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OJJDP Releases First Publication in Bullying in Schools Series

Photo of teenage boyBullying can happen in many ways: physically, through shoving, pushing, and hitting; verbally, through name-calling and insults; or socially, through the spreading of rumors or exclusion of others. Bullying occurs among both boys and girls and spans a range of ages—from children to teens to young adults. It can happen face to face, in text messages, or on the Web. Reports of suicide among bullying victims have captured media attention. Bullying can also cause other types of serious and lasting harm, including physical injury, anxiety, depression, and withdrawal from academics and other school activities.

To determine the causes of bullying in schools and to inform the development of effective intervention strategies, OJJDP funded three studies in 2007 conducted by the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE).

The first, a quantitative study, surveyed 1,000 students in the fall and the spring of their 6th-grade year. The data collected were analyzed to determine the connections, if any, between being victimized, being engaged in school, and the outcomes reflected in school records of attendance and achievement (measured by grade point average). In addition, two qualitative studies explored instructional, interpersonal, and structural factors at school that affect the connection between victimization and school attendance, and teachers' experiences in attempting to ameliorate the impact of school victimization.

The researchers found that a caring school community, in which students are challenged academically and supported by the adults, can serve as a powerful antidote to the process by which victimization distances students from learning and contributes to myriad other problems, including truancy and academic failure.

In December, OJJDP released the first in a series of five bulletins that summarize findings from the studies. The publication, Bullying in Schools: An Overview describes the OJJDP-funded studies, summarizes the findings from the research, and makes recommendations for policy and practice. Among the key findings were that bullying does not directly cause truancy, that school engagement protects victims from truancy and low academic achievement, and that schools can foster engagement and mitigate the negative effects of bullying by providing a safe learning environment in which adults model positive behavior.

Forthcoming OJJDP bulletins in the series include Bullying, Victimization, and School Engagement: A Structural Model; Bullying in Schools: A Critical Analysis of the Literature; Experiences of Young Adults Bullied in School; and What Teachers Have To Say About Bullying in Schools.

In 2011, OJJDP sponsored the following Webinars to inform researchers, juvenile justice practitioners, educators, parents, and youth about how to help prevent and reduce bullying in schools and communities across the country:

  • Bullying Intervention: What Works (August 2011). This session discussed how bullying differs from other forms of aggression, defined the roles that children and youth play in bullying, and described best practices for intervening in bullying situations.
  • Bullying and Civil Rights: An Overview of School Districts' Federal Obligation To Respond to Harassment (June 2011). Presenters explained obligations under federal antidiscrimination laws, what conduct constitutes harassment, the obligation of school districts to respond to allegations of harassment in a prompt and effective manner, and resources available through the Departments of Education and Justice.

To download or order a printed copy of Bullying in Schools: An Overview, visit the NCJRS Web site. For comprehensive information about bullying, including strategies for preventing and intervening in bullying, go to OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski's blog entry on the issue of bullying, posted in October 2010, is available on the Department of Justice Web site.