Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Zeena Zakharia

Second Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Third Advisor

Corinne Merritt


The purpose of this study was to explore the dynamic meaning and impact of bullying on the academic and social experiences of immigrant school-age girls at one Catholic girls’ school. Drawing on Ecological Systems Theory and the concept of xenophobia, I conducted a mixed methods study to understand how high school girls at one Catholic girls’ school conceptualized bullying and its impact on their academic and social experiences. Data collected in 2016 and 2017 from a school-wide survey and semi-structured interviews with immigrant girls who reported being bullied in school were analyzed, confirming that immigrant girls were more likely to experience bullying than students who were not first or second-generation immigrants in the United States. Furthermore, students reported that this bullying had negative consequences for their academic and social experiences. They described bullying as being “mean,” manifested in both physical and verbal attacks at school and through social media. Importantly, students cited the perception of difference, the national rhetoric on immigrants and immigration, and the pervasive nature of social media as being major catalysts for bullying immigrant girls. The findings suggest significant areas of concern for Catholic schools, including the potential prevalence of bullying of immigrant girls; the problem of noticeability, particularly in the less structured or monitored spaces of schooling and social media; and the under-reporting of instances of bullying specifically to school actors due to a lack of trust, or fear of retribution.

I suggest a framework through which to understand the experiences of immigrant girls with bullying in schools. The Gendered Ecology of Xenophobic Bullying may be visualized as nested spheres or fields, with the individual at the center, nested within her ecological environment, the larger political climate, and historical xenophobia. The spheres are porous; what happens in one often influences and is experienced in another. Furthermore, there appears to be an intersectionality of gender, immigrant status, and other features, such as race and socioeconomic status, that manifest themselves in symbolic markers of difference, as perceived within this xenophobic ecology. The framework offers a way to understand the xenophobic bullying of immigrant girls in Catholic schools and is suggestive of a holistic approach to addressing bullying through policy, practice, and professional training. There is a pressing need for more research on the intersection of bullying, immigrant status, and gender to better prepare educators, administrators, and their communities to more aptly support immigrant students within their school systems. The percentage of immigrants in Catholic schools has increased significantly over the past 40 years, making this a critical issue for this subset of private schools. This study contributes to this end.


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