AP Stat: Bullying at Latin

Eric Gofen & Tyler Goff

We hear about bullying in the news constantly. Kids are teased, mocked, and ridiculed on a regular basis. It is estimated that 56% of students from K-12 have witnessed some kind of bullying. As a community, we’d like to believe that Latin is better. But is our community really that different? We decided to investigate.

Earlier this year, all Latin students took a survey during advisory. In the survey, there was a question about whether or not they had been “bullied.” Only 21% of the population responded “yes” to this question. However, the term “bullying” introduces bias since individuals may have different definitions of what “bullying” is. As a result, we hypothesized that the actual proportion of Latin students bullied was different from the survey finding. To test this claim, we devised our own survey, which we gave to 40 randomly selected students. To avoid bias, we wrote a series of four specific questions that embody how we define bullying, instead of directly asking if someone had been bullied.

Q1. Have you ever been physically assaulted?

Q2. Has anyone ever called you a hurtful term?

Q3. Has anyone ever made you feel ashamed about yourself or your actions?

Q4. Has anyone ever made fun of something you wear?

We decided that if people answered “yes” to any of the four questions, then they had been bullied at Latin. Of the 40 students surveyed, 26 responded. Of those 26, 24 said “yes” to at least one question, which is a proportion of 92.3%. Since we took a relatively small sample, we asked ourselves “how significant are these results?” Our statistical test assumed the true proportion of bullied students at Latin was 21%, and found the probability that we would receive a sample proportion as far or farther from 21%. Not accounting for possible bias due to our experiment, we found this proportion to be 4.4*10E-19. This is equivalent to saying there would be less than a 1 in 2,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance it could occur. In less “mathy” terms, the chances of us getting this result are less than randomly choosing 1 specific ant out of the entire ant population (just over 10*16). Of course, there is another explanation.

Not everyone who was given a survey answered. Thus, there is a possibility that only those who felt strongly about bullying answered the survey. In other words, perhaps people who were bullied were more likely to answer the survey than those who were not. Also, when presented with our specific questions, it seems students were much more likely to admit having been bullied. At Latin, we view ourselves as an accepting community absent of members who hurt others, physically or mentally. When presented with the word “bullying,” perhaps many members immediately think of overly expressed cartoons, with both physical fights and unrelenting ridicule. This stigma may cause people to deny the fact that they have been “bullied.” Yet, when asked one of our four questions, they respond “yes.”. 76.9% of our respondents said that they had been called a “hurtful term.” Additionally, only 15.4%  said they had been “physically assaulted,” 65.4% were “made to feel ashamed,” and 76.9% had been “made fun of [for] something [they] wore.” Bullying can take many different forms and it is imperative that we recognize this as a community. We should use this opportunity to change how we define bullying and how we behave towards others.