Student bullying reports down, but experts say it's still an issue

Bullying experts attributed improvements to schools focusing on social and emotional learning. (MGN Online)

New data released in March by the U.S. Department of Education found reports of student bullying were down nearly 11 percent since 2007.

The report showed 31.7 percent of students reported being bullied in 2007 and 20.8 percent in 2015.

One expert said while there is a significant decrease, there are still a lot of kids being bullied.

"While the reporting is down, that's still one in five students being bullied. Not to mention one in three students with disabilities and one and one-and-a-half kids with autism report being bullied," Chad Rose an associate professor in the University of Missouri Department of Special Education said.

However, Rose said the drop in numbers mean schools are moving in the right direction.

Bullying experts attributed improvements to schools focusing on social and emotional learning, which included skills such as self awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision making.

Rose said he believes schools have to address new ideas regarding bullying.

"Schools have to address this hidden curriculum, the social rules and norms that everyone seems to know, but aren't taught," Rose said. "That's really where we're going to get to the crux of the problem. Understanding why kids do what they do. Providing targeted support. What they should be doing is screening kids for social and communication skill deficits, mental health concerns and then providing them with targeted support."

The new study also found the percentage of victims of bullying who reported telling a teacher or another adult increased. In 2007, 36 percent of student bullying victims said they alerted an adult, which increased to 43 percent in 2015.

Rose said some students might still be afraid to report bullying.

"We clearly haven't proven as adults that we can reduce this problem. We haven't proven that we can provide a safety net, we haven't demonstrated that we can reduce the bullying in schools especially when kids are experiencing bullying 24/7 through cyber-bullying," Rose said. "Often times when we look at our policies in schools, they're not real clear as to what is going to happen. If a kid goes to report being bullied, how is the victim going to be protected, how is the alleged perpetrator going to be addressed, and lets say a bystander reports, how are they going to be protected? Most of our school policies don't have that in there so students can feel uncomfortable reporting."

Rose said it is important for adults to help children come up with a plan to report bullying.

"We need to teach kids to come report to adults. I know I just said that they don't trust adults, but what we have to do as adults is make sure we have interim measures in place so make it clear to kids what we are going to do to respond when they do report," Rose said. "We work with kids on establishing a list of people they can talk to, what adults can they talk to and what peers they can talk to, but also what do you say when you're being bullied is important."

The report was the result of a survey conducted by the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. The survey focused on students ages 12 to 18. The survey covered bullying that takes place in schools, on school property, on a school bus, or going to or from school, and it defines bullying by students who report:

  • Being made fun of, called names or insulted
  • Being the subject of rumors
  • Being threatened with harm
  • Being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on
  • Being pressured into doing things they did not want to do
  • Being excluded from activities on purpose
  • Having had property destroyed on purpose

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