Using Data to Understand and Prevent Bullying


July 17, 2014


Photo of Vicki Nishioka
Senior Research Advisor Vicki Nishioka

Saying that bullying creates a hostile learning environment that impedes academic success only tells half the story. According to Education Northwest Researcher Vicki Nishioka, bullying often has a detrimental, long-term effect on students who are targets, students who commit bullying, and bystanders who witness it.

Nearly all students and educators report that they want to help stop bullying but don’t know what to do. What we know is that bullying exists everywhere. Educators, students, and parents often don’t recognize how serious the problem is. Adults know it’s happening but don’t always intervene when it’s ingrained in a school’s culture. Bullying disenfranchises students, and the student who bullies is harmed as much as the target of bullying, often with lifelong consequences. With a little work, bullying can be prevented. —Vicki Nishioka

The goal is to create a safe, welcoming environment for each student that discourages bullying from happening in the first place. When Nishioka works with schools, one of the first steps is helping people recognize that bullying is a problem.

“A majority of students say bullying is a serious issue in their school, but students and teachers may not view relational forms of bullying, such as ignoring someone or spreading rumors, as harmful,” she says. “Stopping it before it happens takes commitment and collective action on the part of educators, students, and parents.”

One way for schools to focus on the problem is to let data—which can be drawn from brief surveys showing a student and teacher perspective—guide their approach.

Interventions, Nishioka suggests, should include staff, students, and parents. “Make sure you have a message for students and parents,” she recommends to schools addressing the problem, “and give students and teachers resources on what they should do to prevent the problem and how to intervene if it occurs.”