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Comparative study of bullying victimization among students in general and special education.

Peer aggression and victimization by bullying are persistent problems for students receiving special education services for their disabilities (Mishna, 2003; Rose, Monda-Amaya, & Espelage, 2011). Historically, societies tended to segregate and isolate individuals with disabilities (Longmore & Umansky, 2001). In the United States, for instance, students with disabilities were traditionally educated in disability-specific schools and special education classrooms rather than with siblings and neighbors (Carter & Spencer, 2006). Separate schools and classrooms were viewed as an acceptable environment for the education of students with disabilities until the 1970s disability rights movement (Hartley, 2012). Today, inclusive education has been the main policy initiative since the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) became law in 1975 (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010). Right now, inclusive education integrates students with disabilities with all other students in age-appropriate, general education classrooms (McLaughlin, 2010). In addition to improving academic achievement, inclusive education has reduced negative stereotypes and increased participation of people with disabilities in society (Ruijs & Peetsma, 2009; Salend & Garrick Duhaney, 1999); however, if students receiving special education services are not fully integrated into peer groups, "inclusive education may maintain or exacerbate victimization" (Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al., 2011, p. 123).

Victimization by bullying affects the social integration of students in special education. Bullying can be extremely stressful, making it hard to concentrate on schoolwork and placing students at risk of poor academic performance and failure (Mishna, 2003). Research has shown that victimized students are more likely to have school-related problems, including absenteeism and dropping out (Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Further, students who experience bullying are at risk to have physical health and emotional problems (Nixon, Linkie, Coleman, & Fitch, 2011). Numerous studies have shown that children who are frequent targets of bullying are at risk for a variety of adjustment problems, including childhood depression, loneliness, anxiety, peer rejection, and low self-esteem (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). In fact, research has shown that chronic victimization increases the risk of suicide, though most youth who have been bullied do not commit suicide (Hindujaa & Patchin, 2010). Unless the problem of bullying is addressed, the experience of victimization may lead to negative social roles with potential lifelong consequences, such as never attempting to seek gainful employment for fear of future harassment in the adult workforce (Holzbauer, 2004; Shaw, Chan, & McMahon, 2012).

Today, 95% of students who receive special education services are educated in general education classrooms, with half spending over 80% of the day with their typically developing peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). More than three quarters of these students have learning disabilities, mild intellectual disability, emotional or behavioral disorders, and speech-language impairments (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Although there is a growing awareness of bullying in American schools, bullying of students with disabilities has been "low on the radar screen" of educational policy makers (Holzbauer, 2008, p. 162). Bullying was defined by Olweus as defined as an aggressive, repetitive behavior with the intent to harm by a more powerful student (physically or socially) toward a student who is weaker (Olweus, 1993, 1997). Bullying behaviors can be verbal (teasing, name calling), relational (social exclusion, spreading rumors), or physical (hitting, kicking; Olweus, 1993, 1997). Unfortunately, researchers have found that students who receive special education services are twice as likely to be bullied as their peers (Carter & Spencer, 2006; Van Cleave & Davis, 2006). Indeed, in a recent review, Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al. (2011) concluded that over 50% of students receiving special education services experience bullying compared to 20% to 30% of students in general education. The increased risk of victimization has been linked to "having fewer friends, demonstrating lower self-esteem, being rejected by peers, being dependent on others, having observable differences, or possessing weaker social skills" (Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al., 2011, p. 119). Despite the compelling data found by Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al. (2011), methodological limitations have confounded direct comparisons among students: Most research has focused on either general or special education but not both, used varying definitions of bullying, or was conducted outside of the United States.

Although sparse, the few exploratory studies that have directly compared the bullying victimization rates of students in different education settings in the United States showed physical bullying to be more prevalent toward students who receive special education services (Rose, Espelage, Aragon, & Elliot, 2011; Rose, Espelage, & Monda-Amaya, 2009). Further, age and gender effects have been inconsistent (Carter & Spencer, 2006) despite a growing body of research reporting that age and gender play a role in victimization among typically developing students. Specifically, physical bullying occurs more often among boys in general education (Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, & Kaukiainen, 1992; Card, Stucky, Sawalani, & Little, 2008). Moreover, in general education, bullying behaviors tend to transition from direct physical to indirect verbal and relational as students grow older and gain more sophisticated verbal and social-cognitive skills (Bjorkqvist et al., 1992; Monks, Smith, & Swettenham, 2005). Thus, although special education literature suggests that students receiving special education services are at a high risk of being bullied or harassed (Mishna, 2003; Morrison, Furlong, & Smith, 1994; Nabuzoka, 2003), there is a need for replication studies to compare the pattern and prevalence of reported victimization as well as gender and grade effects between victimized typically developing students in general education and victimized students who receive special education services (Rose et al., 2009).

In line with inclusive education policies and practices, there is a need to address not only academics but also social integration. As such, research on bullying is an important avenue for understanding the social integration of students with disabilities or the lack thereof. In response, the Youth Voice project (Davis & Nixon, 2010, 2011) collected data on a national sample of U.S. youth in Grades 5 to 12, approximately 25% of whom reported frequent verbal, emotional, or physical victimization, defined as two times a month or more (Olweus, 1993, 1997). Offering an opportunity to define and better support the social and emotional development of students receiving special education services, the present study directly compared bullying rates between those mistreated students in general and special education in addition to gender and grade-level effects. To compare across groups, the research questions were as follows:

1. Are the frequency of harm and degree of psychological distress related to the bullying similar?

2. Are the patterns and perpetrators of verbal, relational, and physical bullying victimization similar?

3. Are the gender and grade-level effects similar?

Focused on all students who reported frequent victimization, the present study provides an in-depth national comparison of the bullying experiences among students with and without disabilities.

