & Bagshaw, 2003). One area of focus in stage 4 will include a review of the school cli mate to see if the support or lack of support from the counselors, administrators and staff encourages or discourages reporting.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to examine three parts of teachers’ bystander experience: (1) examine the wa ys in which teachers interpret an incident as a problem by looking at which bullying behaviors teachers consider “actionable’; (2) examine whether teachers feel responsible for dealing with the behavior based on their decision to report or not to report; a nd (3) establish the mode of intervention and look at barriers that may inhibit the intervention process including teacher perceptions of school climate (support from counselors, administrators; school rules, school culture) and personal characteristics. This study also explored the degree to
which those determinations and perceptions vary by age group, gender, position, cultural affiliation and school location.
Since a large number of bullying incidents occur in the middle school grades (Astor, 2002; Behr e, Astor & Meyer, 2001; Khosropour & Walsh, 2001; Unnever & Corneli, 2003; Eisenberg & Aalsma, 2005), the focus of this study will be on the perceptions and reporting behaviors of 4th - 8th grade teachers. Programs that specifically help teachers know where to draw the line on reporting unacceptable behaviors will be examined for their effectiveness on training teachers. Recommendations will be made for teachers in Hawai‘i with respect to cultural considerations and community influences.
Statement of the P roblem
Bullying incidents occur most often in upper elementary and middle school grade levels (Bosworth, Espelage & Simon, 1999). The topic of bullying has been studied for years, yet the problem continues to exist. There are several documented cases of bu llying incidents that have generated health and self - esteem issues for both victims and perpetrators. In some cases the health problems have persisted years beyond the actual incident(s) (Nansel, Craig, Overpeck, Saluja, Ruan, & the Health Behaviour in Sc hool - aged Children Bullying Analyses Working Group, 2004).