As part of the Safe School Study, schools were recruited from across the country to test surveys for measuring perceptions of school safety and hot spots for bullying/harassment. Five different survey instruments were developed to collect data in Fall 2003 from 2,806 individuals and in Spring 2004 from 2,755 respondents. These tools were developed with the guidance of leading experts in the field and are based upon the best instruments available in the world today. Credit must be given to the West Vancouver School District Safe School Surveys and David Smith and colleagues’ Anti-Bullying Program Survey. These instruments were critical in the development of the CPHA surveys. The quantitative data were supplemented with a series of audiotaped qualitative interviews with school administrators, teachers and students.

Approximately 45% of students in the study experienced bully-victim problems, sexual harassment or racial discrimination at least once during a four-week period, including roughly 10% who were involved as perpetrators and/or victims on a weekly basis. Approximately 40% of students were not directly involved in these peer relationship problems, yet were affected because they saw or heard these incidents. In other words, only 15% of the students in this study reported that they were not involved in any way in these incidents.

Most students did not intervene or get help for victims. When asked why, students reported that they did not want to get involved, were afraid, or didn’t know what to do. Only 15% of those victimized during the four weeks said that they reported the incident to an adult at school. Schools with established antibullying programs did not have significantly higher report rates compared to schools without programs, although students in the former schools were more likely to say that it bothered them and get help when a student was harmed. However, students who had taken part in programs were equally as likely as those who had not to engage in harmful behaviour.

There appear to be large gaps in knowledge and perceptions among parents, students and teachers in the seven schools. A grade eleven girl summed it up this way: “I think if they actually LISTEN to the students, and involve them in resolving their problem, and not always think they know best, then things would work out better. The students need to have a say in what is happening, and need to be taken seriously and not treated like they’re too young to know what to do.” Very few parents of bullies reported having any knowledge of their child’s harmful behaviour, and just over one half of the victims had a parent who knew about it. In general, parents had very little understanding of when and where harmful incidents were taking place at school.

CPHA’s “Safe School Study” is unique for a number of reasons. It provides detailed information on the nature and incidence of under-studied forms of bullying, harassment and discrimination in a large sample (e.g., electronic and social bullying; sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact; racist behaviour); and for the first time in Canada, comparison is possible among coded student, parent and teacher reports in a multi-site study.

Assessment Toolkit for Bullying, Harassment and Peer Relations at School

The CPHA Assessment Toolkit for Bullying, Harassment and Peer Relations at School   is a companion document to the Safe School Surveys and the CPHA Safe School Study Research Report. It has been designed for teachers, school administrators, and ministries of education to address some of the pressing needs identified in the Safe School Study. Developed in partnership with the Canadian Initiative for the Prevention of Bullying (National Crime Prevention Strategy), this free kit provides a standard way to measure the nature and prevalence of school peer relationship problems, standards for quality programs, and a common set of tools to assess the impact of school-based programs. From a public health perspective, it provides an overview of what works and what doesn’t, foundations for best practice standards, and outlines the core school components. CPHA’s toolkit includes tips for students, parents, teachers and administrators in the form of a handout and checklist that can be posted on the fridge at home, in the student’s desk and on the chalkboard at school.

This toolkit is the result of the collective efforts of researchers, educators, parents/guardians and youth. Their efforts have made a valuable contribution to Canadian research and the prevention of bullying and harassment. As you carry forward this work, we wish you success in your commitment to enhancing the lives of children in their homes, communities and schools.