Teacher and staff perceptions of school environment as predictors of student aggression, victimization, and willingness to intervene in bullying situations

Dorothy L Espelage, Joshua R Polanin, Sabina K Low
School Psychology Quarterly 2014, 29 (3): 287-305
This study examines how teacher and staff perceptions of the school environment correlate with student self-reports of bullying, aggression, victimization, and willingness to intervene in bullying incidents using multi-informant, multilevel modeling. Data were derived from 3,616 6th grade students across 36 middle schools in the Midwest, who completed survey measures of bullying, aggression, victimization, and willingness to intervene in bullying situations. Teachers and staff (n = 1,447) completed a school environment survey. Bivariate associations between school-level and student self-reports indicated that as teacher and staff perceive aggression as a problem in their school, students reported greater bully perpetration, fighting, peer victimization, and less willingness to intervene. Further, as staff and teacher report greater commitment to prevent bullying and viewed positive teacher and student relationships, there was less bullying, fighting, and peer victimization, and greater willingness to intervene. In a model where all school environment scales were entered together, a school commitment to prevent bullying was associated with less bullying, fighting, and peer victimization. Student-reports of bully perpetration and peer victimization were largely explained by staff and teacher commitment to bully prevention, whereas fighting and willingness to intervene were largely explained by student characteristics (e.g., gender). We conclude that efforts to address bullying and victimization should involve support from the school administration. School psychologists should play an active role in the school climate improvement process, by creating a school climate council consisting of students, parents, and teachers; administering school climate measures; identifying specific school improvement targets from these data, and engaging all stakeholders in the ongoing school improvement plan.

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