Method

Designed as a partnership with schools to reduce bullying victimization and increase school connectedness, the Youth Voice Project set as its goal to survey the entire population of participating schools and provide data that each school could use to improve the effectiveness of prevention and intervention efforts (Davis & Nixon, 2010; 2011). Viewing students' perceptions as an invaluable resource, leaders of the project intended to compile a body of knowledge "to help adults and youth reduce bullying and harassment in their own schools" (Davis & Nixon, 2010, p. 1). The Youth Voice project is the largest and most comprehensive survey of victimization from the perspective of students, assessing bullying perpetration not only by peers but also by adult teachers and staff. School-level data were provided to individual schools to inform prevention and intervention efforts to reduce peer victimization and its associated harm. We used data from across all schools in the present study to examine the pattern and prevalence of victimization.

Participants and Procedure

Following approval from an institutional review board, data were collected from a national sample of students in Grades 5 to 12, representing 31 public schools in 12 states across the United States during the 2009-2010 academic year (Davis & Nixon, 2010). Cooperating schools represented a stratified convenience sample of schools in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. Of the 31 schools, 28 were public and three were private, varying in size from 100 to 3,247 students, with a mean enrollment of 740 students (SD = 667). Overall, the schools had enrollments of 500 to 1,500, with two schools at approximately 100 and two schools at approximately 3,000. The student-to-faculty ratio ranged from 6:1 to 24:1, with a mean of 16 students (SD = 5) per teacher. As for the student bodies, the schools were composed of a mean percentage of 67% Caucasians (SD = 24%), ranging from 15% to 100% Caucasian. Finally, as a measure of socioeconomic status, the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch ranged from 9% to 99%, with a mean of 41% (SD = 22%). Almost all of the children in the schools agreed (94.6%) to complete the online questionnaire. A total of 13,177 completed the questionnaire. Of these, 3,305 (25.0%) reported frequent victimization of at least two times a month or more. Of these victims, 361 (10.9%) received special education support, a higher proportion than reflected in the U.S. population as a whole (9.1%; U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

To compare across groups, the present study focused on students who reported frequent victimization, defined by Olweus (1993, 1997) as two to three times per month or more. In the general education population, there were 1,441 females (51.8%) and 1,343 males (48.2%) with a mean age of 13.22 years (SD = 1.99). Grade levels were as follows: 317 students (11.1%) in elementary school (fifth grade), 1,615 students (56.5%) in middle school, and 928 students (32.4%) in high school. As for race/ethnicity, 1,528 students (53.2%) were Caucasian and 1,314 students (45.7%) were ethnic minorities. Finally, 793 students (27.6%) were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and 166 students (5.8%) reported that their families had immigrated to the United States within the past 2 years.

Students receiving special education services had a mean age of 13.21 years (SD = 1.93), and the majority were male (59.8%). Grade levels were as follows: 77 students (21.3%) were in elementary school (fifth grade), 195 students (56.5%) were in middle school, and 88 students (24.4%) were in high school. As for race/ethnicity, 162 students (44.9%) were Caucasian and 199 students (55.1%) were ethnic minorities. Finally, 157 students (48.5%) were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and 108 students (29.9%) reported that their families had immigrated to the United States in the past 2 years.

All students who participated in Davis and Nixon's (2010, 2011) study completed an extensive survey developed by researchers with expertise in bullying. Before implementation, the survey was tested by adolescents who provided feedback via an online focus group. The survey asked a wide range of questions assessing school connectedness as well as strategies used to address the bullying. Although that survey had a large scope, the present study focused only on questions specific to prevalence and impact of victimization. Because research on victimization is relatively new, and there is no gold standard with respect to assessment instruments, the single-item questions related to prevalence and impact of victimization were based on past, well-known, research projects (Olweus, 1993, 1997). To ensure that the survey was administered in the same way across schools, the survey was delivered in a web-based form, which is increasingly common, easy to use, and has the advantage of standardizing the administration procedures (Granello & Wheaton, 2004). Students who participated in the study completed the web-based survey within the classroom, and a participant disclaimer was used to gain informed consent and explain confidentiality.

Due to the difficulty of obtaining external validation of victimization experiences, self-report was used. Self-report has the advantage of "including events that might not be observed by others," and even flawed perceptions are important (Bauman, 2008b, p. 100). In optimal conditions, external validation of self-report adds information (Cornell & Bandopadhyay, 2010); however, it is hard to include external validation in online surveys of geographically diverse samples, such as the one in the present study (Crick & Bigbee, 1998). Consistent with past research, the single items used in the present study asked students about specific bullying events but did not include definitions of bullying, so each student responded according to his or her personal perception (Bauman, 2008b; Ross, 2003). Although some experts might see the absence of a definition of bullying as a limitation, others have argued that the assumption that a clear definition is necessary "has little empirically established basis" (Ross, 2003, p. 25). Although students' interpretation of specific bullying events can take on many forms, self-report is a common method of assessing victimization, and thus the findings are likely to be comparable to other studies.

Variables

Demographic variables. A self-report questionnaire requested the following demographic information: (a) age, (b) grade level, (c) gender, (d) racial/ethnic cultural background, (e) whether the student received special education services, (f) whether the student received reduced-price or free hot lunches at school, and (g) whether the student's parents immigrated to the United States within the past 2 years.

Frequency of harm. Frequency of harm was assessed by two parallel questions asking students to report the frequency with which they were hurt physically and emotionally. The distinction between physical and emotional harm was based on theoretical models of bullying (Olweus, 1993, 1997). The first question asked, "In the last month, how often have students at your school hurt you emotionally or excluded you?" and the second question asked, "In the last month, how often have students at your school threatened to hurt you or hurt you physically?" Response options were coded from 0 to 4 as never, one time, two or three times per month, weekly, and daily (Davis & Nixon, 2010, 2011). Despite limitations in range and variability, the Q-Q plots indicated that the frequency of bullying performed well as two continuous variables. Overall, the studentized residual plots indicated that normality assumptions appeared to hold, with higher scores indicating more frequent harm.

