School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Daniel Marston


special education bullying, teacher perception, cognitive triangle, alternative school


Education | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study is to know and understand teachers’ perceptions of bullying, teachers’ perceptions of special education students, and what influences their decision to intervene and assist when observing special education students being victimized through bullying. The theory guiding this study is Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Theory’s Cognitive Triangle that suggests that thought influences emotions and emotions influences behaviors, as well in reverse. The data collection process includes individual interviews with eight classroom teachers who work in alternative middle schools. Due to COVID-19, in-person observations were omitted, and the individual interviews were conducted using Zoom platform with semi-structured questions as well as sub-questions for additional information not obtained through the semi-structured questions. Data was analyzed using Hermeneutic content analysis. Findings from this study reveal that teachers see themselves as protective of students, intolerant of bullying and motivated to intervene in situations where students are bullied. However, what these findings also showed is that definitions of bullying and perceptions of what is designated as bullying vary considerably. Participants in this study showed that each was responding to their own definitions of bullying. This indicates strongly that future research on bullying and interventions designed to address bullying need to be specific on how bullying is defined. Allowing individuals to rely on their own definitions of bullying likely increases the variability on how situations are addressed and even whether they are addressed at all.