Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Arlene Weisz


Complex issues, such as bullying, have brought to light the importance of expanding school social work to include interventions focused on multiple levels of practice. Recognizing that teachers play an important role in influencing educational, social, and emotional outcomes for students, this study seeks to broaden our understanding of what motivates teachers to intervene in bullying situations in order to inform school social work practice as well as future anti-bullying programs and policies. A cross-sectional descriptive design was utilized to gather data from middle school teachers in ten districts across the state of Michigan (n=176). Participants completed an online survey which included six bullying vignettes as well as several measures examining individual and organizational level characteristics. In addition to the online survey, 19 teachers also participated in an individual interview focused on their experiences with bullying and their interventions in bullying situations. Overall, the findings emphasize the role of individual characteristics in influencing teachers' likelihood of intervention in bullying situations. The significant role teachers' perceived seriousness of the bullying situation and their level of empathy toward the students being bullied played in their intervention decisions align with many of the key concepts in the seminal bystander intervention theories. Viewing teachers as bystanders creates an opportunity to apply our knowledge of bystander behavior and theory to the development of programs and policies which emphasize the importance of teacher beliefs in shaping intervention decisions. School social workers can utilize these theories to develop a practice model which emphasizes collaboration and acknowledges the important role all bystanders (including teachers) play in addressing the problem of bullying.

Included in

Social Work Commons