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How Bullying Impacts Academic Performance

“I really LOVE going to school,” said almost no one ever. 

But for students who regularly experience bullying within a given month, school isn’t just a drag. It can be frightening and dangerous. 

There are those who say that a little bit of bullying is harmless and builds character. That’s a dangerous line to walk though. Because how can anyone possibly define what “a little bit” is?

Furthermore, when that little bit becomes too much, bullying impacts academic performance as well.

There are an estimated 160,000 children who miss school on any given day because they are too afraid to attend. And one in ten students who drop out of school makes mention of bullying as one of the reasons.

It’s a serious problem.

Study Reveals That Bullying Impacts Academic Performance

A study out of UCLA involved 2,300 middle school students and their teachers in eleven different Los Angeles schools.

Over the course of three years, the students had to rank how much they were bullied on a four-point scale. They also had to note which students in their classes received the most bullying.

Meanwhile, the teachers were asked to rate the level of engagement and academic performance for each of their students.

After collecting the data, researchers studied the results and published them in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

Jaana Juvonen – lead author of the study –  found that bullying and low academic achievement are frequently linked.

Most of the classrooms in the study involved some kind of group or collaborative activities. It was tough for bullied kids to participate in those groups. Especially if their bully was in the class with them.

Students said it was harder for them to pay attention during class because they were often thinking about what the bully was going to do to them next. So even when not there, the bully occupied their thoughts.

Meanwhile, teachers regarded their lack of participation as an unwillingness to learn. This soon rendered them “low achievers.” Once branded with such a designation, the students were picked on and bullied even more for being  “losers.”

It’s a vicious and never-ending cycle.

So Who Is At Risk for Bullying?

Hollywood’s high school movies of the 1980s led us to believe that only the nerdy bespectacled straight-A students were bullied. And that someday they’d get their comeuppance when they became the wealthy CEOs of successful companies.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

There are SO many reasons a student might become the victim of bullying. And there’s no clear formula.

Some students report that race is an issue. Others say they are teased for their weight or other physical attributes. Generally speaking, there is usually at least one of the following risk factors:

  • Overweight or underweight
  • Wearing glasses or “uncool” clothes
  • Being new to a school
  • Perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Suffering depression, anxiety
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Not popular or having few friends
  • Unable to get along well with others

What is certain is that LGBTQ students are among the highest risk for being targets of bullying. According to a National School Climate Survey, about 74% of students reported being verbally bullied and about 36% reported being physically bullied due to their sexual orientation.

More than half of the LGBTQ students in the study said they felt unsafe at school and that fear led to about 30% of them missing at least one day of school in the previous month.

Types of Bullying

There are three types of bullying – verbal, social and physical.

Verbal and social bullying are the two most common types. Verbal bullying includes things like teasing, calling names, taunting, threatening harm and inappropriate sexual comments.

Social bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. It includes spreading rumors, telling other students to not be friends with someone, intentionally excluding someone and embarrassing someone in public.

Both verbal and social bullying can be done via the internet as well – i.e. cyberbullying.

Physical bullying happens less often, though it is becoming increasingly prevalent. With physical bullying, there might be hitting, kicking, tripping, pushing, spitting, pinching, taking or breaking someone else’s possessions and mean or rude hand gestures.

No matter the type of bullying, it’s a serious detriment to a student’s educational experience.

Can the Cycle Be Stopped?

There’s no doubt that bullying impacts academic performance. And where it exists, the cycle is self-perpetuating.

Students who are bullied show less academic improvement because they’re afraid of standing out. As a result, some teachers identify these students as unmotivated learners.

These seemingly low achieving students then receive less attention from teachers – thus pushing them further down the academic rabbit hole.

This is not true of all schools though.

If you feel that your child is struggling with academics because of bullying, then it’s definitely time to take a tour of our arts-integrated school.

We provide an open and accepting environment where different is good. It’s even encouraged.

And bullying is never tolerated.


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