Specific bullying events. Specific bullying events were assessed by asking students to identify all of the things that happened to them in the last month with respect to the type and perpetrator. Regarding type of bullying, students were asked to identify all of the following verbal, relational, and physical bullying events that happened: (a) "I was called names," (b) "Rumors were spread about me," (c) "I was excluded or students worked together to be mean to me," (d) "I was threatened," and (e) "I was hit, kicked, or otherwise physically hurt." Regarding the perpetrator, the questionnaire asked if bullying was done by male peers, female peers, or adult teachers or staff with respect to verbal (i.e., "called you names"), relational (i.e., "spread rumors about you or excluded you"), and physical (i.e., "threatened or physically hurt you") bullying.

Psychological distress. Psychological distress was assessed by asking students, "How severe was the impact of what they did on you?" On the basis of previously validated measurements, students were instructed to select a single response that best captured the impact of all bullying experiences in the last month (Davis & Nixon, 2010, 2011). Response options were coded from zero to 3 as "What they did bothered me only a little," "What they did bothered me quite a bit," "Because of what they did I had or have trouble eating, sleeping, or enjoying myself," and "Because of what happened, I felt or feel unsafe and threatened" (Davis & Nixon, 2010,2011; Olweus, 1993,1997). Despite limitations in the range and variability, the Q-Q plots indicated that psychological distress performed well as a continuous variable. Based on the studentized residual plots, normality assumptions appeared to hold, with higher scores indicating more distress.

Data Analysis

We used SPSS Version 20.0 to conduct all analyses. We compared the groups on demographic characteristics using t tests for continuous variables and chi-square tests for categorical variables (Hays, 1994). We used multivariate analysis of variance to compare the two groups on the frequency of emotional or physical harm as well as the degree of psychological distress during the previous month (Hays, 1994). We used logit modeling to compare the two groups on the probability of specific bullying events. As recommended by Fienberg (2007), logit modeling is a multivariate statistical procedure appropriate for binary dichotomous dependent variables, such as the presence or absence of a specific bullying event, and multiple categorical independent variables, such as special education, gender, and grade level. Using backward elimination, we tested interactions between the independent variables and the dependent variables, removed nonsignificant interactions, and identified the most parsimonious and best-fitting models. After removal of variables that did not significantly affect the overall fit of the model, the final logit model was the reduced model that was not statistically different from the full model based on the overall chi-square test. Whenever a difference between students in general and special education was found, we performed separate chi-square tests to break down the effects of individual variables. We used a focused comparison of the odds ratio to measure effect size. We conducted an a priori power analysis to ensure that the expected frequency of each cell was five or more. We set an alpha level of .05 for all analyses.

Results

Demographics

We compared the groups on demographic variables (see Table 1). Compared to their typically developing peers, students receiving special education services were similar in age, F(l, 3179) = 1.62, p = .203; however, there were differences in grade, [chi square] (2, n = 3,220) = 34.54, p < .001. Although statistical differences were found in grade, the difference between one group consisting of 1,615 (56.5%) middle school children and the other consisting of 195 (54.2%) middle school children should not confound the results because both groups were overly represented by middle school children, among whom the highest rate of victimization occurs (Nansel et al., 2001). Consistent with U.S. Department of Education (2011) population statistics, students in special education composed a higher percentage of recent immigrants, [chi square] (l, n = 3,202) = 242.19, p < .001; those eligible for free or reduced lunch, [chi square] (1, n = 3,167) = 63.81, p < .001; ethnic minorities, [chi square] (l, n = 3,203) = 10.16, p < .001; and males, [chi square] (1, n = 3,120) = 16.08, p < .001. We performed comparisons with an understanding that these differences were representative of the U.S. Department of Education (2011) population.

Multivariate Analysis of Variance

Overall MANOVA revealed significant differences between the two groups in the frequency of emotional and physical harm as well as the degree of psychological distress, F(3, 2702) = 3173.57, p < .001 (see Table 2). Even with the Bonferroni correction, there was evidence that students receiving special education services reported more frequent physical harm, F(l, 2704) = 43.71, p < .001; more frequent emotional harm, F(1, 2704) = 24.97, p < .001; and more psychological distress, F(l, 2704) = 41.61, p < .001. Students in special education were more likely to report daily physical and emotional harm (22.6% and 44.0%, respectively) compared to students in general education (11.4% and 22.6%, respectively). Further, 47 (17.5%) students with disabilities compared to 130 (5.3%) typically developing students reported the most severe distress, to the point of feeling unsafe and threatened because of the bullying.

Logit Modeling Analysis

Types of bullying. We compared the groups on the pattern of verbal, relational, and physical bullying (see Table 3). Consistent with previous research, verbal bullying was most common among both populations (Carter & Spencer, 2006). In the entire victim sample, a total of 2,075 (62.8%) students responded yes to "I was called names," and the reduced logit model, [chi square](l 1, n = 3,116) = 9.05, p = .617, had none of the demographic variables in it. Thus, the probability of reported verbal bullying did not vary by gender, grade, or special education support.

