Nearly one in five American high school students experiences bullying while at school. A higher percentage of girls are bullied than boys. One in three lesbian, gay, or bisexual students is bullied. Victims of bullying may suffer serious and long-lasting physical, psychological, and academic effects. Those who bully also need help: they are more likely to drop out of school, abuse alcohol and drugs, and engage in criminal activity.
In March 2019, representatives from more than two dozen local government agencies, community organizations, and local schools formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force to explore the prevalence of youth bullying and strategies to combat it.
“The Bullying Prevention Task Force has brought together parents, students, service providers, school personnel, and community members to better understand the resources and strategies needed to take on the serious issue of bullying,” said Bridgette Nugent, Tompkins County Youth Services Department deputy director and Task Force co-coordinator. “The Task Force is energized to take real action to address a very real problem in our community.”
Basics of Youth Bullying
Definition: “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.” Types include physical, verbal, and relational. Cyberbullying involves e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, chat rooms, gaming systems, tweeting, or social media.
Potential Psychological Effects: Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self- harming behavior (especially for girls), alcohol and drug use and dependence, aggression, involvement in violence or crime (especially for boys), emotional distress, hostility, and delinquency.
Potential Physical Effects: Immediate physical injury, sleep disorders, stomach aches, headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, bedwetting, chronic pain, somatization (a syndrome of distressful, physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical cause), stress-related impact on the immune system and hormones, and impact on brain activity and functioning.
Potential Academic Effects: Impact on grades and standardized test scores starting as early as kindergarten and continuing through high school.
Bullying and Suicide: Persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior. Most young people who die by suicide have multiple risk factors.
Source: stopbullying.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Facts About Bullying
- 19.0% of high school students were bullied at school in 2016-17.
- 14.9% of high school students experienced electronic bullying.
- An eight-year trend in bullying held steady but the 2017 percentage of 19.0% represented a slight decrease in relation to surveys in 2015 (20.2%), 2013 (19.6%), 2011 (20.1%), and 2009 (19.9%).
- A six-year trend in electronic bullying held steady but the 2017 percentage of 14.9% represented a slight decrease from 2015 (15.5%). The percentage was 14.8% in 2013 and 16.2% in 2011.
- More female students (22.3%) were bullied compared to male students (15.6%).
- More female students (19.7%) were electronically bullied compared to male students (9.9%).
- More white students (21.5%) and Hispanic students (16.3%) were bullied compared to black students (13.2%).
- More white students (17.3%) were electronically bullied compared to Hispanic students (12.3%) and black students (10.9%).
- More lesbian, gay, or bisexual students (33.0%) were bullied at school than heterosexual students (17.1%) or students not sure of their sexual identity (24.3%).
New York State
- 21.7% of New York high school students were bullied at school (higher than national average of 19.0%) in 2016-17.
- More female students (24.6%) were bullied compared to male students (18.7%).
- Nearly twice as many gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (34.6%) were bullied compared to heterosexual students (19.4%).
- 17.6% of New York high school students experienced electronic bullying (higher than national average of 14.9%).
- More female students (21.2%) were bullied electronically compared to male students (14.0%).
- More than twice as many gay, lesbian, or bisexual students (31.9%) were bullied electronically compared to heterosexual students (15.2%).
- Tompkins County school districts reported 109 incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying (excluding cyberbullying), and 20 incidents of cyberbullying, in the 2017-2018 school year under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).
- The 2018 Communities that Care Youth Survey of schools in Tompkins County and Seneca County found that more than a third of high school students reported feeling depressed on most days.
Source: CDC, School Safety and Educational Climate Reporting
Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)
There is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying. In some cases, when bullying is based on race or ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, bullying overlaps with harassment and schools are legally obligated to address it.
In New York State, DASA prohibits bullying, harassment, and discrimination against students in school. Schools are required to:
- Develop a school strategy to prevent bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
- Provide students, staff, and persons in parental relation with information about DASA, including the identity of the DASA Coordinator.
- Enable students and persons in parental relation to make a report.
- Complete a thorough investigation promptly after a report.
- Take prompt action to end harassment, bullying, and/or discrimination.
- Prohibit retaliation against anyone making a report or assisting with an investigation.
- Notify local law enforcement when behavior is believed to constitute criminal conduct.
- Ensure that all school personnel receive a copy of the district policies, including the reporting process, at least annually.
- Provide reports on incidents to superintendent and New York State Education Department.
School procedure for reporting bullying, harassment, and discrimination:
- Student, staff member, or parent/caregiver experiences, witnesses, or hears about bullying, harassment, discrimination, or hazing.
