Assess Bullying

Assessments—such as surveys—can help schools determine the frequency and locations of bullying behavior. They can also gauge the effectiveness of current prevention and intervention efforts. Knowing what’s going on can help school staff select appropriate prevention and response strategies.

Assessments involve asking school or community members—including students—about their experiences and thoughts related to bullying. An assessment is planned, purposeful, and uses research tools.

What an Assessment Can Do

Assess to:

  • Know what’s going on. Adults underestimate the rates of bullying because kids rarely report it and it often happens when adults aren’t around. Assessing bullying through anonymous surveys can provide a clear picture of what is going on.
  • Target efforts. Understanding trends and types of bullying in your school can help you plan bullying prevention and intervention efforts.
  • Measure results. The only way to know if your prevention and intervention efforts are working is to measure them over time.

An assessment can explore specific bullying topics, such as:

  • Frequency and types
  • Adult and peer response
  • Locations, including “hot spots”
  • Staff perceptions and attitudes about bullying
  • Aspects of the school or community that may support or help stop it
  • Student perception of safety
  • School climate

Develop and Implement an Assessment

Schools may choose to use school-wide surveys to assess bullying. There are several steps involved:

  • Choose a survey. There are many free, reliable, and validated assessment tools available. Choose a set of measures that covers the questions you want answered, is age appropriate, and can be answered in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Obtain parental consent as your district requires. Some allow passive consent, others require active consent. According to federal guidelines, at a minimum, each year the Local Education Agency (LEA), must notify parents about the survey and when it will be conducted. Parents have the right to opt their child out of the survey. Parents also have the right to inspect and review the surveys before they are given.
  • Administer the survey. School staff are best equipped to judge how to carry out a survey at school, but these tips can help:
    • Administer surveys early in the school year. Schedules surveys after students are settled in a routine but there is still time to use the findings in the school year’s prevention efforts.
    • Assess at least once every school year. Some schools like to survey students at the start and end of the school year to track progress and plan activities for the following year.
    • Decide which students will be surveyed to ensure statistically significant results. Schools may choose school-wide surveys or surveys of specific grades.
    • Plan to administer the survey when all students can take it at once. This will reduce the chance that they will discuss it and affect each other’s answers.
  • Protect student privacy. Many surveys are subject to the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Assure students that their responses will be kept confidential and that their answers can’t be tracked back to them.
  • Analyze and distribute findings.
    • Make sure you continue to protect students’ privacy by ensuring that no personally identifiable information is accessible.
    • Consider how the survey results will be shared with teachers, parents, and students.
  • Make sure that you are prepared to respond to the results of the survey. Have a clear plan for prevention and intervention in place or in development.