Students with disabilities are considered to be at greater risk for bullying than students without disabilities. The WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center collaborated with staff across WestEd to analyze data from Maine’s statewide Integrated Youth Survey to examine risk rates for these student populations.

As expected, students with disabilities had substantially higher rates of bullying victimization compared to students without disabilities. WestEd researchers Sarah Guckenburg, Susan Hayes, Anthony Petrosino, and Thomas Hanson, and consultant Alexis Stern recently published their findings in the Journal of Knowledge and Best Practices in Juvenile Justice and Psychology, Vol. 9, #1.

The authors addressed the following research questions in their article and study*:

  • 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-school grounds vs. off-school grounds) and method (in person versus electronic)?
  • Within demographic categories such as gender, grade, race, and sexual orientation, what percentage of bullied students were disabled?

Key Research Findings

Researchers identified a number of key findings, including:

  • Students with emotional/behavioral disabilities were more likely to be bullied than students with physical disabilities.
  • 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.

* This research study was overseen by the Regional Educational Laboratory for the Northeast and Islands at EDC, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.