Statement of the Anti-Defamation League
Submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearings on “Bullying-Free Schools: How Local, State and Federal Efforts Can Help”
June 18, 2012
The Anti-Defamation League is one of the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations organizations, founded in 1913 “to secure justice and fair treatment for all and to put an end to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.” ADL is the nation's leader in the development of effective programs to confront anti-Semitism, bigotry, and prejudice. The League’s strength is its ability to craft innovative national programming and policy initiatives and then to refine and implement them through staff in our network of 28 Regional Offices. The national headquarters in New York houses extensive research archives as well as staff members with professional expertise in legal affairs and education. Complementing these professionals are ADL lawyers, educators, and human relations professionals in Regional Offices throughout the country.
Addressing Bullying and Cyberbullying – The ADL Approach
Over the past 30 years, the Anti-Defamation League has emerged as a principal national resource for education and advocacy tools to address prejudice and bigotry. And over the past decade, the League has built on these award-winning anti-bias education and training initiatives to craft innovative programming and advocacy to address bullying and the pernicious new form of harassment affecting children and students known as cyberbullying.
Working to create safe, inclusive schools and communities is a top priority for ADL. The League takes a broad, holistic approach to addressing bullying and cyberbullying, tracking the nature and magnitude of the problem, developing education and training programs, and advocating – at the state and federal level – for policies and programs that can make a difference.
The Federal government, in partnership with state and local public agencies, non-profit, community organizations, and colleges and universities, can play a critical role in ensuring that our schools and communities are safe places for all students. Federal leadership on these important issues helps nurture a climate and a culture in which the vast majority of members of the community are willing to condemn bigotry, bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment.
We believe that while laws and appropriate, inclusive school-based policies can be a focal point for addressing bullying, education strategies, training programs, and community involvement are necessary complements to any effective response.
The nature and magnitude of the problem
Bullying and harassment in elementary, secondary, and university educational settings are continuing problems for administrators, educators, parents, and students across the nation. The large body of credible research on effective responses to bullying supports the conclusion that schools and other educational institutions can best address these behaviors through ongoing, comprehensive plans that include both intervention and prevention strategies. As demonstrated by the most important recent studies on this national problem (included at the end of this statement), professional development is a key component that provides opportunities for educators to share their thoughts and experiences about bullying at their schools, assess existing practices, adopt effective policies and procedures, and reinforce and strengthen effective response strategies.
Bias-Motivated Bullying and Cyberbullying
- According to the authoritative 2011 report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety,ten percent of students ages 12–18 reported that someone at school had used hate-related words against them, and more than one-third (35 percent) reported seeing hate-related graffiti at school in 2007. [U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics and U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011).]
- Research shows that bullying is often related to ingrained biases and prejudices. For instance, according to the 2009 National School Climate Survey (GLSEN, 2010), 84.6% of LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 39.9% reported that it happened often or frequently. Nearly 64% had been verbally harassed because of their gender expression, and 25.6% reported that it happened often or frequently. Additionally, these same LGBT youth also reported bullying based on other aspects of their identity – 48.1% were verbally harassed because of their gender, 40% because of their religion, 32.9% because of their race or ethnicity, and 17.1% because of their disability.
- A January, 2004 study focused on the severe impact of bias-related harassment and bullying for students. In that survey 27.4% of students said they had experienced some type of bias-related harassment. Low grades, truancy, depression, suicide, substance abuse, victimization, and other risk behaviors were all associated with bias-related harassment (Consequences of Harassment Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Non-Conformity and Steps for Making Schools Safer. California Safe Schools Coalition and 4-H Center for Youth Development, University of California, Davis, 2004).
Bias-Motivated Juvenile Hate Crime
There is currently very little hard data about youthful hate crime perpetrators and victims. Congress has helped address this problem in two ways in recent years.
