Expert Commentary

Student bullying on school buses: Comparing teen boys and girls

Boys who ride the bus to school have a greater chance of being bullied than those using other transportation. But girls are generally more likely to be bullied.


Teenage boys who take the bus to school have a greater chance of being bullied than those who use other types of transportation, according to a recent study that also suggests girls generally are more likely to be bullied than boys.

The issue: Bullying has long been a problem in schools in the United States. But campus administrators have become more aggressive in their attempts to control bullying in recent years, as research has confirmed a link between bullying and poor mental health and the media has forced a national spotlight on student violence.

Brandy Vela, a high school senior from Texas, is among the latest in a series of bullying victims who have taken their own lives. In late 2016, Congressman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced a bill requiring U.S. schools to begin tracking and publishing quarterly reports on bullying among their students.

A study worth reading: “School Bus Travel is Associated with Bullying Victimization among Canadian Male, but not Female, Middle and High School Students,” published in Child Abuse & Neglect, 2016.

Study summary: A study led by Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, an epidemiologist at Ottawa Public Health in Canada, looks at the relationship between bullying and the type of transportation children use to get to and from school. He and his colleagues analyzed a sample of 10,272 students in grades 7-12 who attended Canadian public schools and participated in the 2013 Ontario Students Drug Use and Health Survey. As a part of the survey, students were asked a range of questions, including how they usually travelled between school and home and how often they were bullied. The authors note that their study is the first to investigate the relationship between school travel and reports of bullying among middle school and high school students.

Key takeaways:

  • School bullying is common. One-fourth of students (24.7 percent) reported they had been bullied in the past 12 months.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to be bullied. About 27 percent of girls reported being bullied compared to about 22 percent of boys.
  • Low-income students – especially low-income girls — were more likely to report being bullied than children with higher family incomes. Students whose parents did not go to college were more likely to be bullied than students whose parents had some level of college education. About 34 percent of girls whose parents did not go to college reported being bullied compared to about 23 percent of boys.
  • For boys, traveling on a school bus was associated with a greater likelihood of being bullied. More than 29 percent of boys who rode the bus home from school reported being bullied compared to 16 percent of boys who traveled home in a car, 24 percent who took public transportation and 20 percent who walked or rode bikes.
  • For girls, walking or riding a bike to school was associated with a higher chance of being bullied. Almost 33 percent of girls who walked or rode bikes reported bullying compared to 31 percent who took the bus, 24 percent who traveled by car and 19 percent who used public transportation.

Helpful resources for journalists:

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes data on bullying, broken down by the type of bullying experienced by students. A 2015 NCES report shows that 21.5 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied in 2012-13 and another nearly 7 percent reported being the victims of cyberbullying either on campus or off campus.
  •, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers information on bullying, including tips for identifying children who are at risk of being bullied and those who are more likely to be bullies.
  • A 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service looks at, among other things, state anti-bullying legislation and the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs.
  • The Pupil Transportation Safety Institute and Cyr Foundation for Excellence in in School Transportation have developed a bus driver-training course titled “Transporting LGBTQ Students.” Part of the course focuses on preventing bullying on school buses.

More research on this topic:


Keywords: cyberbullying, crime, school violence, anti-bullying, bus stop, zero tolerance

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