Brett Lehman on Bullying – Why GPA Matters

Brett Lehman, post-doctoral teaching scholar for the department of sociology and anthropology at NC State, is questioning the assumptions around bullying in American schools on a large-scale, using his research to shed light on the roots of bullying and what we can do about it beyond raising awareness individualistically.

His publication in the American Journal of Education, “Physical and Nonphysical Bullying Victimization of Academically Oriented Students: The Role of Gender and School Type,” examines the key characteristic Brett has uncovered about why male students are bullied in schools: GPA. Brett states in his publication, “My results supported the hypothesis that having a high GPA does make boys more likely to be bullied on a national scale even after accounting for individual students’ race, social class, disability status, participation in sports teams, and academic track.”

This suggests that gender roles have influence on the ways that male students find it acceptable to express masculinity – and that intelligence doesn’t fit the bill. Beyond this, Brett also details a connection between the financial state of a school and type of bullying experience. Boys in the poorest schools (those that had highest percentages of students receiving free or reduced lunch) described their bullying experiences as occurring through physical attacks.

It’s easy to understand that this has a serious impact on young men who want to succeed academically, and may even influence them to avoid intellectual achievements in school in order to lower physical bullying attacks, even as the importance of receiving a higher education grows. Brett believes that addressing this problem involves teaching children, regardless of gender, “that all classmates deserve to be treated with respect, that there is more than one way to be masculine (or feminine) and that the highest achievers should be lifted up rather than put down.”

He believes these messages will be effective through investing in the country’s poorest schools. “If we want a deeper understanding of bullying,” Brett explains, “social inequalities as well as the school and the community environment matter.”



Lehman, Brett. “Physical and Nonphysical Bullying Victimization of Academically Oriented Students: The Role of Gender and School Type by Brett Lehman.” AJE Forum. University of Chicago, 07 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.

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