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Social ostracism is a common phenomenon in schools in Israel, and causes great suffering to the children who are its victims. Ostracism is a form of relational bullying, i.e., bullying that occurs mainly through non-physical violence, characterized by repetition and asymmetrical power relations between the attacker and the victim. Both ostracism and other forms of bullying can have long-term emotional and educational effects on students who experience these forms of school violence, and even on students who are witnesses to them.
This study examines the phenomenon of ostracism and bullying in schools in Israel, and focuses on the relationship between the likelihood of experiencing ostracism and sector, class, gender and grade level. It also reviews changes in patterns of ostracism over time.
The extent of the phenomenon of ostracism
How likely are pupils in Israel to be ostracized by their peers in school?
- In 2015, 5.6% of the pupils reported that in the previous month they had been ostracized, and nearly 4% reported that there had been a call to ostracize them online.
- Although a minority of the pupils experienced ostracism (5.6%), in over 60% of classes there is at least one child who suffers from ostracism.
- The phenomenon of ostracism is more common in the primary school years, in grades 5 and 6, and the share of children experiencing ostracism drops as the pupils’ age rises.
Characteristics of pupils who experience ostracism
The researchers examined trends among pupils experiencing ostracism by sector, gender, and socioeconomic status.
- There are large gaps between the educational streams in the share of pupils who report ostracism: about 11% in Arab education as compared with 3.4% in Hebrew education. In 79% of the classes in Arab education there is at least one pupil who suffers from ostracism, compared to 50% of classes in Hebrew education.
- There are also gaps within the Arab education system: 15% of pupils in the Bedouin education system reported ostracism, 10% in the Arab system, and 7% in the Druze system.
- Jewish girls reported that they were victims of ostracism at slightly higher rates than Jewish boys: 5.2% compared to 4.7%. In the Arab Israeli sector, the opposite is true: about 17% of boys reported being victims of ostracism, compared to 13.5% of girls. The finding in the Arab Israeli sector challenges a widespread claim worldwide that ostracism is more prevalent among girls.
- Pupils with lower socioeconomic backgrounds suffer from ostracism at higher rates than pupils from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (as reflected in parents’ levels of education): among pupils whose parents have 11 or fewer years of schooling, 16% of Arab Israeli pupils and 6% of Jewish pupils reported ostracism, compared to 11% among Arab Israelis and 4% among Jews whose parents have 16 or more years of schooling.
- In classrooms where average parental education is low, pupils are more likely to suffer from ostracism, even when controlling for their individual parents’ education.
Ostracism and school performance
A significant negative correlation was found between reporting ostracism and grades, both in math and in English.
- In both Hebrew and Arab education, pupils who report being ostracized score an average of 4 points lower in math.
- In English, there is a significant difference by sector: pupils suffering from ostracism score 8 points lower on average in Arab education and 4 points lower on average in Hebrew education.
Trends in ostracism over time
- Between 2007 and 2015 there was a significant decline in the share of pupils experiencing ostracism: from 18% to 11% in Arab education and from 5% to 3.4% in Jewish education. The decline is most significant among those suffering from the highest levels of ostracism – primary school pupils and pupils in the Arab education system. The causes of the decline should be examined in order to apply them to additional classrooms in Israel’s education system.