Relational bullying was the next most common type. In the entire victim sample, 1,442 (43.6%) students responded yes to "Rumors were spread about me," and the reduced logit model, [chi square](10, n = 3,116) = 12.58, p = .248, retained gender only. Thus, there was no effect by special education support or grade, but overall, girls were 2.14 times more likely than boys to report rumors being spread, [chi square](1, n = 3,187) = 110.88, p < .001. In addition, for the relational type "I was excluded or students worked together to be mean to me," a total of 1,076 (32.6%) students in the entire victim sample responded yes, and the reduced logit model, [chi square](8, n = 3,116) = 6.72, p = .348, retained gender and grade but not special education support; girls were 1.66 times more likely than boys to report social exclusion, [chi square](l, n = 3,187) = 43.99, p < .001; also, high school students were 1.19 times more likely than elementary and 1.35 times more likely than middle school students to report social exclusion, [chi square](2, n = 3,289) = 13.52, p < .001.

Physical bullying was the least commonly reported of these behaviors. In the entire victim sample, a total of 802 (24.3%) students responded yes to "I was threatened," and the reduced logit model, [chi square](9, n = 3,116)= 11.98, p = .214, retained gender and special education. On the basis of the odds ratio, students receiving special education services were 1.56 times more likely to report being physically threatened, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 14.05, p < .001. Further, separate chi-square tests revealed that boys were 1.68 times and 2.47 times more likely than girls to report being physically threatened in general, [chi square](l, n = 2,784) = 12.82, p < .001, and special education, [chi square](1 ,n = 336) = 31.96, p < .001. Further, for "I was hit, kicked, or otherwise hurt physically," a total of 765 (23.1%) students responded yes, and the reduced logit model, [chi square](7, n = 3,116) = 12.08, p = .098, retained gender, grade, and special education support. On the basis of the odds ratio, students receiving special education services were 1.41 times more likely to report being physically hurt, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 7.66, p < .001. As for gender, boys were 1.83 times and 2.20 times more likely than girls to report being physically hurt in general, [chi square] (1, n = 2,784) = 5.30,p < .001, and special education, [chi square](l, n = 336) = 70.98, p < .001. In the general education population, elementary students were 1.15 times and 1.63 times more likely than middle and high school students to report being physically hurt, [chi square] (2, n = 2,784) = 13.45, p < .001; however, grade-level effects were nonsignificant among those receiving special education services, [chi square] (2, n = 336) = 1.266, p = .551.

Female peer perpetrators. The groups were compared on the verbal, relational, and physical bullying behaviors by female peer perpetrators (see Table 4). First, for verbal bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](5, n = 3,116) = 7.39, p = .193, retained gender, grade, and special education status. Based on the odds ratio, the likelihood of female perpetrators' verbally bullying students receiving special education services was reported to be 0.77 greater than in the general education population, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 4.34,p= .038. In addition, female perpetrators were reported to be 4.31 and 3.21 times more likely to verbally bully girls versus boys in both general education, [chi square](l, n = 2,784) = 95.07, p < .001, and special education, [chi square](1, n = 336) = 26.024,p < .001 populations. Further, whereas grade effects were nonsignificant among the general education population, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 4.77, p = .093, among students receiving special education services, reported verbal bullying by female perpetrators was 1.89 and 2.00 times more likely in high school than in elementary and middle school, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 7.66, p = .022.

In addition, for relational bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](6, n = 3,116) = 8.76, p = .187, retained gender, grade, and special education status. Based on the odds ratio, the likelihood of female perpetrators' relationally bullying students receiving special education services was reported to be 0.76 times greater than those in the general education population, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 6.10,p = .014. In addition, female perpetrators were reported to be 4.90 and 2.60 times more likely to relationally bully girls versus boys in both the general, [chi square](l, n = 2,784) = 395.07, p < .001, and special education, [chi square](1, n = 336)= 17.61 ,p < .001 population. As for grade effects, students in the general education population reported that relational bullying by female perpetrators was 2.10 times and 2.01 more likely in elementary school than in middle and high school, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 7.81, p = .020. In contrast, students receiving special education services, reported that relational bullying by female perpetrators was 1.05 and 1.27 times more likely in high school than in elementary and middle school, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 8.34, p = .015.

Finally, for physical bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](6, n = 3,116) = 11.74, p= .068, retained gender and grade but not special education. Thus, there was no effect by special education status, but overall, it was reported that female perpetrators were 3.22 times more likely to physically bully girls than to bully boys, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 166.73, p < .001. Further, physical bullying by female perpetrators was 1.44 and 1.34 times more likely in elementary school than in middle and high school, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 7.62, p = .022.

Male peer perpetrators. We compared the groups on the verbal, relational, and physical bullying behaviors by male perpetrators (see Table 4). First, for verbal bullying, the logit model, [chi square](6, n = 3,116) = 10.69, p = .099, retained gender and grade but not special education status. Thus, there was no effect by special education status, but male perpetrators were reported to be 2.77 times more likely to target boys compared to girls for verbally bullying, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 183.04, p < .001. As for grade, reported verbal bullying by male perpetrators was 1.18 and 1.23 times more likely in middle school than in elementary and high school, [chi square](2, n = 3,235) = 7.26, p = .027.

In addition, for relational bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](6, n = 3,116) = 11.738, p = .068, retained gender, grade, and special education status. Based on the odds ratio, the likelihood of male perpetrators' relationally bullying students receiving special education services was 1.29 times greater, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 6.09, p = .014. Further, it was reported that male perpetrators were 2.25 times more likely to target boys versus girls for relational bullying in the general education population, [chi square](l, << = 2,784) = 110.67, p <.001; however, gender effects were nonsignificant among students receiving special education services, [chi square](1, n = 336) = 3.17, p = .075. As for grade, among students in the general education population, reported relational bullying by male perpetrators was 1.03 and 1.27 times more likely in elementary school than in middle and high school, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 7.48, p = .024; however, grade-level effects were nonsignificant among those receiving special education services, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 1.79, p = .409.

