Fewer students are reporting school bullying, according to a survey released by the Department of Education.
The results showed that 22% of students age 12 to 18 reported being bullied in 2013. That number is down 6 percentage points from numbers in 2011 and is the lowest rate since the National Center for Education Statistics began tracking bullying in 2005, writes Associated Press.
Because of social media, bullying began to spread from the hallways and bathrooms of schools, which caused an increase in public awareness of an issue which had once been fairly surreptitious. Because of this awareness, an aggressive effort is now in place to confront bullying from local school officials on up to the federal government.
The survey found that about 24% of girls reported they were bullied and 20% of boys reported the same; more white students, 24%, said they were bullied than black, Hispanic, or Asian students. 20% of black students reported being bullied compared to 19% of Hispanic students and 9% of Asian students.
Of those responding on the survey, 9% of girls and 5% of boys said they had experienced cyberbullying inside or outside of school.
The survey is from the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey and contains a nationally representative sample. The cyberbullying consisted of unwanted texting and hurtful postings on the Internet, along with other methods of harmful communication.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the news of an overall decline but with a caveat: “Even though we’ve come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation’s children.”
The consequences of being bullied can include academic struggles, skipping class, possible substance abuse, and even suicide. Bullying off the Internet normally included being made fun of, being called names, or being insulted said surveyed students. Other bullying tactics included spreading rumors about a student or being threatened with harm.
The survey included approximately 4,900 students aged 12 to 18, and from the time the National Center for Education Statistics began collecting the data in 2005, the rate of bullying had remained at about 30%, writes Caroline Porter of The Wall Street Journal.
“The report brings welcome news,” said Sylvia M. Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Parents, teachers, health providers, community members and young people are clearly making a difference by taking action and sending the message that bullying is not acceptable.”
It appears from the report that bullying is more frequent in middle school and early high school. Over one in four 6th- and 7th-graders said they had been bullied, while around one in seven 12th-graders said the same.
There are specific groups of students in which bullying continues to be a significant problem, such as drug users, gang members, English-language learners, special education students and students who are gender nonconforming.
“These data points are good to gauge overall efforts but you’re not really going to understand the most targeted, at-risk populations,” said Ms. Espelage, who has been researching school bullying for more than two decades.
Espelage pointed out that another school climate survey given in 2013 found that one in two lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth felt at risk on campus because of their sexual orientation.
The methods used to bully another student had noticeable gender gaps. Female students were more likely to be the subject of rumors, excluded from activities on purpose, made fun of, and called names or be insulted. Males were more likely to be pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on, writes Allie Bidwell of US News and World Report.