Special-Ed Students More Likely To Be Bullied And Be Bullies
July 3, 2012

Special-Ed Students More Likely To Be Bullied And Be Bullies

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Go Big. Big Ideas. Big Potential. Big Impact. This is the philosophy of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL). And scientists from UNL have done just that with their research findings, delving into the intricate layers of the bully debate that has captivated the country. They recently found that students who have services based on special-education needs for behavioral problems, as well as those who have obvious disabilities, will more likely be bullied than their fellow students. Interestingly enough, those same students are also more likely to bully other students.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of School Psychology, demonstrated how complex bullying can be and the difficulties in addressing the issue.

"These results paint a fairly bleak picture for students with disabilities in terms of bullying, victimization and disciplinary actions," commented Susan Swearer, a professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in a prepared statement. "Sadly, these are the students who most need to display prosocial behavior and receive support from their peers."

The project tracked the data of 800 special-ed and general-ed students who were between the ages of 9 and 16. The students were pooled from nine different elementary, middle, and high schools over a period of time. The study showed that 38.1 percent of the students stated that they had bullied other students, while 61.9 percent of the students stated that they had not bullied other students. On the other hand, 67 percent of the students remarked that they had been bullied while 33 percent said that they had not been victimized.

Furthermore, the results showed that those students who were enrolled in special education services had a greater chance of bullying others, being bullied, or receiving disciplinary actions for behavioral problems or antisocial behaviors. Those students who had visible disabilities had the highest likelihood of being bullied by others or acting as bullies themselves. Those who had visible disabilities included students who had mental, language, or hearing handicaps.

"The observable nature of the disability makes it easy to identify those students as individuals with disabilities, which may place them at greater risk for being the easy target of bullying," wrote Swearer, a national expert on school bullying who has consulted with both the White House and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation on anti-bullying initiatives, and her co-authors in the report. "Also, being frustrated with the experience of victimization, those students might engage in bullying behavior as a form of revenge."

As such, the authors believe that there are various steps that can be taken to help remedy bullying found in schools. One action teachers and administrators can take is to emphasize the importance of anti-bullying interventions as prosocial skills. Researchers detail how it is important for students of all ages and all learning levels to understand the social implications of bullying. Likewise, students in general education can act as prosocial role models for those students with disabilities. The researchers believe that, by helping students with visible disabilities, general education students can help special-ed students become more acclimated into the classroom and allow them to be bullied less.

"Programming should be consistently implemented across general and special education, should occur in each grade and should be part of an inclusive curriculum," the authors wrote. "A culture of respect, tolerance and acceptance is our only hope for reducing bullying among all school-aged youth."