Blog: Education by the Numbers

Data on bullying

It’s a myth that “bullying” at schools is a worse problem today than in the past, according to a task force report released on April 30 commissioned by the American… Indeed, major categories of bullying, such as being threatened by a weapon on school grounds have remained stable — between 7 and 9 percent — between 1993 and 2009.  The percentage of high school students who say they’ve been in a physical fight has declined from 16 percent to 11 percent during the same time period. This data comes from a 2012 National Center for Education Statistics paper, Indicators of … This report claims that overall, all forms of bullying have decreased by 50 percent from 1995 to 2009.

The task force’s co-chairs also said it’s wrong to assume that bullying is primarily happening over social networks today. Co-chair Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cited a figure that 39% of bullying is occurs face to face.

There’s terribly little data on bullying and solid data-drive research on what schools can do to curb it. The big problem is the word “bullying” itself because it means different things to different people. Some researchers cling to a narrow definition in which there must repeated incidents between two people of unequal power. But lay people, when they fill out surveys, might consider a single hazing incident to qualify as bullying. The AERA task force suggested that we should instead break the term “bullying” down into sub-categories of “victimization” to track it more properly.

The report emphasized that many anti-bullying programs being marketed to and adopted by schools had no evidence to support their effectiveness.

Other press coverage and resources:

USA Today: Researchers: Stop using the word ‘bullying’ in school