School Bullying Report Card: Public vs. Private

As long as there have been schools, there have been bullies. Unfortunately, it’s as quintessential to primary and secondary education as shiny red apples on teachers’ desks. But in recent years, bullying and cyber-bullying have become hot-button issues, especially when some students are taking their lives because of it.

So how are schools doing when it comes to addressing bullying and related issues? We took a look at survey responses from more than 185,000 private and public school users from 2010 to 2014, and these are the bullying and social trends we saw.

Bullying Report Card

One in 10 students attends a private school in the United States, and in a survey of more than 9,000 private school users (representing roughly one-tenth of the public school users surveyed), an extensive anti-bullying policy was more enforced at private than public schools, 59 percent versus 45 percent. This could be because private schools are typically smaller with more funding, whereas public schools are larger with a less focused allocation of resources. Plus, private schools may have more freedom to implement new policy, whereas public schools have to go through more red tape.

1. Private Schools More Prepared for Anti-Bullying

Bullying Report Card

2. Private Schools More Likely to Be “Accepting”
It’s no surprise that victims of bullying are often students “different” from the norm. According to Statistic Brain, in accordance with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, homosexual and bisexual teens are more likely to report bullying, along with students having disabilities.

Yet, in a Niche survey of more than 6,000 private school users, 47 percent reported their school being “very accepting” of students from minority groups, whereas only 36 percent of more than 80,000 public school users reported the same kind of acceptance.

Bullying Report Card

Private schools could skew as “more accepting” since most students come from less diverse backgrounds, so they measure tolerance and acceptance on a smaller scale. Here’s a look at a side-by-side comparison of enrollment stats from the 2011–12 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Public vs. Private Enrollment Demographics

52% White72% White
16% Black8.9% Black
24% Hispanic10% Hispanic
5% Asian/Pacific Islander6.1% Asian/Pacific Islander
3% 2 or more races3.4% 2 or more races

3. Peer Pressure Roughly Same Everywhere
About 50 percent of both private and public users in separate surveys reported peer pressure being “easy to avoid” despite being apparent. So even though private and public schools differ from each other in many ways—including size, demographics, and the way they deal with bullying—students still view peer pressure in the same light.

Bullying Report Card

4. Public Schools More Cliquey
Despite the idea of “private school” conjuring up stereotypical images of “preppies” and an entourage of uniforms, public school students actually measure their schools as more socially exclusive than their private counterparts.

Bullying Report Card

In a Niche survey of more than 80,000 public school users, 52 percent said the social scene at their school was somewhat to super cliquey, while 38 percent of more than 6,000 private users gave their school the same rating. At private schools, 45 percent of students said groups overlap a lot and that the social scene was mostly open. This could be because private schools have smaller class sizes, which means there are fewer social groups that form, whereas public schools, with their larger class sizes, breed more social circles.

The Bottom Line
When it comes to bullying, any student at private or public school is vulnerable. However, private and public schools have different atmospheres and yield unique student perceptions based on resource allotment, size, and funding.


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