First, to increase awareness of hate violence on college campuses, Congress enacted in 1998, an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA) requiring all colleges and universities to collect and report hate crime statistics to the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) of the Department of Education. The Department’s hate crime statistics have reflected very substantial underreporting (http://ope.ed.gov/security/Search.asp). But even worse, for many years, that limited data was inconsistent with campus hate crime information collected by the FBI under the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) – because the Department of Education’s hate crime categories did not conform to the crime categories collected by the FBI. In 2008, Congress acted to require the Department to collect the same campus hate crime categories as the FBI. The new standards should give parents and students a broader and more accurate picture of the campus climate. In addition, consistent statistics will increase public awareness of the problem, and may serve to provoke improvements in campus safety measures and the criminal justice system.
In addition, importantly, the recently-enacted Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, [Public Law 111-84, Division E] mandates additional reporting requirements for the FBI under their existing HCSA requirement – hate crimes directed at individuals on the basis of their gender or gender identity and for crimes committed by and against juveniles. In addition, nine states currently require collection of juvenile hate crime statistics (Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia).
The existing HCSA data provides some troubling insights:
- An October 2001 report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics provided disturbing information about the too-frequent involvement of juveniles in hate crime incidents. This report, Hate Crimes Reported in NIBRS, 1997-99, which carefully analyzed nearly 3,000 of the 24,000 hate crimes to the FBI from 1997 to 1999, revealed that a disproportionately high percentage of both the victims and the perpetrators of hate violence were young people under 18 years of age:
- 33% of all known hate crime offenders were under 18; 31% of all violent crime offenders and 46% of the property offenders.
- Another 29% of all hate crime offenders were 18-24.
- 30% of all victims of bias-motivated aggravated assaults and 34% of the victims of simple assault were under 18.
- 34% of all persons arrested for hate crimes were under 18; 28% of the violent hate crimes and 56% of the bias-motivated property crimes.
- Another 27% of those arrested for hate crimes were 18-24.
The Response of the Obama Administration to Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Harassment
The Obama Administration has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to addressing bullying and cyberbullying in a comprehensive and inclusive manner. The October 26 2010 Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Bullying and Harassment Dear Colleague guidance, the significant work of the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools on the topic, the new and expanded federal partners anti-bullying Web site, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention LGBT anti-bullying violence prevention Web site, and the video messages the President and members of his Cabinet made to elevate the issue and empower targets all demonstrate a clear recognition that leaders can make a difference addressing this issue.
In addition, we are pleased that the Administration has been active in helping to resolve and clarify rights for all Americans. For example, Justice Department intervention helped to settle a case, J.L. v. Mohawk Central School District, a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a student, J.L., who was the alleged victim of severe and pervasive student-on-student harassment based on sex. According to the Justice Department’s filings, J.L. had failed to conform to gender stereotypes in both behavior and appearance. He exhibited feminine mannerisms, dyed his hair, wore makeup and nail polish, and maintained predominantly female friendships. The Department alleged that the harassment against J.L. escalated from derogatory name-calling to physical threats and violence – and that the Mohawk Central School District had knowledge of the harassment, but was deliberately indifferent in its failure to take timely, corrective action, thereby restricting J.L.’s ability to fully enjoy the educational opportunities and benefits of his school. The Department alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, both of which prohibit discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on gender stereotypes. The school district denied these allegations.
On March 29, 2010 a settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York which required the Mohawk Central School District to, among other things: (1) retain an expert consultant in the area of harassment and discrimination based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation to review the District’s policies and procedures; (2) develop and implement a comprehensive plan for disseminating the District’s harassment and discrimination policies and procedures; (3) retain an expert consultant to conduct annual training for faculty and staff, and students as deemed appropriate by the expert, on discrimination and harassment based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation; (4) maintain records of investigations and responses to allegations of harassment for five years; and (5) provide annual compliance reports to the United States and private plaintiffs. As part of the settlement, $50,000 was to be paid to J.L. and $25,000 in attorneys’ fees was to be paid to the New York Civil Liberties Foundation.
