The Impact Bullying Has on Absenteeism

Most schools and districts focus their anti-bullying efforts on students in grades 6-12. A recent study on chronic absenteeism and bullying by the John Hopkins University Center for Social Organization challenges schools to direct attention to even younger students, in as early as third or fourth grade.

Until recently, I didn’t think of chronic absenteeism as a major challenge for K-12 education, but, thanks to this study and talking to colleagues, now I do. Here’s a summary of some of the study’s findings:

• From the earliest years of education on, chronic absenteeism can be associated with poor performance.

• Chronic absenteeism (missing 10% or more of the school year) increases achievement gaps at elementary, middle and high school levels.

• Chronic absenteeism is most prevalent in poor, rural communities, occurring regardless of race and gender.

• There is a strong correlation between chronic absenteeism and bullying, and efforts to eliminate bullying can reduce chronic absenteeism, which in turn improves student performance.

• The most impactful time to reduce chronic absenteeism and bullying is in elementary grades 3 and 4.

Here’s something to consider: even absenteeism is no longer an entirely effective way for students to avoid bullying. Before the advent of the digital classroom and social media, students could find solace in staying home. The rise of cyberbullying, however, has prevented this from happening, which exacerbates the issue for K-12 students, seeing as how bullying can be a continuous, inescapable threat.

This strengthens the need for services like Gaggle Safety Management, which provides schools and districts with early warning detection of cyberbullying, self-harm and serious threats.

More importantly, the last bullet point communicates that the most impactful time to reduce chronic absenteeism and bullying is during earlier elementary grades. A lot of superintendents, technology administrators and educators who I’ve spoken with believe that our Safety Management service isn’t necessary for students until the 9th grade (although some will start as early as in grades 6 or 7). The reason is simple: they don’t see the manifestation of serious bullying issues until students become older.

This appears to be an indication of a flaw in our attitude towards bullying. The focus is less on prevention and more on reaction, which I believe is the wrong way to address the issue. It’s far more effective to begin eliminating bullying earlier, during a student’s psychological and moral formation.

For these reasons, when you consider implementing Safety Management for G Suite or Office 365 for your school or district, consider the value these services might have for your younger students, not simply for students in middle school or high school.

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