The Correlation between Bullying and School Dropout Rates: Implications for Educators and Schools

Bullying is a pervasive and harmful issue in schools, affecting millions of students every year. While the adverse effects of bullying have been well-documented, its connection to school dropout rates remains an area of ongoing research and concern. Students who experience bullying are more likely to miss school, have lower academic performance, and ultimately drop out. The consequences of school dropout impact not only the individual but also their families, communities, and society. Educators are crucial in identifying, preventing, and addressing bullying and school dropout rates.

This article aims to comprehensively examine the correlation between bullying and school dropout rates, drawing on current research and evidence-based practices. This article provides educators and school professionals with insights and recommendations to prevent and intervene in bullying and school dropout.

Understanding and Measuring Bullying and School Dropout

Defining and Measuring Bullying

The term “bullying” refers to repetitive aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power between individuals. Bullying can occur in various forms, including physical, verbal, relational, and cyberbullying. The effects of bullying can be severe and long-lasting, such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.

Measuring the prevalence and impact of bullying in schools is essential to identify areas for improvement and develop effective interventions. The most commonly used instruments to measure bullying are self-report surveys, peer nomination surveys, teacher reports, and observational methods. However, each method has limitations and potential biases, and triangulating data from multiple sources is recommended for a more comprehensive understanding of school bullying.

Defining and Measuring School Dropout

School dropout refers to students who prematurely leave education before completion without earning a high school diploma or equivalent credential. Dropout rates vary widely across schools and regions, but the United States has one of the highest dropout rates among developed countries. The impact of school dropout on individuals is profound, increasing the risk of unemployment, poverty, health issues, and involvement in criminal activities. Besides, school dropout’s economic and social costs are substantial, estimated at $209 billion annually in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.

Measuring school dropout rates involves tracking the number and percentage of students who leave school before graduation and analyzing the reasons and demographic characteristics. However, measuring school dropout rates is challenging due to various factors, such as differences in data collection methods, definitions, and criteria and the need for a national standard.

The Correlation between Bullying and School Dropout

Numerous studies have found a strong correlation between bullying and school dropout rates, indicating that students who experience bullying are likelier to drop out or fail to complete high school. For instance, a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students in North Carolina found that students who reported frequent involvement in bullying were 1.5 times more likely to drop out than those who had not experienced bullying.

The reasons for the connection between bullying and school dropout are complex and multifaceted, but several mechanisms have been proposed. First, bullying can impair students’ academic engagement and achievement, leading to disconnection and frustration with school. This, in turn, can result in absenteeism, poor grades, and dropout. Second, bullying can create a hostile and unsafe school climate, where students feel fearful, anxious, and isolated, and teachers struggle to maintain discipline and order. This hostile environment can erode students’ motivation and interest in school, exacerbating dropout risk.

Implications for Educators and Schools

The evidence linking bullying and school dropout rates underscores the urgent need for educators and schools to address both issues comprehensively. Several evidence-based practices have shown promise in preventing and reducing bullying and dropout rates, including:

  • Implementing school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) that promote a culture of respect, safety, and inclusion.
  • Providing students with social and emotional learning (SEL) enhances their self-awareness, social skills, and decision-making abilities.
  • Training teachers and staff on identifying and responding to bullying and supporting victims and perpetrators.
  • Establishing strong partnerships with families, communities, and mental health professionals to address the root causes of bullying and dropout.
  • Developing individualized and comprehensive dropout prevention plans that target at-risk students and involve multiple stakeholders.

These strategies require a systemic and collaborative approach involving all school community members, from administrators to parents to students. By addressing the issues of bullying and school dropout rates, educators and schools can ensure that all students have access to a safe, supportive, and equitable learning environment that enables them to reach their full potential.


Bullying and dropout rates are two significant challenges facing school communities today, with detrimental consequences for individuals and society. The research has shown that these two issues are closely linked, highlighting the need for educators to address them holistically and proactively. By implementing evidence-based practices and fostering a culture of respect, safety, and inclusion, schools can prevent and reduce bullying and dropout rates and promote a brighter future for all students.

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