We were also pleased with the Administration’s active involvement in helping to resolve Doe and United States v. Anoka-Hennepin School District, in which multiple students alleged harassment by other students because they did not dress or act in ways that conform to gender stereotypes. The Department of Justice and the Department of Education conducted an extensive investigation into sex-based harassment in the district's middle and high schools, finding that many students reported that the unsafe and unwelcoming school climate inhibited their ability to learn. The United States, at the behest of the Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota, joined in the mediation of the students' case against the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Together, the three parties entered a Consent Decree, and jointly filed a motion to approve the decree and a memorandum in support of that motion – and the District Court entered the decree, resolving the case between the parties.
The Consent Decree, entered on March 6th, 2012, requires the Anoka-Hennepin School District to (1) retain an expert consultant in the area of sex-based harassment to review the district's policies and procedures concerning harassment; (2) develop and implement a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student sex-based harassment at the middle and high schools; (3) enhance and improve its training of faculty, staff and students on sex-based harassment; (4) hire or appoint a Title IX coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district's sex-based harassment policies and procedures and district compliance with Title IX; (5) retain an expert consultant in the area of mental health to address the needs of students who are victims of harassment; (6) provide for other opportunities for student involvement and input into the district's ongoing anti-harassment efforts; (7) improve its system for maintaining records of investigations and responding to allegations of harassment; (8) conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluation of its anti-harassment efforts; (9) and submit annual compliance reports to the departments during the five year life of the Consent Decree.
Justice Department involvement also helped resolve another important complaint involving race, color and/or national origin-based harassment of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School, and allegations that the school district was deliberately indifferent to the severe and pervasive harassment. The complaint filed by the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleged persistent harassment, including an incident in December 2009 in which approximately 30 Asian students were attacked and approximately 13 were sent to the emergency room.
The settlement agreement in December, 2010 will help ensure that the district:
(1) retains an expert consultant in the area of harassment and discrimination based on race, color and/or national origin to review the district’s policies and procedures concerning harassment;(2) develops and implements a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student harassment at the high school;(3) conducts training of faculty, staff and students on discrimination and harassment based on race, color and/or national origin and to increase multi-cultural awareness; (4) maintains records of investigations and responses to allegations of harassment; and (5) provides annual compliance reports to the department.
Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Guidance on Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Harassment: Background and Significance
The Anti-Defamation League strongly welcomed the October 26, 2010 Dear Colleague guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to address bullying in schools.
The OCR Dear Colleague letter accomplished three things of major importance for ADL:
1. Provided an unprecedented, inclusive description of the breadth of existing federal anti-discrimination laws and their application to both K-12 schools and colleges and universities. In addition, the Dear Colleague letter set out explicitly a school’s duty to address incidents of discriminatory harassment under specific federal civil rights laws and described the responsibilities schools have for appropriate responses, including timely investigation, counseling, discipline, education and training.
“Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. Harassment creates a hostile environment when the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school.”
In clarifying the breadth of federal anti-discrimination law coverage, the Dear Colleague letter included helpful examples of incidents of harassment and described appropriate school responses. Importantly, the guidance stressed that when responding to an incident of discriminatory harassment where a hostile environment is formed, it is not enough for the institution to punish the student who is responsible. Instead, the administration must address the environment and the effect of the incident and take steps to ensure that harassment does not recur.
2. Made clear that anti-Semitic harassment on campus can be prohibited by federal civil rights law. ADL had called for clarification of this issue in a March 2010 letter that the League helped coordinate with 12 other Jewish organizations. That letter called on the Department to interpret Title VI to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination – including anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment that crosses the line into anti-Semitism.
In addition, this OCR guidance was buttressed by the conclusions of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), after the Commission held a briefing on campus anti-Semitism in November 2005. Finding that campus anti-Semitism is a “serious problem which warrants further attention,” it recommended that “OCR should protect college students from anti-Semitic and other discriminatory harassment by vigorously enforcing Title VI.”
