What Does Bullying Have to Do with DE&I?

What Does Bullying Have to Do with DE&I?

Blog contributed by Olivia McGill.

Bullying Prevention Month

It’s Bullying Prevention Month, meaning educators, administrators, and students across the country are raising awareness of bullying prevention. In this post, we’ll take a look at what bullying has to do with diversity, equity, and inclusion and suggest ways you can align your anti-bullying and anti-bias programming.

The Truth about Bullying

There’s a perception that bullying is simply a “rite of passage” for students and that it’s different from acts of bias or discrimination because it impacts students regardless of their identities.

In reality, bullying has serious consequences for students, including:

  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • School avoidance 
  • Poor grades

And research shows that 75% of bullying incidents have biases at their core. In other words, students from underrepresented groups are at higher risk of being bullied. The reasons for being bullied that students report most often? Their physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, and sexual orientation.

Bullying & Bias

Why are bullying and bias linked? Students are keenly aware of behavior that doesn’t fit neatly into the category of what’s considered “normal” or familiar. A student who challenges those norms and expectations can instantly become a target for bullying.

For instance, a 2012 study found that female students who received special education services were 4.8 times more likely to be victims of bullying than their peers without disabilities.

Similarly, surveys from 2018 and 2019 show that while about 20% of high school students report being bullied, that number rises to 70% among LGBTQ+ students. And 15% of students report being cyberbullied compared to 49% of LGBTQ+ students.

Prevent Bullying through Inclusion

Research shows that more diverse and inclusive classrooms see less bullying among all students. Here are five guidelines for preventing bullying through inclusion: 

  1. Commit to being a positive role model of inclusive behaviors when interacting with students, teachers, and administrators. Model communicating respectfully and addressing microaggressions and bullying incidents when they occur.
  2. Expand what students consider “normal.” For instance, if a student calls a peer’s lunch “weird” because it’s a food they haven’t seen before, use that as an opportunity to learn about different cuisines. Exposure to difference can shift narrow expectations so students feel more comfortable with people who are different from them, making it less likely they’ll turn to bullying.
  3. Don’t ask bullying targets to change how they look or act. For example, it’s common for administrators to address bullying against LGBTQ+ students by asking the targeted students to change how they dress. Instead, focus on the bully’s behavior and remind them that they are in an inclusive classroom where everyone’s identity is affirmed.
  4. Address cyberbullying, especially if you’re teaching in a hybrid environment during COVID-19. Talk openly with students about their online activity and make it clear that even though it’s outside the bounds of the classroom, you expect them to be inclusive online. Doing so will help encourage inclusive behavior on a daily basis.
  5. Help students prevent bullying with the Speak Up at School guide from Learning for Justice. It includes a Speak Up Pocket Guide encouraging students to interrupt, question, and educate in the face of bias. Vector Solutions also offers video-based lessons and activities for students on bullying and cyberbullying and diversity and inclusion that can be incorporated into bullying prevention month activities or ongoing programs throughout the year. 

By taking these steps, you’ll align your school’s goals of bias and bullying prevention--and create an inclusive school environment where it’s harder for bullying to occur.

Contact us for more information