How does your school currently assess bullying, violence, and substance abuse?

Voices from the Field is a place for administrators, teachers, school support staff, community, and family members to (1) share what you think by responding to a polling question, (2) see what others think by viewing the poll’s results, (3) learn what experts think by reading a short post that includes references and related resources, and (4) share your own experiences by posting comments on safe supportive learning topics.

How does your school currently assess bullying, violence, and substance abuse?

Learn What Experts Think

In order to learn, students need to feel safe and supported.  Unfortunately, bullying, violence, and substance abuse are three common issues that can get in the way.

Importance of Assessing Bullying, Violence, and Substance Abuse

“What gets measured gets done” is a popular saying in the research community.  Measuring bullying, violence, and substance abuse allows schools to identify and address their harmful effects.

However, it can be challenging to accurately measure the frequency, prevalence, and context of these behaviors. 

Challenges of Assessing Bullying, Violence, and Substance Abuse and How to Overcome Them

Bullying, violence, and substance abuse are socially undesirable behaviors.  Respondents—whether students, teachers, or family members—may be hesitant to report knowledge of or participation in these behaviors, which may result in underreporting.  Fortunately, researchers have developed techniques to address social desirability bias:

  • Use self-administered instruments.
  • Use computer-assisted or web-based interviews rather than face-to-face in-person interviews.
  • Ensure respondent anonymity or confidentiality.
  • Carefully word questions.
  • Ask whether the respondent has ever participated in the behavior and then about their current participation.
  • Mix items about socially undesirable behaviors in with less threatening questions.
  • Randomize responses if survey is not self-administered.
  • Make questions less threatening.

Learn More!

A live webinar on effective strategies for assessing bullying, violence, and substance abuse was held on Wednesday, June 12 from 4:00-5:30 PM Eastern time and Thursday June 13 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Eastern time.  The presenters were Lina Guzman, PhD, of Child Trends, Greg Austin, PhD, of WestEd, and Hilva Chan from the California Department of Education.  Find the archived event here:

Related Resources

To learn more about assessing bullying, violence, and substance abuse in school, on a college or university campus, or in your community, review the following resources and/or contact NCSSLE for individualized assistance!


Bradburn, N., Sudman, S., & Wansink, B. (2004). Asking Questions: The Definitive Guide to Questionnaire Design-For Market Research, Political Polls, and Social and Health Questionnaires. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chauchard, S. (2013). Using MP3 players in surveys: The impact of a low-tech self-administration mode on reporting of sensitive attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 77(S1), 220-231.

Kreuter, F., Presser, S., & Tourangeau, R. (2008). Social desirability bias in CATI, IVR, and web surveys: The effects of mode and question sensitivity. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(5), 847-865.

Tourangeau, R., & Smith, T. W. (1996). Asking sensitive questions: The impact of data collection mode, question format, and question context. Public Opinion Quarterly, 60, 275-304.

Turner, C. F., Ku, L., Rogers, S. M., Lindberg, L. D., Plack, J. H., & Sonenstein, F. L. (1998). Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: Increased reporting with computer survey technology. Science, New Series, 280, 867-873.


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