Specifically, the OCR guidance makes clear that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which bars schools receiving federal dollars from discriminating based on “race, color or national origin” – protects Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses “on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.” The OCR guidance defines Title VI coverage as follows:
“While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion, groups that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith. These principles apply not just to Jewish students, but also to students from any discrete religious group that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g. Muslims or Sikhs).“
This clarification is particularly welcome in conjunction with ADL’s continuing work to combat anti-Semitic bullying, harassment and bigotry on campus – including anti-Semitic intimidation of pro-Israel activists. According to the guidance, this includes harassment that is “sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and… is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed or ignored by school employees.”
While a complete examination of the parameters of the Title VI coverage of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or anti-Zionist activities on campus is beyond the scope of this statement, it is critically important to distinguish between anti-Semitic activities on campus and anti-Israel activities. We certainly do not believe that every anti-Israel action is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. But the League is, obviously, concerned about organized anti-Israel activity which can create an atmosphere in which Jewish students feel isolated and intimidated.
Natan Sharansky, human rights activist and now Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, created a concise and useful three-part litmus test to help identify when legitimate criticism of Israel can cross the line to anti-Semitism. In what he calls the “3D Test”: demonization, double standards, and delegitimization, Sharansky posited questions to help distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism:
- Is the Jewish state being demonized for its action? Are the problems of the world or the Middle East being blamed on Israel?
- Is there a double standard when criticizing Israel in relation to other countries? Are Israeli faults exaggerated and far worse human rights violations in other places ignored?
- Is there an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state? Are the Jewish people alone in not having the right of sovereignty?
In addition, importantly, in recent years, both the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the State Department have tailored their own responses to the spread of this new stream of anti-Semitism that manifests itself as vilification of Israel. Both use definitions similar to the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism.
In its short April 2006 Finding and Recommendations of the United States Commission on Civil Rights Regarding Campus Anti-Semitism the Commission stated:
On many campuses, anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist propaganda has been disseminated that includes traditional anti-Semitic elements, including age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes and defamation. This has included, for example, anti-Israel literature that perpetuates the medieval anti-Semitic blood libel of Jews slaughtering children for ritual purpose, as well as anti-Zionist propaganda that exploits ancient stereotypes of Jews as greedy, aggressive, overly powerful, or conspiratorial. Such propaganda should be distinguished from legitimate discourse regarding foreign policy. Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.
3. Underscored that harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and on campus is prohibited by federal civil rights law. The Department of Education also announced that it would use Title IX of the Civil Rights Act – which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender – to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. According to the OCR guidance, “Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination” and “it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.” This is a very welcome development.
We believe the OCR Dear Colleague helps make clear that bullying – and particularly bullying based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity – is an issue that must be taken seriously. The guidelines represent a significant step forward in protecting children from bigotry and harassment.
Federal leadership on this important issue is critical to ensure that schools are safe places for all students, and that they help foster a culture in which bias and bullying are not tolerated. The guidelines will help community members work together to promote a civil and respectful environment for children, online as well as offline.
As the Department released the new guidance, it announced its plan to hold workshops and training sessions around the country to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available. And on December 16, 2010, the Department of Education issued a Key Policy Letter providing assistance for states and local jurisdiction in crafting effective anti-bullying laws and policies. The Department included a summary of legislative initiatives some states had enacted to prevent and reduce bullying. ADL has compiled a chart which includes links to each of the 50 state anti-bullying law in the country (49 states and the District of Columbia), highlighting key provisions of these laws. A copy of this chart is included separately as part of our statement.
ADL Advocacy on Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention Initiatives
ADL has been at the forefront of responding to bias, bullying, and cyberbullying through a combination of education and legislative advocacy, including drafting a model state bullying prevention policy which requires schools and communities to approach the issue of bullying with proactive, responsive and responsible measures. Several states, including Florida and Massachusetts, have recently adopted policies based on ADL's model.
ADL advocates for anti-bullying policies on the federal level, on the state level, and in schools. The League promotes policies that are inclusive and comprehensive – balancing a school’s duty to maintain a safe learning environment with students’ constitutional rights.
