Bias-Based Bullying Survey

Bias-Based Bullying Survey

In 2012, 5,000 Illinois students completed the PSVI Bias-Based Bullying Survey.

Of those who reported experiencing bullying, 87% report that it was motivated by or involved bias.

And yet, most bullying prevention programs do not discuss explicit or implicit biases or

the impact of bias on bullying behavior.


         While there is much research and discussion about the form bullying takes (e.g., verbal, physical) and the mode people use when engaging in bullying behavior (e.g., Internet, pushing), there is little discussion of the factors that motivate a person to engage in bullying behavior. While it is understood that bullying behaviors involve an imbalance of power, there is often a focus on particular individuals involved but not the social or structural factors that contribute to or support the imbalance.

        In Illinois, of the students who reported experiencing bullied, 87% – nearly 9 out of 10— reported that the bullying involved or was motivated by animus toward one of more personal characteristics, such as actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Additionally, students reported that adverse outcomes such as depression, increased absences from school, and lack of school engagement, increased exponentially as the number of more personal characteristics involved in bullying increased.
         PSVI, in partnership with researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago, developed the Bias-Based Bullying Survey (BBBS) to help schools better understand their students’ experiences with bias-based bullying - bullying in which power differences based on personal characteristics such as race, skin color, religion, gender identity, sexuality, parenting status, and socioeconomic status play a role.

         Students can complete the BBBS alone or as an addendum to other risk behavior surveys such as the Illinois Youth Survey.  The BBBS is the only survey of its kind.  It asks students about:

Victimization motivated by or involving animus toward an aspect of a person’s or group’s identity(ies)
Perpetration motivated by or involving animus toward an aspect of a person’s or group’s identity(ies)
Frequency of student intervention
The reasons bystanders did NOT intervene when they did not
- Frequency of adult intervention
- Frequency of reporting
The reasons students who experienced bullying did NOT make a report  


The 2012 Bias-Based Bullying Survey revealed that:

·         87% of the youth who reported experiencing bullying, reported that it involved one or more actual or perceived personal characteristics or identities.  To highlight:
     o   6 out of 10 reported bullying based on appearance
     o   4 out of 10 based on race or skin color
     o   5 out of 10 based on gender presentation and actual or perceived sexual orientation

·         The more forms of bias based bullying students experienced, the more elevated their risk of suicidality, depression, and absence from school.

·         61% of students reported that they bullied others because they themselves had been bullied.

·         Students reported that more often than not, adult intervention in bias based bullying was ineffective at solving the problem.
     o   Adult intervention was least effective in solving the problem for students reporting bullying based on pregnancy and parenting status and sexual orientation, followed by gender expression.


 Why Administer the BBBS To Your Students?

Ensure Compliance With the Illinois Prevent School Violence Act— The PSVA sets a
community standard that helps schools determine whether they are meeting their obligations to
prohibit bullying against their students on the basis of a comprehensive list of personal
characteristics. The BBBS will give you specific information about the ways bullying plays out
in your school to help you better comply with PSVA’s charge.

Improve Academic Outcomes— Bullying and school violence result in extremely poor social, emotional and academic outcomes. Recent research reveals that the passing rates on high school standardized exams were 3 to 6 percent lower in schools where students reported a more severe bullying climate, and that, over time, students’ GPAs were lower in such a climate. Utilizing data from the BBBS to better understand the ways bullying – and the biases inherent in bullying – affects your school’s climate will contribute to improved academic success.

Target Scarce Resources— The most effective way to prevent and address bullying is to embed prevention strategies (e.g., professional development) in a comprehensive approach to school improvement.  To optimize positive student outcomes, such strategies must be adapted to the particular needs of each school, which requires an understanding of the ways students perpetrate and respond to bullying.  For example, if a school learns that its bullying seems to involve skin color and religion more than other characteristics, it can target its resources and more effectively prevent and address such behavior.  In schools with scarce resources, targeted prevention and intervention is critical.  Having these data will strengthen your applications for grant funding to address bullying and other issues.

Administration is Free – Data collection can be expensive, but the BBBS is free.  Your school can utilize the BBBS data to better target scarce resources to design your approach to addressing your students’ particular needs. In addition to test scores and academic data, schools need data to understand the particular strengths and challenges in their unique communities around bullying and harassment.

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