Prevalence of Bullying in U.S. Schools Remains a Concern

CENTER CITY, MINN. (October 9, 2015) — Over the past 15 years state congressional leaders have worked to pass legislation requiring schools to enact policies and procedures aimed at reducing bullying behavior among their student populations. As of spring 2015, all 50 states have completed this large task however the job is far from finished.

Data in a new annual OLWEUS Bullying Status Report issued by Hazelden Publishing, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, in partnership with Clemson University, and Professional Data Analysts, Inc., show that rates of bullying among children and youth are still too high.

On October 15, 2015 Hazelden Publishing and Clemson University will host a webinar to present findings from this year's status report.

Survey responses were collected and analyzed from a sample of 20,000 students in grades 3-12 across the United States who completed the OLWEUS Bullying Questionnaire (OBQ) prior to implementing the OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) during the 2013-2014 school year. The OBQ is the largest database of information on bullying rates, having surveyed more than three million students.

Dr. Susan P. Limber, Professor at Clemson University in the Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life, will present this year's findings and their implications for today's educators as well as field questions from the audience. "What is unique about our large-scale study is the wide range of ages we were able to survey, 3rd-12th graders," Limber says, "and also the breadth of questions that we were able to ask. Our data highlight the seriousness of bullying from the perspectives of students, but they also dispel some common myths about bullying, which are critical for educators and community members to understand if we are to effectively address bullying."

The results demonstrate that despite increased awareness and prevention work being done, for schools and districts who have not implemented school-wide prevention programs, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our youth.

Bullying rates remain high: Nearly 1 in 5 students are involved in bullying at school:

  • 14% of students were bullied with regularity (2-3 times a month or more often)
  • 5% of students bullied others regularly
  • 17% of all students were involved in bullying, either as a student who was bullied, one who bullied others, or both vs. 18% in the prior year

For many students, bullying is chronic: 39% of students, who were bullied, indicated the bullying lasted for one year or longer.

Bullying is pervasive: On average, students report being bullied in three different ways, with the most often cited forms of bullying:

  • Being called mean names (verbal)
  • Having false rumors spread about them (rumors)
  • Being left out on purpose (exclusion)

Bullying is all inclusive: Individuals affected by bullying include all ethnicity, gender, grade and socioeconomic status, whether they live in urban, suburban or rural communities.

Bullying has serious effects on children and youth but often isn't reported. The percentage of bullied students who tell no one increases substantially with age:

  • 25% of boys and 18% of girls in 3rd - 5th grade tell no one they are being bullied
  • 34% of boys and 29% of girls in 6th - 8th grade tell no one they are being bullied
  • 38% of boys and 34% of girls in 9th - 12th grade tell no one they are being bullied

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