Three years ago, ADL developed a model bullying prevention law for states, which provides schools the resources they need to combat and respond to bullying, and the unique issue of cyberbullying. The model law, among other things, provides a strong constitutional definition of bullying that includes electronic bullying. It also addresses bias-motivated bullying, requires clear procedures for reporting and investigating bullying incidents, provides counseling for targets and perpetrators, and mandates training for faculty and students.
For years, ADL has been advocating on the state level for strong comprehensive bullying laws. In states that had no laws, ADL advocated for their passage. In a state with a weak anti-bullying law, ADL advocated for strengthening it. The League played leading roles in the advocacy efforts in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Georgia.
- In Massachusetts, ADL organized and led the coalition of community groups advocating for the law’s passage from the ground up. The law is based in large part on ADL’s model policy and, at the bill signing ceremony, Governor Patrick specifically commended ADL for our work in seeing the law passed. Now, ADL is working with the State on the most important part of any new law -- its implementation.
- In New York, where ADL was a leading organization in the push to pass the Dignity for All Students Act, the League now sits on the Task Force established by the New York State Education Department which will work on implementing this new bullying prevention law.
- Likewise, ADL worked with Garden State Equality to get the New Jersey anti-bullying bill passed and we are now working in partnership on implementation efforts.
There is an educational component to ADL’s advocacy strategy as well. It is critical that the community is informed and engaged on this topic for any law or policy to have real meaning. ADL regularly addresses administrators, faculty and community members on the issue of bullying, the legal concerns surrounding community response to the issue (particularly with responding to cyberbullying), and the League provides guidance on what makes a strong school bullying prevention policy.
In addition to our advocacy to state lawmakers and local school officials, ADL has advocated for policy and programming recommendations for Federal action.
- In January 2010, ADL submitted comments on the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Proposed Program Plan for fiscal year 2010. The comments applauded OJJDP on their effort to address bullying and cyberbullying and provided background on ADL's related education programs and model legislation.
- As previously mentioned, in March 2010, the League joined with 12 other Jewish organizations in calling for the Department of Education Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to interpret Title VI to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination.
- In August 2010, the League submitted recommendationsto Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. in advance of a first-ever Federal Bullying Prevention Summit.
- In March 2011, the League wrote a letter to President Obama commending the Administration for convening the first White House Bullying Prevention Conference and for demonstrating a strong commitment to address bullying and cyberbullying in a comprehensive and inclusive manner. We submitted recommendations on how the U.S. government can more effectively address the issue of bullying and cyberbullying.
- Finally, advocating for a federal response for bullying was one of the three priority items on which our National Leadership Conference participants lobbied their Representatives when they visited Capitol Hill for an advocacy day as part of ADL’s annual conference in early May, 2012.
- As Congress continues efforts to rewrite and update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ADL is urging Members to support inclusive anti-bullying and cyberbullying initiatives, including the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), H.R. 1648, introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and S.506, introduced by Sen. Casey (D-PA) This bill would help schools to develop and implement bullying prevention policies and programs. It also requires states to gather and report information on bullying and harassment.
- In addition, after the Tyler Clementi case focused national attention on the dangers of bullying and cyberbullying, Rep Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act (H.R. 1048/S. 540) to require colleges and universities to recognize cyberbullying as a form of harassment and fund institutions with anti-harassment programs. ADL supports this legislation, which calls for establishing and publicizing policies to “prohibit[s] harassment of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.”
ADL also seeks to build collaboration with other national organizations on this issue.
- ADL resources are being used as part of the unique Jewish youth group collaboration against bullying Stand UP for Each Other, a campaign for respect and inclusion involving United Synagogue Youth (USY), North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), Young Judaea, National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and BBYO.
- And the League also helped lead a recent effort to promote the adoption of a thoughtful and inclusive new American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution on Bullying. The Resolution and accompanying comprehensive Report approved in February, 2011 put the ABA on record, for the first time, in support of federal and state policies and laws designed to prevent and respond to bullying and cyberbullying. The ABA also urged Internet service providers and social networking platforms to adopt terms of service that define and prohibit cyberbullying and cyberhate. The League is now working with state bar associations to promote the adoption of policies and replicate the research at the state and local level.
