Bullying and Disability: Student Survey Analysis

WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center staff analyzed statewide student survey data from Maine to examine the risk of bullying for disabled students. The study was completed as part of the Institute of Education Sciences’ Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program  in December 2011.

This project responded to stakeholder requests in the REL-Northeast Islands region. Researchers used statewide data from the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health High School Survey (MIYHS) to analyze and compare rates of reported bullying for disabled and non-disabled students. The MIYHS is a biennial survey of students from grades 9–12.

Key Research Questions

Researchers responded to these key research questions:

  • Do high school students who have a disability report being bullied more than non-disabled students? How do rates of reported bullying for disabled students vary by type of disability (physical/health disability and emotional/behavioral disability)?
  • How do rates of reported bullying for disabled and non-disabled students vary by location (on- vs. off-school grounds) and method (in person vs. electronic)?
  • Within demographic categories such as gender, grade, race, and sexual orientation, what percentage of bullied students were disabled?

Key Findings

Findings from national and international research that indicate that students with disabilities are at risk for bullying were supported:

  • High school students with disabilities in Maine are more likely than their non-disabled peers to be bullied; while students with either physical or emotional/behavioral disabilities were at risk for being bullied, students with emotional/behavioral disabilities were more likely to be bullied than students with physical disabilities
  • This increased risk existed across location and type of bullying; students with disabilities were more likely to experience bullying on or off school grounds or via electronic means (e.g., “cyber-bullying”)
  • Specific groups of students with disabilities; Hispanic students, students of “other” races, students of multiple races; and students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or who are not sure of their sexual orientation are even more likely to be victimized by bullying than other disabled students