Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teachers' and Education Support Professionals' Perspectives on Bullying and Prevention: Findings from a National Education Association Study

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teachers' and Education Support Professionals' Perspectives on Bullying and Prevention: Findings from a National Education Association Study

Article excerpt

Abstract. Given growing concerns regarding the prevalence and seriousness of bullying, the National Education Association recently drew upon its membership to launch a national study of teachers' and education support professionals' perceptions of bullying, and need for additional training on bullying prevention efforts and school-wide policies. The data were collected from a representative sample of 5,064 National Education Association members (2,163 teachers and 2,901 education support professionals). Analyses indicated that compared to education support professionals, teachers were more likely to witness students being bullied, more likely to view bullying as a significant problem at their school, and were more likely to have students report bullying to them. Teachers were more likely to be involved in bullying policies at their school, yet both groups reported wanting more training related to cyberbullying and bullying related to students' sexual orientation, gender issues, and racial issues. Implications for school psychologists and the development of school-wide bullying prevention efforts are discussed.

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Increasing national attention to bullying prevention has prompted many states and districts to develop bullying prevention initiatives. Although research suggests that collaborative school-wide programs tend to be most effective in preventing bullying (Bradshaw & Waasdorp, 2009; Ttofi & Farrington, 2011), few studies have examined how staff members' role (teacher or education support professionals [ESPs]) in the school might influence their perceptions of bullying and their involvement in prevention efforts. Perceptions of ESPs could be potentially important, given that ESPs have historically comprised approximately 33%-40% of the total education workforce (www.nea.org), and play an important but often overlooked role in creating safe and supportive learning environments for youth.

Emerging Issues in Bullying Prevention

Although bullying is a concern for all youth, special populations of students are particularly vulnerable to peer victimization (Swearer, Espelage, Vaillancourt, & Hymel, 2010). Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and those who are perceived as gender nonconforming, are more likely to be targeted for bullying as compared to their heterosexual peers (Berlan, Corliss, Field, Goodman, & Austin, 2010; Kosciw, Greytak, Diaz, & Bartkiewicz, 2010; Swearer et al., 2010). Students who are overweight, students with disabilities (Rose, Monda-Amaya, & Espelage, 2011; Zablotsky, Bradshaw, Anderson, & Law, 2012), and racial and ethnic minorities (Sawyer, Bradshaw, & O'Brennan, 2008) have an increased risk for bullying by peers. Yet little is known about how school staff members view bullying or harassment that is motivated by such student characteristics, as well as staff members' training and support needs related to intervening in and preventing bullying that targets these special populations of students.

There are also various types of bullying experienced by school-aged youth. Technology has ushered in new forms or modes of bullying, often referred to as cyberbullying, which involves threats, harassment, and psychologically harmful actions via cell phones and the Internet (Williams & Guerra, 2007). A related concern is sexting, which includes creating, sending, posting, or disseminating sexually suggestive text messages, pictures, or videos of oneself or others. These messages often include nude or partially nude photos or images of oneself, which may be transmitted consensually but could easily be used as material for cyberbullying (Mitchell, Finkelhor, Jones, & Wolak, 2011). To date, there has been little systematic research on staff members' perceptions of cyberbullying. Taken together, these gaps in the extant research highlight the need for further examination into staff members' perceptions of bullying among special populations, as well as different forms of bullying (e. …

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