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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding bullying among secondary students Starosta, Lindsay


Teachers are instrumental in the quest to eliminate bullying. Yet, victimized secondary students are reluctant to report bullying to teachers (e.g., Blomqvist et al., 2020), often out of fear of inaction or ineffective action (e.g., Bauman et al., 2016). This is particularly true of students who have been victims of identity-based bullying (e.g., Kosciw et al., 2018). Currently, it is unclear whether these fears are warranted. To address this gap, the current study investigated how secondary teachers identified, perceived, and addressed identity- and non-identity based bullying, comparing their perceptions and intended responses when witnessing situations of identity-based bullying, non-identity-based bullying, and situations involving typical adolescent behaviour. Participants, 207 Canadian secondary teachers, were randomly assigned to one of eight conditions using a 4 (exclusionary focus: ethnicity-based bullying, sexual-orientation-based bullying, non-identity-based bullying, typical adolescent behaviour) x2 (victim’s sex: female or male) between-subjects experimental design. Participants read a corresponding hypothetical scenario and responded to questions assessing their perceptions and intended responses. In partial support of the Theory of Bystander Intervention (Latane & Darley, 1970), empathy for the victim, self-efficacy, and administrator support were found to predict intentions to intervene in the typical adolescent behaviour scenario. In the bullying scenarios, however, only seriousness was a significant predictor of intentions to intervene. Results from a series of Kruskal-Wallis and post-hoc Mann Whitney tests demonstrated that teachers were able to distinguish between bullying and non-bullying behaviours. Compared to bullying, typical adolescent behaviour was rated as less serious, engendered less empathy for the victim, and less likelihood of intervention, with teachers being more likely to ignore the incident. Importantly, teachers in this study seemed to view identity-based bullying as a priority. Relative to non-identity-based exclusion, identity-based exclusion was rated as more serious, and engendered more empathy for the victim and greater likelihood of intervention. Teachers witnessing identity-based exclusion were more likely to challenge the discrimination, seek consultation or further education on the topic, and engage in social justice practices, practices that have the potential to send an anti-discrimination message to the wider school population. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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