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Bystander Experiences with Bias-Based Bullying in High School
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Bullying in schools has significant negative implications for the academic, social, and emotional wellbeing of all students involved. Students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB), or who are perceived to behave in gender non-conforming ways, are at greater risk of being bullied than their heterosexual or gender conforming peers. In an effort to reduce instances of general bullying in school, recent research has focused on altering the behavior of student bystanders to encourage them to take action in support of victims (e.g., get a teacher, etc.). Bystander potential behaviors include assisting or reinforcing the bully, remaining an outsider, or defending the victim. Despite empirical support for the influence bystander behavior can have during school bullying, information about bystander behavior during bias-based bullying remains limited. Using thematic narrative analysis, this research reviewed high school bystanders’ experiences with bias-based bullying, their perceptions of bystander behavior in their school, and their social norms related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Results suggest bystanders experience four primary types of bias-based bullying. Additionally bystanders can enact a range of responses that are motivated by internal and external factors. Normative expectations for gender split into expected roles and dress, while sexual orientation assumptions are based on sexual behavior and gender non-conforming behaviors. Future directions for research and practice are included from the perspective of the researcher as well as the students involved.
Williams, Amanda Joslin (2016). Bystander Experiences with Bias-Based Bullying in High School. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from