Report shows bullying on the decline in schools

by Laura Edghill
Posted 5/19/15, 02:00 pm

Bullying rates have dropped in recent years, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education. The report showed that just 22 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied in 2013 after the number hovered around 28 percent for the last decade. Girls were more likely to be bullied than boys, and white students were more likely to be bullied than minorities.

A decade ago, schools were largely on their own to come up with systemic solutions to bullying problems. Principals typically dealt with bullies on an individual basis and leaned on district policy for specific disciplinary guidance. Students often returned from temporary suspensions only to resume bullying.

Now schools have numerous choices of programs designed to empower entire student bodies to stand up against bullying. Programs with names like “Stand for the Silent,” “Not in our School,” and “The Boomerang Project” tout strategies to create healthy cultures where no one feels like an outsider. Many programs offer curriculum kits that schools can purchase complete with training and onsite visits by company consultants.

And even schools that don’t purchase a curriculum program benefit from the abundance of free online resources that weren’t widely available until recent years.

The term “bullying” itself has also undergone significant clarification over time. Rather than use it to describe any manner of mean or attacking behavior, schools are now advised to exercise restraint when labeling a behavior “bullying.”

“By calling everything bullying, we’re actually failing to recognize the seriousness of the problem,” said Elizabeth Englander, a professor of psychology and founder and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University, in an interview with CNN.

Reserving the term only for those situations where repeated, aggressive actions put another person at risk physically or mentally gives schools the latitude to treat bullying as a more serious infraction than the everyday mean behaviors common among young people.

The surveyed students cited being made fun of, insulted or called names as the most common forms of bullying they experienced. The report showed that bullies frequently made their victims the subjects of unwanted rumors. Students also reported they were threatened with real physical harm.

Even though the instances of bullying appear to be decreasing, the report still indicates one out of every five teens is at the mercy of a bully. That means millions of teens around the country fear for their safety and sanity.

“Even though we’ve come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation’s children,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in response to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Laura Edghill

Laura is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

Read more from this writer