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Parents, School Staff Should Look for Signs of Bullying Among Youth


By Caren Harp, Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time for most students. Unfortunately, returning to the classroom can be nerve-racking for some youth because of bullying.

Bullying continues to affect a large number of students. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics, 21 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied in school during the school year.

Often dismissed as "kids being kids," bullying creates a climate of fear in schools, on playgrounds, and in neighborhoods. Victims of bullying suffer from a wide range of psychological and school-related problems, including depression, anxiety, poor school performance, and absenteeism.

Bullying is not just confined to school property. In 2017, one study found that nearly 15 percent of students reported being bullied electronically. The dangers of electronic bullying, commonly referred to as cyberbullying, are similar to traditional bullying, but threats may not stop when children are in the safety of their own homes. Cyberbullying can include the posting of hurtful information online, exclusion from an online community, and unwanted contact via email or text messaging.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is committed to making schools safer for our nation's youth, including reducing the instances of bullying.

OJJDP-sponsored research has shown that schools can mitigate the negative effects of bullying when they provide a safe learning environment in which adults model positive behavior. School-based mentoring programs have the potential to support youth's positive connections to their school environment and peers, improved relationships with teachers and staff, and greater access to other supports, such as counseling and tutoring.

To help school administrators address bullying, we've assessed the evaluation findings of 10 bullying prevention programs through our Model Programs Guide. Programs that were deemed effective encouraged collaboration from the entire school community, including students, counselors, teachers, and administrators. These programs also sought to raise awareness of bullying and promote a culture in which students felt comfortable seeking help when they were bullied.

Further, we developed the School-Based Bullying Prevention I-Guide to help schools fill the gap between identifying the nature of a specific bullying problem and implementing solutions that work. The I-Guide (short for implementation guide) analyzed research and evaluation studies to identify how bullying prevention programs have been implemented in schools. It then outlines the common features of how the schools put these programs into practice and maps out 10 steps that other schools can follow.

But it's not just school staff who are responsible for preventing bullying. Parents and youth have a key role to play as well. OJJDP and other federal agencies support stopbullying.gov, a collective effort to educate communities about the risks of bullying and how to respond to it. On the stopbullying.gov website, we've highlighted helpful strategies that parents and youth can use to reduce bullying. For example, parents can contribute to a positive school climate by volunteering through a parent-teacher association, and students can take on leadership roles that promote respect and inclusion within the student body.

Over the course of the school year, too many children will be exposed to the negative consequences of bullying. We must all work together to create a bullying-free environment in school and online. Parents, school officials, and students can all make a difference in preventing bullying—we urge you to take an active role in recognizing and preventing bullying.

To learn more about how OJJDP is working to prevent and address instances of bullying, including resources to help address bullying, visit our website at OJJDP.gov.

Date Published: October 16, 2018