MS-13, the international criminal gang, may be dominating the headlines, but recent data actually suggests that overall violence in public schools has dropped significantly over the past few years. However, bullying and cyberbullying continue to affect a large portion of students – despite all 50 states having anti-bullying laws.
Based on a new national report, violence at US public schools has fallen significantly over the last 7 years. Overall, violence dropped 30% over this time period (2016 vs. 2010), and this effect was seen across Elementary (-31%), Middle (-32%) and High (-24%) schools. Violence was defined as serious violent incidents as well as physical attack or threat of physical attack without a weapon. The rates of serious violent incidents (including rape, sexual assault, attack with a weapon) also dropped, but only by 27% nationwide. The largest drop for serious violence was in Elementary school where the rate dropped in half, but in High schools the drop was just 9% (from 1.1 incidents per 1000 students to 1.0 incidents).
An analysis of bullying at high schools finds that these rates have remained relatively high, with 20.2% of public high school students being bullied on school property and 15.6% having experienced cyber-bullying. Though statewide data was not available for some states, Idaho (21.1%), West Virginia (20.2%) & Maine (18.9%) had the highest rates of cyber-bullying.
Krista Mahan, a former teacher and parent of two, noted “Nowadays it seems like most conversation teens are having are over text rather than face-to-face, making it easier to say hurtful things. This is why I limit my kids’ phone time and always encourage them to talk to their friends in person whenever possible.”
Did you know that all 50 states now have laws against bullying? All but two states (Alabama and Alaska) also cover cyber-bullying as a form of bullying. You can use the link below to find the details of the bullying laws in your state. The vast majority of states also have model policies that provide guidance to districts and schools. If you see cyber-bullying you should make sure to block the person who is doing the bullying. Take screenshots and record the instances of cyberbullying and report to online service providers as this often constitute a violation of the terms of service. If the cyberbullying involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages, invasion of privacy, or stalking or hate crimes it may also need to be reported to law enforcement. Please use the map to find links to details on your state’s laws and additional resources.