Finally, for physical bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](6, n = 3,116) = 8.43, p = .134, retained gender, grade, and special education status. Based on the odds ratio, the likelihood of male perpetrators' physically bullying students receiving special education services was reported to be 1.47 times greater, [chi square](1, n = 3,235) = 12.08, p < .001. In addition, it was reported that male perpetrators were 4.35 and 2.82 times more likely to physically bully boys in both the general, [chi square](1, n = 2,784) = 324.47, p < .001, and special education, [chi square](l, n = 336) = 20.43, p < .001 populations. Among students in the general education population, physical bullying by male perpetrators was reported to be 1.40 and 2.57 times more likely in elementary than in middle and high school, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 67.61, p < .001; however, grade-level effects were nonsignificant for those receiving special education services, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 0.67, p = .717.

Adult perpetrators. As a final comparison, we compared the two groups on physical, relational, and verbal bullying by adult teachers and staff (see Table 4). First, for verbal bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](7, n = 3,116) = 8.54,p = .288, retained gender, grade, and special education status. On the basis of the odds ratio, students receiving special education services were 1.85 times more likely to report that they were verbally bullied by adults at school, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 11.52, p < .001. In addition, adults were reported to be 2.23 times more likely to verbally bully boys versus girls in the general education population, [chi square](l, n = 3,015) = 24.10, p <.001; however, gender effects were nonsignificant among the special education population, [chi square](l ,n = 336) = 1.77, p = .248. As for grade, among students in the general education population, reported verbal bullying by adult perpetrators was 2.51 and 2.52 times more likely in high school than in elementary and middle school, [chi square](2, n = 3,014) = 38.36, p < .001, as well as 1.44 and 3.65 times more likely for those receiving special education services, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 11.64, p = .203.

Next, for relational bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](7, n = 3,116) = 9.28, p = .244, included gender, grade, and special education. On the basis of the odds ratio, adult perpetrators were reported to be 2.95 times more likely to relationally bully students who received special education support, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 31.27, p < .001. Further, in the general education population, adult perpetrators were reported to be 2.44 times more likely to relationally bully boys versus girls, [chi square](l> n ~ 2,784) = 16.32, p < .001; however, gender effects were nonsignificant among the special education population, [chi square](l, n = 336) = 0.08, p = .832. As for grade, relational bullying by adult perpetrators was 2.37 and 2.13 times more likely in high school than in elementary and middle school in the general education population, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 31.72, p < .001, as well as 1.26 and 2.89 times more likely for those receiving special education services, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 7.38, p = .025.

Finally, for physical bullying, the reduced logit model, [chi square](7, n = 3,116) = 5.142, p= .643, retained gender, grade, and special education status. On the basis of the odds ratio, adults were reported to be 3.82 times more likely to physically bully students who received special education services than those in the general education population, [chi square](l, n = 3,235) = 40.97, p < .001. Further, the general education population reported, adults to be 3.72 times more likely to physically bully boys versus girls, [chi square](l, n = 2,784) = 19.54, p < .001; however, gender effects were nonsignificant among those receiving special education services, [chi square](l, n = 336) = 0.24, p = .626. As for grade, reported physical bullying by adult perpetrators was 1.38 and 1.78 times more likely in high school than in elementary and middle school among the general education population, [chi square](2, n = 2,784) = 25.33, p <.001, and 1.77 and 4.77 times more likely among students who received special education services, [chi square](2, n = 336) = 13.30, p < .001.

Discussion

Frequency of Victimization

The present study compared the self-reported prevalence and pattern of physical, relational, and verbal bullying victimization among students who received special education services and their typically developing peers, in a national sample of frequent victims. Overall, the results of the study add evidence that students with disabilities are overrepresented as targets of bullying in American schools (Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al., 2011; Van Cleave & Davis, 2006). With respect to Research Question 1, even among frequent victims, students who received special education services reported more chronic physical and emotional harm than did students in the general education population. Although unfortunate and problematic, it is perhaps not surprising that disability is associated with more bullying in American schools. At its core, bullying is a form of harassment predicated on an imbalance of power, whereby an individual with more power targets an individual considered intellectually, socially, or physically weaker (Olweus, 1993, 1997). Youth who bully tend to target the least popular students because there is less chance of retaliation, and students with disabilities have the highest rates of rejection and unpopularity among peers (Nabuzoka, 2003). Thus, students with disabilities may be more vulnerable to physical and emotional harm due to having fewer friends and lower self-esteem (Mishna, 2003; Morrison et al., 1994). Bullying reflects larger social inequalities, such as dominant cultural messages about people with disabilities as diseased, broken, and in need of fixing (Hartley, 2012; Longmore & Umansky, 2001). Unless the stigma of disability is addressed, students with disabilities will continue to be stigmatized and frequent targets of bullying victimization.

Degree of Psychological Distress

The degree of psychological distress is an important variable because it speaks to students' feelings of emotional safety (Nixon et al., 2011). Unfortunately, in the present study, we found that students with disabilities reported higher levels of psychological distress to the point of not feeling safe around peers. One interpretation is that more frequent victimization leads to more psychological distress. In addition to this interpretation, it may also be true that some youth with disabilities are living with high levels of preexisting stress or lack skills in coping with negative events. If this is true, then there is a pressing need to decrease bullying within schools as well as to increase students' ability to cope with bullying. Although the scholarly literature on effective responses to bullying is substantial, one population that is understudied is students with disabilities (Singer, 2005). Factors related to successful coping for students with disabilities are likely to be similar to factors for nondisabled students, including problem solving, distancing, and telling an adult (Camodeca & Goossens, 2005; Shelley & Craig, 2010). However, more research is needed to consider the impact of disability-specific factors on effective coping, such as the diagnostic category and level of impairment as well as acceptance of disability (Marini, Glover-Graff, & Millington, 2012). Effective coping is critical because otherwise, students are more likely to internalize the despair that can be caused by bullying.

