Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Comparative Study of Bullying Victimization among Students in General and Special Education

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Comparative Study of Bullying Victimization among Students in General and Special Education

Article excerpt

Peer aggression and victimization by bullying are persistent problems for students receiving special education services for their disabilities (Mishna, 2003; Rose, Monda-Amaya, & Espelage, 2011). Historically, societies tended to segregate and isolate individuals with disabilities (Longmore & Umansky, 2001). In the United States, for instance, students with disabilities were traditionally educated in disability-specific schools and special education classrooms rather than with siblings and neighbors (Carter & Spencer, 2006). Separate schools and classrooms were viewed as an acceptable environment for the education of students with disabilities until the 1970s disability rights movement (Hartley, 2012). Today, inclusive education has been the main policy initiative since the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) became law in 1975 (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010). Right now, inclusive education integrates students with disabilities with all other students in age-appropriate, general education classrooms (McLaughlin, 2010). In addition to improving academic achievement, inclusive education has reduced negative stereotypes and increased participation of people with disabilities in society (Ruijs & Peetsma, 2009; Salend & Garrick Duhaney, 1999); however, if students receiving special education services are not fully integrated into peer groups, "inclusive education may maintain or exacerbate victimization" (Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al., 2011, p. 123).

Victimization by bullying affects the social integration of students in special education. Bullying can be extremely stressful, making it hard to concentrate on schoolwork and placing students at risk of poor academic performance and failure (Mishna, 2003). Research has shown that victimized students are more likely to have school-related problems, including absenteeism and dropping out (Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Further, students who experience bullying are at risk to have physical health and emotional problems (Nixon, Linkie, Coleman, & Fitch, 2011). Numerous studies have shown that children who are frequent targets of bullying are at risk for a variety of adjustment problems, including childhood depression, loneliness, anxiety, peer rejection, and low self-esteem (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). In fact, research has shown that chronic victimization increases the risk of suicide, though most youth who have been bullied do not commit suicide (Hindujaa & Patchin, 2010). Unless the problem of bullying is addressed, the experience of victimization may lead to negative social roles with potential lifelong consequences, such as never attempting to seek gainful employment for fear of future harassment in the adult workforce (Holzbauer, 2004; Shaw, Chan, & McMahon, 2012).

Today, 95% of students who receive special education services are educated in general education classrooms, with half spending over 80% of the day with their typically developing peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). More than three quarters of these students have learning disabilities, mild intellectual disability, emotional or behavioral disorders, and speech-language impairments (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Although there is a growing awareness of bullying in American schools, bullying of students with disabilities has been "low on the radar screen" of educational policy makers (Holzbauer, 2008, p. 162). Bullying was defined by Olweus as defined as an aggressive, repetitive behavior with the intent to harm by a more powerful student (physically or socially) toward a student who is weaker (Olweus, 1993, 1997). Bullying behaviors can be verbal (teasing, name calling), relational (social exclusion, spreading rumors), or physical (hitting, kicking; Olweus, 1993, 1997). Unfortunately, researchers have found that students who receive special education services are twice as likely to be bullied as their peers (Carter & Spencer, 2006; Van Cleave & Davis, 2006). …

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