High-school put-downs are such a staple of teen culture that many educators don't take them seriously. However, a University of Illinois study suggests that classroom disruptions and psychologically hostile school environments can contribute to a climate in which good students have difficulty learning and students who are behind have trouble catching up.

"We need to get away from the idea that bullying is always physical. Bullying can also include verbal harassment, which can be just as damaging and detrimental to student learning," said Christy Lleras, a U of I assistant professor of human and community development.

The study used data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study and included 10,060 African American, Latino, and white tenth graders in 659 U.S. high schools. It is one of the first to look at the national incidence of verbal harassment in public and private high schools, she said.

"In looking at whether students felt safe at school, students' fear for their physical safety was actually pretty low. But 70 percent of the students said they were bothered by disruptions in their classroom, and one in five students said that they were often put down by their peers in school," she said.

Source: EurekAlert!
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-09/uoia-hpm090109.php