San Francisco – A new report released this week by YouthTruth shows that 1 in 3 students experienced bullying in the 2017-18 school year — up from just over 1 in 4 students two years ago. Further analysis illustrates that some students are experiencing bullying at higher or increasing rates depending on a student’s race, whether they are in middle school versus high school, and whether their school is comprised of a majority of white students or a majority of students of color.
Drawing on responses from over 160,000 secondary students in 27 states, these findings show that the rate of bullying in secondary schools increased five percentage points over the past two academic years.
“We kept hearing anecdotally from our partners that it felt like bullying was changing in their schools, and not for the better. Educators wanted to know if what was happening at their schools was also happening at other schools,” says YouthTruth Executive Director Jen Wilka. “We hope this data can inform conversations and support efforts to decrease bullying for all students. Building equitable schools means that all students feel welcome and supported.”
While the report shows that bullying is on the rise for everyone, at majority white schools, students of color experienced a higher increase in bullying between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years than did white students. While white students saw an increase of three percentage points, students of color saw an uptick of seven percentage points.
Findings also reveal that schools in which more than half of the student body is white had higher rates of bullying. In these schools, 36 percent of students reported being bullied, compared to 32 percent in schools in which the student body is over 50 percent students of color. And when asked why they felt they had been bullied, students of color cited race as a reason more frequently than other reasons at schools in which they made up 50 percent or more of the student body.
Furthermore, students of color were less likely to be bullied if they attended a school in which more than half of the students were students of color. In these schools, 30 percent of students of color were bullied, compared to 36 percent of white students.
The report also examined rates of bullying in middle schools versus high schools. Middle school students were more likely to be bullied than high school students in the 2017-18 school year. While 27 percent of high school students experienced bullying, nearly 40 percent of middle school students said they had been bullied.
When leaders and staff at Quincy Junior High in Washington State got their student feedback back, they saw a dramatic increase in the proportion of students that experienced bullying. In the winter of 2018, 46 percent of students had been bullied, compared to just 28 percent of students in the previous two years. The parent community had also been surveyed. Parent and guardian confidence that their child was safe from bullying in school dropped from the 76th percentile to the 35th percentile compared to other middle schools, nationally, between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
“This data was not to be ignored,” shares Principal Scott Ramsey. “We quickly moved from the YouthTruth data to action. Following the lesson plan [we developed], eighth grade math teacher Karli Jaeckel made it her personal mission use the data to drive change.” The class created a five-minute video, which was shared district-wide and picked up by the local news station. The school also launched a two-day lesson plan in response to what they learned.