Type of Bullying: Verbal, Relational, and Physical

With respect to Research Question 2, the pattern of self-reported verbal and relational bullying was similar between the two groups, but physical bullying was more prevalent among students who received special education services. Consistent with previous research, the present study revealed that students with disabilities were more likely to report being physically threatened and beaten up (Rose et al., 2009; Rose, Espelage, et al., 2011). A contributing factor may be that many students who receive special education support have intellectual and language disabilities, which are associated with below-average social skills (Carter & Spencer, 2006; Kuhne & Weiner, 2000). Due to limited social skills, these students may be prone to misreading nonverbal communication and misinterpreting nonthreatening cues and may lack the social skills to deescalate physical violence (Mishna, 2003; Morrison et al., 1994; Sabornie, 1994). At the same time, bullying is a result of the "complex interactions" between the student and environment (Rose & Monda-Amaya, 2011, p. 2). Attitudes toward disabilities have improved; however, people with disabilities are often subjected to less humane treatment than are people who do not have disabilities (Longmore & Umansky, 2001). If students with disabilities are treated as the problem, then there is no reason to look at problematic social structures. An alternative explanation is that violence toward students who receive special education services is more acceptable within the structure of the school. Following other social justice movements, there is a need to challenge social norms that label people with disabilities as inferior.

Perpetrators: Male and Female Peers

Overall, it was reported that male peers were more likely to relationally and physically bully students with disabilities, whereas female peers were less likely to verbally and relationally bully students with disabilities. A possible explanation is that female students may be more sensitive to disability and less likely to verbally and relationally bully students with disabilities. Even so, female peers were equally likely to physically bully students in both the general and special education populations. Another possible explanation is that there are statistically fewer girls who receive special education support, and female students who receive special education services may be regarded as particularly different from other female peers and treated more like boys with respect to victimization. It is possible that disability is more salient than gender, and all students who receive special education services may be treated more like boys, who are bullied more often by male peers. Authors of future research should closely analyze the nature of the peer interactions between male and female peers and students with disabilities (Rose, Monda-Amaya, et al., 2011).

Perpetrators: Adult Teachers and Staff

The Youth Voice project also examined students' self-report of bullying by adult teachers and staff, finding that adult perpetrators were significantly more likely to verbally, relationally, and physically bully students with disabilities. Bullying by adults may send a message that it is more socially acceptable to victimize students with disabilities because adults are role models in the school. Although adult victimization of children with disabilities is never acceptable, underfunded schools and overcrowded classrooms may be a contributing factor. Time and patience are prerequisites for effective teaching, and adult teachers who are overextended may have less patience, especially for children with disabilities, who may exhibit behavioral problems or require extra help. The majority of general education teachers report that they feel unprepared to work with students with disabilities (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010; Rose & Monda-Amaya, 2011). Thus, even well-intentioned adult teachers and staff, without an understanding of how to work with students with disabilities, can inadvertently resort to bullying behaviors. In addition to more research on environmental factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood of bullying by adults, school reforms are needed to better train and monitor adult teachers and paraprofessionals.

Gender Effects

With respect to Research Question 3, the two groups were more similar than different in terms of gender effects. Consistent with the existing bullying literature, relational bullying was more common among girls, whereas physical bullying was more common among boys in both general and special education populations (Card et al., 2008). In addition, perpetrators of bullying were more likely to target students of the same gender, so female peer perpetrators were more likely to target female students, whereas male peer perpetrators were more likely to target male students. However, a notable difference was that although it was reported that adults were more likely to bully boys with in the general education population, adults were equally likely to bully boys and girls who received special education services. A nonsignificant gender effect suggests that gender may be less salient than disability among these latter students. Thus, adults in schools may be more prone to seeing disability, and girls who receive special education services may be treated more like boys with respect to bullying.

Grade-Level Effects

Grade-level effects between the two groups were inconsistent. For students in the general education population, there was evidence of a developmental pattern of peer victimization whereby physical bullying was more common in elementary school; relational and verbal bullying was more common in middle and high school (Monks et al., 2005). In contrast, and consistent with previous research, a developmental pattern of peer victimization was not found among students who received special education services (Rose et ah, 2009; Rose, Espelage, et ah, 2011). More research is needed to examine both students' social skills and the overall social structure of the school with respect to the treatment of students with disabilities.

Implications

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, and the present study supports previous research that bullying is a significant obstacle to social integration for students with disabilities. In line with educating students in the "least restrictive environment" (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010, p. 3), there is a need to address not only academics but also social integration. Although full inclusion (i.e., spending the entire day in the general education classroom) is the best approach to promoting social integration (Morrison et ah, 1994), students with disabilities have reported feeling "ostracized" in inclusive education settings (Carter & Spencer, 2006, p. 15). Thus, it is not enough to place students with disabilities in the same physical classroom; rather, the implications of the present study suggest the need to further define and support the social integration of students with disabilities within the broader social structure of the school.

