Students with special needs or disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. One study found that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.
These are statistics that concern special education majors as with passionate hearts they learn the special ways to teach both content area as well as how to manage their classrooms to be safe, supportive environments where their students can grow and learn. From March 13-17, William Woods University observed ‘No Name Calling Week.’ Special education majors in particular took this week to think about what it meant for their classrooms.
According to the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, many students with disabilities are already addressing challenges in the academic environment. Being bullied only increases that challenge — directly linked to absenteeism, decreases in grades, an inability to concentrate, loss of interest in academic achievement, and more.
The U.S. Department of Education states school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive what is called Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Any bullying of a student with disabilities which result in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit is considered a denial of FAPE and a violation of IDEA. (Read the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter for more information.)
Special education teachers must know the signs of and strategies to combat bullying in their classrooms and schools.
The HomeRoom blog recommends five ways teachers can be proactive and reactive in the face of bullying:
- Create a safe and supportive environment
- Manage classrooms to prevent bullying
- Intervene immediately
- Get the facts when bullying occurs — understand that there is more than one side to each situation
- Support all kids involved
Bullying statistics from PACER also found that Special Education teachers can promote the power of bystanders to their colleagues and students — that more than 50 percent of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes. Students reported that the most helpful things teachers can do are: listen to the student, check in with them afterwards to see if the bullying stopped, and give the student advice.