- Witness or target finds a staff person if immediate help is needed AND if a safety issue; alleged aggressor(s) are separated and intervention occurs to ensure safety.
- Bullying Reporting Form is completed by student, staff, or parent/caregiver and given to the appropriate Dignity Act Coordinator.
- Investigation occurs. Target is interviewed separately from aggressor and necessary supports are put in place to ensure safety. Witnesses and aggressor(s) are interviewed.
- Parent/caregiver is notified. Notification may occur earlier dependent upon severity and situation. If investigation deems that the event occurred, then every attempt is made to permanently stop the bullying, harassment, discrimination, or hazing by means of consequences, education, restorative practices, and/or remediation.
Source: New York State Education Department and New York State Center for School Safety, and Ithaca City School District
Resources for Students, Parents, Teachers, and Schools
A U.S. government website managed by the Department of Health and Human Services providing information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.
Pacer provides innovative resources for students, parents, educators, and others, and recognizes bullying as a serious community issue that impacts education, physical and emotional health, and the safety and well-being of students.
“The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today.”
The Anti-Bullying Institute offers wide-ranging, hands-on programs designed to empower children, parents, school and youth organization personnel to effectively deal with the issue of bullying.
“We are the global nonprofit leader in ‘People Safety’ education—an international movement of leaders reaching millions of people of all ages, abilities, genders, identities, and walks of life with effective, culturally-competent interpersonal and social safety skills.”
“CirclePoint is a revolutionary evidence-based program that enables all members of a school community—administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and students—to play an active part in preventing and resolving bullying problems.”
“Parents Place’s Bullying Prevention Program was established to give schools and organizations effective tools to prevent and intervene in all forms of bullying. It trains parents, educators, school administrators, and community members in the best practices to heal and empower youth who have been bullied, to encourage bystanders to intervene in safe and effective ways, and to counsel those who have engaged in bullying.”
“Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements Version 1.0,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2017,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries/Vol. 67 / No. 8 June 15, 2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States.
“How parents, teachers and kids can take action to prevent bullying,” American Psychological Association
Bullying Prevention Organizations
The Tyler Clementi Foundation works to prevent bullying of vulnerable individuals including in the LGBTQ community through inclusion and creation of safe spaces.
Stomp Out Bullying calls itself the leading national bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization for kids and teens in the U.S.
Changing the Game Project provides parents and coaches with the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive, and rewarding experience for their children, and their whole family.
New York State Resources and Information
The center offers professional development and technical assistance to schools and districts for maintaining safe and healthy learning environments.
DASA seeks to provide New York’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.
New York State Education Department guide for educators, school district personnel, parents/guardians, students, and community organizations on mental health education provided in New York State schools.
“All schools shall ensure that their health education programs recognize the multiple dimensions of health by including mental health…”
A review of the legislative history, intent and vision for implementation by the Mental Health Association in New York State.
Tompkins County Resources and Information
Findings of a survey of students in Tompkins County and Seneca County school districts.
Tompkins County campaign with events, gatherings, written materials, silicone bracelets, and T-shirts to spread the belief that everyone needs a “safe, secure and nurturing relationship.”
Dignity Act: What You Need to Know, TST BOCES
Dignity for All Students Act: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, Ithaca City School District
Bullying Reporting Form, Ithaca City School District
Tompkins County Youth Services Department (co-coordinator)
Tompkins County Mental Health Services
Ithaca Youth Bureau
Health Planning Council
Mental Health Association in Tompkins County
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Advocacy Center of Tompkins County
Family & Children’s Services of Ithaca
Childhood Development Council
Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The Sophie Fund (co-coordinator)
Interscholastic Athletic Conference
Ithaca City School District
Lansing Central School District
Newfield Central School District
Dryden Central School District
Groton Central School District
Trumansburg Central School District
Caroline After School Program
Ithaca Community Childcare Center (IC3) After School Care
Belle Sherman Elementary After School Program
Members of the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force
Media Coverage of Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force
“Community Forum on Bullying @ TCPL,” The Sophie Fund, June 4, 2019
“New task force to hold forum on bullying prevention June 15,” Ithaca Voice, June 5, 2019
“Task force brings community together to address bullying in local schools,” Ithaca Voice, June 18, 2019
“Finding solutions to bullying: Task force to hold forum at library,” Ithaca Journal, June 15, 2019
“Exploring Strategies to Stop Bullying,” The Sophie Fund, June 19, 2019