First, the present study showed that adult teachers and staff were reported to be significantly more likely to verbally, relationally, and physically bully students with disabilities, indicating that schools are not necessarily safe or welcoming to students who receive special education services. School administrators, in particular, must continually evaluate and monitor the behaviors of adults who work with students with disabilities within the school. School administrators need to have clear policies and procedures for staff-to-student bullying, with clear definitions, reporting procedures, investigation procedures, and consequences. In addition, there is a need for preventative educational campaigns and interventions to reduce the occurrence of adult bullying within schools. Rather than sending teachers and staff to offsite trainings, it is more important to bring bullying prevention experts into the actual school, where the bullying behaviors are occurring. As part of these trainings, school counselors and psychologists are important consultants who can work with both students and teachers (Bauman, Rigby, & Hoppa, 2008; Milsom & Hartley, 2005; Nixon & Werner, 2010). As mental health professionals, school counselors and psychologists are well equipped to provide training for staff, students, and parents about bullying, including "what constitutes bullying, the extent of bullying, signs of bullying, causes of bullying behavior, and preventative strategies" (Bauman, 2008a, p. 370). However, in order to tailor antibullying interventions to the needs of students receiving special education services, school counselors may need assistance from special education professionals, who are specifically trained to work with students with disabilities (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010; Mishna, 2003; Holzbauer, 2008). School administrators should work hand in hand with school counselors, psychologists, and special education professionals to implement interventions to reduce bullying and to increase schools' inclusiveness (Bauer, Lozano, & Rivara, 2007; Nixon & Wemer, 2010).

Second, the present study showed that reported physical bullying was more prevalent among students who receive special education services, which should be a call to arms to teachers in American schools. One of the most important determinants of inclusion success is the attitude of the adult teachers toward accommodating students with disabilities (Holzbauer, 2008; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010). Unfortunately, many general education teachers feel unprepared to integrate students with disabilities into the general education classroom, lacking the appropriate training to address "moderate levels of problem behaviors within their classroom" (Rose, Espelage, et al., 2011, p. 2). Even worse, some teachers have reported feeling threatened and frustrated by the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education (Salend & Garrick Duhaney, 1999). Unless more attention is given to collaborative learning and universal design, students with disabilities may be set apart from students without disabilities. Cooperative learning groups may be particularly useful toward the social integration of students with disabilities as well as the facilitation of socially appropriate interactions between students with and without disabilities (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010; Rose & MondaAmaya, 2011). In addition, social skills training should include how to respond to bullying (Mishna, 2003). In order to address the bullying problem, it is critical that special educators collaborate with general education teachers to design a curriculum that creates a more inclusive learning environment and includes students with disabilities in discussions and classroom activities (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010; Rose & Monda-Amaya, 2011). It is important that both staff and students learn to value and welcome youth with disabilities.

Third, the present study showed that students with disabilities reported more physical and emotional harm as well as more psychological distress as a result of bullying. In addition to reducing bullying behaviors within the school, a complementary approach is to provide interventions and educational campaigns that assist students with disabilities to cope effectively. Promoting effective coping with bullying is particularly important because disability harassment and bullying are also prevalent in the adult workforce (Shaw et al., 2012). In fact, prior to age 16, all students with individualized education programs must have school-to-work transition plans, which typically involve rehabilitation counselors (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2010). With expertise in disability services, rehabilitation counselors are well positioned to assess the impact of bullying and associated psychological distress on psychosocial adaptation to disability (Holzbauer, 2004; Marini et al., 2012). For instance, there is some potential in a resilience framework. Resilience is based on the belief that students can use protective factors, defined as the qualities of persons or contexts that predict positive outcomes under high-risk conditions (Hartley, 2010, 2011, 2013). Validating the effectiveness of students' past coping is an important component in assisting students to transfer their ability to cope in the past into future contexts. As such, rehabilitation counselors can engage students in a dialogue of how to respond to the stressful experience of victimization.

Future Research

More research on the unique but varied patterns of bullying victimization among students with disabilities is needed. Rather than treating all students with disabilities as a monolithic group, more researchers should examine differences across diagnostic categories. Thus far, current research has shown similar patterns of bullying of students with visible and nonvisible disabilities (Carter & Spencer, 2006), suggesting a need to consider more nuanced variables, such as type of diagnosis, level of impairment, and educational placement as well as the individual students' knowledge of disability and degree of family and peer support. Further, there is a need to examine specific school variables, such as the average class size, as well as the effects of programs that teach youth and adults about disability, promote inclusion and empathy, and reduce stigma.

In addition, it would be helpful if future studies employed a variety of methodological approaches of gathering data. Although self-report surveys are the most widely used method in bullying research (Cornell & Brockenbrough, 2004) and provide the unique perspective of individuals about their own experiences (Ladd & Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2002), future research would be greatly enhanced by the addition of other methods. Peer nomination procedures are another recommended method; for schools that are reluctant to allow peer nomination procedures, interviews with other informants (e.g., parents, teachers) and with students could add depth and richness to the findings. Although direct observation might be considered the "gold standard," it too has limitations, such as cost, the influence of the researcher, and the necessarily small sample sizes obtained. Finally, Cornell and Brockenbrough (2004) found there was a significant correlation between teacher reports of victimization and school discipline data, which could be used to augment data obtained by other means. Optimal research would use multiple sources of data, given the inherent limitations of any single method. Finally and most importantly, there is a pressing need for research on the effectiveness of antibullying programs to increase inclusiveness and belonging for youth with disabilities. In order to tailor these interventions to meet the needs of individual students, school counselors and psychologists will need to collaborate with special education professionals.

Limitations

There were limitations to this study, which may restrict the interpretation but do not negate the findings. First, the sampling introduced two types of sampling error: (a) sampling bias and (b) sampling variance (Groves et al., 2004). Not all students had an equal chance to participate in the present study, and the sample statistics may not reflect the true population. In particular, students with the most significant disabilities were less likely to be taught in general classrooms and therefore less likely to have been sampled in this study. Further, although relationships were found, it was not possible to infer causality due to the cross-sectional design. Second, not enough information was gathered on disability-specific variables. In particular, there was a need to assess the diagnostic category and degree of impairment as well as educational placements (e.g., mainstreamed vs. self-contained). Third, self-report was a limitation even though it is a common method of assessing victimization, and there was no external validation to verify the reports of victimization. Researchers have demonstrated that self-report of psychological distress cannot distinguish between an individual's genuine psychological distress and the illusion of distress (Shedler, Mayman, & Manis, 1993). Thus, a notable limitation was related to selfreport, and there was not enough objective information to evaluate the accuracy of students' self-report of victimization. Self-report was chosen for feasibility, low cost, and benefit of allowing students to respond privately and anonymously (Foley, Manuel, & Vitolins, 2005).

