New Data Show a Decline in School-based Bullying

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 15, 2015.  New data indicate the first significant decrease in school-based bullying since the federal government began collecting that data in 2005, suggesting that efforts at the federal, state and local levels to prevent bullying may be paying off. According to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent for the past decade.

“As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “The Department, along with our federal partners and others, has been deeply involved in the fight against bullying in our nation’s schools. 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.”

“The report brings welcome news,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. “Parents, teachers, health providers, community members and young people are clearly making a difference by taking action and sending the message that bullying is not acceptable. We will continue to do our part at HHS to help ensure every child has the opportunity to live, learn and grow in a community free of bullying.”

In 2011, the President and First Lady hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention where they called for a united effort to address bullying. As the President declared then, “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe.” To address the scourge of bullying, the federal government has implemented a suite of executive and public-private partnerships that are helping move to move the needle and reduce incidences of bullying.

In 2013, about 22 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. According to NCES data, this percentage was lower than the percentage reported in every prior survey year since 2005 (when it ranged from 28 to 32 percent). Similarly, lower percentages of students reporting being bullied in 2013 were observed across some student characteristics. For example, in 2013 about 24 percent of female students reported being bullied at school, compared with 29 to 33 percent in prior survey years. While girls ages 12 to 18 tend to report being bullied more than males the same age, the data shows that the pattern of reduced rates over time for males was similar. In 2013, females also reported being cyberbullied more than males. Nine percent of females reported that they were cyberbullied compared with 5 percent of males. The data comes from the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which asks a nationally representative sample of students ages 12—18 if they had been bullied at school.

There are three types of bullying: physical, relational (or social) and verbal. Bullying of any type can occur anywhere and to any student. Research shows that students who are bullied are more likely to struggle in school and skip class. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed, and are at higher risk of suicide.

Since 2010, the Education Department has taken actions to combat bullying and cyberbullying. The Department’s efforts include:

Issuing four Dear Colleague Letters on harassment and bullying, gay-straight alliances, and bullying of students with disabilities

Adding a requirement to the Civil Rights Data Collection that public elementary and secondary schools report incidents of harassment based on religion and sexual orientation, in addition to harassment based on sex, race, color, national origin, and disability

Working collaboratively with the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention, an interagency working group charged with coordinating federal efforts on bullying prevention

Helping to develop a uniform definition of bullying

Hosting four bullying prevention summits

Creating training modules on bullying for school bus drivers and classroom teachers

Producing the “Indicators of School Crime and Safety,” which includes an indicator on bullying and cyberbullying in schools

Supporting the work of the website, which is managed by HHS

Hosting webinars on cyberbullying, sexting, sextortion, and more

Spearheading the Asian American Pacific Islanders Bullying Prevention Taskforce to explore the unique circumstances faced by AAPI students, including linguistic, cultural and religious issues.