A Comparison of Bullying in Four Rural Middle and High Schools

By Isernhagen, Jody; Harris, Sandra | Rural Educator, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Bullying in Four Rural Middle and High Schools


Isernhagen, Jody, Harris, Sandra, Rural Educator


Bullying in rural school settings is clearly a problem and some of our students are suffering as a result.. Bullying is defined in this study of 819 rural middle and high school students as when a student is exposed repeatedly to negative actions by one or more other students. Students responded to a questionnaire about how often and where bullying occurred and who students told. Analysis of the data reported frequencies, and the Pearson chi-square was used to test for significance (p <.05) for gender and school level. Results indicated that while there are many similarities, there are some differences in bullying at these two levels that should be considered when reducing bullying. First, students should be encouraged to develop positive strategies to react to name calling and teasing particularly at the middle school level. Second, administrators and teachers must communicate better with students that they care about reducing bullying, especially at the high school level.

"Matthew Lovett was known as an angry young man: He dressed all in black, drew violent pictures and walked around town with a baseball bat. Acquaintances said he kept a list of people who had teased him as far back as grade school. . . Lovett, 18, was arrested with two other teenagers on charges they plotted to kill three teens and open fire randomly on other people. . ." (Mulvihill, July 8, 2003, p. 3A).

"David Roby used his cell phone for what would be his last conversation with his 12-year old son. Before they hung up, he made sure Davey was getting ready for school and said he loved him. An hour later, the camouflage-clad fifth-grader was dying on a school bathroom floor of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the head. Seven of his father's guns and hundreds of bullets were strewn around him. . . Davey's classmates told police he was picked on by other pupils and had talked for months about killing students and teachers . . ." (Scolforo, June 15, 2003, p. 3A).

Certainly, bullying is not a factor in every case of school violence, but it is frequently mentioned as a possible contributor (Boatwright, Mathis & Smith-Rex, 2000; Flannery & Singer, 1999; Olweus, 1996; Rigby, 1996; Shakeshaft, et al., 1995). Various reports and studies have indicated that approximately 15% of students are cither bullied or initiate bullying (Olweus, 1993). Price and Reuters (1999), CNN journalists, reported "four out of five middle school students say that they act like bullies at least once a month" based on a study conducted at the University of Illinois (p.1). "From sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me" to a shooting by fourteen-year-old Andy Williams in a high school in California, it is evident that as children grow and change victim likes. Thus, hitting, taunting, threatening, teasing, stealing, excluding, or spreading rumors are typical bully they continue to suffer from the harmful and sometimes abusive effects of bullying (Garbarino & deLara, 2003, p. 18). "Direct bullying seems to increase through the elementary years, peak in the middle school/junior high school years, and declines during the high school years" (Banks 1997, p. 1).

Clearly bullying is a problem regardless of age of the student and the type of school the student attends. It has a negative effect on the bully, as well as the victim, and even impacts how children perform at school and how satisfied they are with their schools. In fact, the problem of bullying is so extensive it causes internal conflict for bystanders. Bullying is such a long-term cycle that it can even influence the adult life, which, in turn, perpetuates the cycle of abuse.

While an increasing number of studies regarding bullying and children of all ages have been conducted in the US, there are few studies that have focused specifically on middle and high school students who attend rural schools. Considering the importance of this issue, the purpose of this paper was to compare bullying behaviors of middle school and high school students in a rural area of the central United States.

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