Conclusion

Bullying is a barrier to social integration for students with disabilities, and the results of the present study are significant in terms of further exposing the unique and varied patterns of verbal, relational, and physical bullying among students who receive special education services. Inclusion and social integration are important to the social and emotional development of all students, including those with disabilities. However, if students with disabilities are not fully integrated within the school and classroom, the result can be higher rates of victimization.

DOI: 10.1177/0014402914551741

Authors' Note

The authors wish to thank the students who participated in the Youth Voice project as well as the colleagues who provided feedback on the manuscript, especially Aimee C. Mapes.

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Manuscript received April 2013; accepted November 2013.

Michael T. Hartley (1), Sheri Bauman (1), Charisse L. Nixon (2), and Stan Davis (3)

(1) University of Arizona

(2) Penn State Erie

(3) James H. Bean Elementary School

Corresponding Author:

Michael T. Hartley, Disability and Psychoeducational Studies, College of Education, 1430 E. 2nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85721-0069.

E-mail: mthartley@email.arizona.edu
Table 1. Comparison of Demographics.

                        Special         General       Comparison
                       education       education        between
                       (n = 361)      (n = 2,874)       groups

Variable               M      SD      M      SD        F        p

Age                  13.35   2.34   13.21   1.93     1.62     0.203

                                                     [chi
                       n      %       n       %     square]     P

Grade level                                          34.54    <.001
  Elementary           77    21.4    317    11.1
  Middle              195    54.2   1,615   56.5
High school Gender     88    24.4    928    32.4     16.08    <.001
  Male                201    59.8   1,343   48.2
  Female              135    40.2   1,441   51.8
Race/ethnicity                                       10.16    <.001
  Caucasian           162    44.9   1,528   53.2
  Racial/ethnic       199    55.1   1,314   45.7    242.19    <.001
    minority
Recent immigrant
  Yes                 108    29.9    166     5.8
  No                  248    68.7   2,680   93.2
Free or reduced                                      63.81    <.001
lunch
  Yes                 175    48.5    793    27.6
  No                  183    50.7   2,016   70.1

Note, n = observed.

Table 2. Comparison of the Impact of Bullying
Between Groups of Participants.

                     Special         General
                     education      education
                     (n = 268)     (n = 2,438)

Variable            M      SD       M      SD

MANOVA
Frequency hurt
  physically      1.92    1.55    1.27    1.38
Frequency hurt
  emotionally     2.98    1.10    2.58    1.04
Psychological
  distress        2.11    1.08    1.75    0.86

                    Comparison between groups

                                    Partial
                                      eta
Variable             F        P     squared

MANOVA            3173.57   <.001    .029
Frequency hurt
  physically       43.71    <001     .016
Frequency hurt
  emotionally      24.97    <.001    .009
Psychological
  distress         41.61    <001     .015

Table 3. Proportion of Yes Responses Regarding
Type of Bullying.

                           Special      General
                          education    education
                          (n = 361)    (n = 2,874)

Prompt                   n     %       n      %

I was called names      220   60.9   1,810   63.0
Rumors were spread      154   42.5   1,256   43.7
I was excluded          120   33.2    939    32.7
I was threatened        117   32.4    673    23.4
I was physically hurt   104   28.8    641    22.3

                        Comparison between groups

                        [chi              Odds
Prompt                  square]     P     ratio

I was called names        0.57     .453    0.92
Rumors were spread        0.14     .736    0.97
I was excluded            0.05     .858    1.02
I was threatened         14.05    <.001    1.57
I was physically hurt     7.66     .007    1.41

Note, n = observed. The odds ratio is the odds
of special education students responding yes to
the question compared to the general education
students.

Table 4. Proportion of Yes Responses Regarding the
Perpetrator of the Bullying.

                             Special       General
                             education    education
                             (n = 361)    (n = 2,874)

Prompt                      n      %      n      %

Female students
  Called me names          148   41.0    1346   46.8
  Spread rumors about me   149   41.3    1384   48.2
  Pushed or threatened me   92   25.5     639   22.2
Male students
  Called me names          230   63.7    1811   63.0
  Spread rumors about me   197   54.6    1383   48.1
  Pushed or threatened me  172   47.6    1097   38.2
Adult teachers and staff
  Called me names           41   11.4     187    6.5
  Spread rumors about me    36   10.0     104    3.6
  Pushed or threatened me   31    8.6      69    2.4

                              Comparison between groups

                            [chi                Odds
Prompt                     square]     P        ratio

Female students
  Called me names           4.40     .038       0.79
  Spread rumors about me    6.09     .014       0.76
  Pushed or threatened me   1.94     .182       1.20
Male students
  Called me names           0.07     .817       1.04
  Spread rumors about me    5.34     .022       1.29
  Pushed or threatened me   12.08   <.001       1.47
Adult teachers and staff
  Called me names          1 1.52   <.001       1.85
  Spread rumors about me    31.27   <.001       2.95
  Pushed or threatened me   40.97    <001       3.82

Note, n = observed. The odds ratio is the odds of students
who received special education support responding yes to the
question compared to the general education population.
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Author:Hartley, Michael T.; Bauman, Sheri; Nixon, Charisse L.; Davis, Stan
Publication:Exceptional Children
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Words:10528
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