Indiana Public Schools Report Over 9,000 Bullying Incidents

Over the last year, 9,396 incidents of bullying were reported within the Indiana public school system.

A plurality of 44% was verbal and 21% physical. Other forms of bullying cited included written or electronic threats and social shunning. A list organized by type of bullying can be seen on the Department of Education website.

While one year's worth of data is not enough to call it an ongoing problem, it is a starting point, according to David Woodward, Indiana Safe Schools coordinator. It will be a few years until a trend can be dealt with appropriately.

"I think now it is most helpful at the local school district to see what trends are going on and how they can deal with it," Woodward said.

Bullying is a serious problem for Indiana. The state was ranked third by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for bullying that takes place on school grounds. One in four children in Indiana are bullied in some way, with one in 20 being so afraid of being bullied that they skip school.

A 2013 Indiana law required schools to record instances of bullying. The law defines bullying as "Overt, unwanted, repeated acts or gestures, including verbal or written communications, that create an objectively hostile school environment for targeted students that place them in reasonable fear or harm or affects their mental health or school performance."

However, 240 out of Indiana's 1,000 schools did not report any bullying this past year, causing some to wonder how effective the law is.

Tammy Moon, president of Bully Prevention Alliance, said she would like the Department of Education to do more to ensure schools are being honest in their reporting of bullying.

"If the state wants to see better changes, and better reporting, then the state better make certain that the entity that is responsible for getting that information and training to our school districts is absolutely carried out and signed off on as having been carried out," she said.

Woodward believes in the first year schools were simply not used to the reporting style. He expects improvements in reporting over the next few years as schools get used to the new requirements, writes Eric Weddle for The Indy Star.

Emma Donan Middle School in Indianapolis reported the highest incidents of bullying at 128. Sherry Hage, chief academic officer for Charter Schools USA who operates the school, attributes the high numbers to the school's strict behavior policies.

"The culture at Emma Donna has changed dramatically," Hage said, about when the company took over the school in 2012. "Students (now) work through and learn to mediate conflict peer-to-peer with adult facilitation … Do I believe that we have a serious bullying issue? No I do not. I believe that our students feel comfortable going to an adult to mediate conflict."

The state now requires teachers to go through anti-bullying training, which teaches them to quickly spot instances of bullying which they need to report to school administrators, who then report the incidents to the parents as well as to the state.

08 15, 2014
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