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Study: High school put-downs could put students behind

  • Story Highlights
  • University of Illinois study is first to study effects of classmate put-downs
  • Study suggests taunting can make it difficult for students who are behind to catch up
  • Professor on high level of verbal harassment: "I think it's sort of a wake-up call"
  • Study finds name-calling is a problem in public and private schools
By Matt Cherry
CNN
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(CNN) -- Whoever said names will never hurt you was wrong, according to a new study.

A new study suggests exposure to verbal put-downs from peers can make it harder for good students to achieve.

A new study suggests exposure to verbal put-downs from peers can make it harder for good students to achieve.

The study from the University of Illinois suggests dealing with classmate put-downs can make it harder for good students to learn and make it more difficult for students who are behind to catch up.

The first-of-its-kind study cited a national sample of data from the U.S. Department of Education on more than 10,000 high-school sophomores in more than 650 U.S. high schools. One in five respondents claimed they were often "put down" verbally by their peers in school.

"I think it's sort of a wake-up call for a lot of us that this kind of verbal harassment is going on in schools, and it's contributing to a learning environment that is quite disruptive for kids," said Christy Lleras, a University of Illinois assistant professor of human and community development, who worked on the study. See details about K-12 schools, teachers »

It's not only an issue at public schools. Lleras said the research shows these put-downs are just as big a problem in private high schools as well.

Referring to private schools, Lleras said, "They were certainly doing a good job at making their kids feel safe, but they were not insulating them from emotional harm."

Results of the study indicate boys are likely to experience these put-downs more often than girls, especially at private schools.

The university's study also measured the issue among racial and academic lines. African-American high school students who considered themselves very good students were shown to be more likely to be the victims of verbal abuse from their peers.

Lleras believes the put-downs are a way of coping for students when they are struggling to do their classwork. Regardless of the reason, she thinks it's time schools did something about it.

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"A lot of time we've been focusing on physical abuse -- bullying," said Lleras. "However, if one in five kids (is) experiencing this ... this is something that's become an everyday culture among our adolescents. I think knowing that, schools are going to have starting to address it."

The study appears in the Journal of School Violence.

All About High School EducationU.S. Department of Education

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