ADL POLICY AND PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS: CONFRONTING BULLYING AND CYBERBULLYING
In advance of the first White House Bullying Prevention Conference in March, 2011, the League’s best lawyers and educators prepared policy and programmatic recommendations for the President and the Administration. We praised the President and his Administration for their “extraordinary commitment to address bullying and cyberbullying in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.”
The complete listing of proactive strategies to confront bullying and cyberbullying recommended by the League is included below.
1) Programs and Training Initiatives
- The Federal government should require the adoption of an anti-bullying policy for school personnel and students in every state.
We welcomed the December 16 Key Policy Letter from the Education Secretary and the Office of Civil Rights Deputy Secretary which highlighted components of effective anti-bullying laws, using examples from existing state laws. That letter stated:
“Though laws are only a part of the cure for bullying, the adoption, publication, and enforcement of a clear and effective anti-bullying policy sends a message that all incidents of bullying must be addressed immediately and effectively, and that such behavior will not be tolerated.”
As previously mentioned, the League has been at the forefront of responding to bias, bullying, and cyberbullying through a combination of education and legislative advocacy, including drafting a model state bullying prevention policy that requires schools and communities to approach the issue of bullying with proactive, responsive, and responsible measures. The ADL model anti-bullying law is inclusive, comprehensive, and sufficiently protective of the First Amendment.
ADL believes a strong and comprehensive anti-bullying statute should:
- include a strong definition of bullying, which includes cyberbullying;
- address bullying motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics;
- include notice requirements for students and parents;
- set out clear reporting procedures;
- require regular training for teachers and for students about how to recognize and respond to bullying and cyberbullying.
- The Department of Education, working with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies, should institutionalize and coordinate anti-bullying/cyberbullying prevention and response programs within their safe schools/healthy schools and school-related violence prevention initiatives.
We welcome the extraordinary compilation of anti-bullying resources available at the new stopbullying.gov, Web site, coordinated by several federal agencies, and the Bullying Prevention Campaign maintained by the Health Resources and Services Administration of HHS.
We welcome the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently-launched Web page devoted to the issue. We believe CDC anti-bullying resources for schools and parents are an excellent complement to its essential, ongoing violence prevention work.
- The Department of Education should provide training and technical assistance to teachers, principals, and school administrators on its excellent October 26 Department of Education Guidance on Bullying and Harassment.
The Anti-Defamation League strongly welcomed the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) October 26 Dear Colleague Letter to thousands of school districts and colleges across the country clarifying their responsibilities with respect to student bullying and harassment. The guidance demonstrates that the Department of Education takes bullying – and particularly bullying based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity – very seriously. We believe the new guidelines represent a significant step forward in protecting children from bigotry and harassment. We especially appreciated the fact that the OCR rightly interpreted the Federal civil rights law to protect students from anti-Semitic harassment.
- As Congress works towards enactment of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools (ESEA), the Administration should promote the inclusion of comprehensive and inclusive anti-bullying and cyberbullying initiatives as one of its ESEA priorities.
The League supports H.R. 1648/S. 506, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would help schools to develop and implement bullying prevention policies and programs – and require states to gather and report information on bullying and harassment. ADL also supports H.R. 1048/S. 540, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act which would require colleges and universities to recognize cyberbullying as a form of harassment and fund institutions with anti-harassment programs. The legislation also calls for establishing and publicizing policies to “prohibit[s] harassment of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.”
- Federal agencies should provide resources, fund, develop, and promote programming and training initiatives – including Webinars – for teachers, administrators, parents, students, state Attorneys General, law enforcement officials (school resource officers in particular) and others in the community on how to recognize and respond to bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying.
Most school systems lack adequate funding for personnel to design, implement, and staff these prevention and response programs. Anti-bullying programs and initiatives must address this significant barrier. Successful policies and programs are both proactive and responsive, and engage the community to action.
- Using its expanded anti-bullying Web sites, and newsletters from the Department of Education and its Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and the Justice Department and its Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, the Federal government should make information available regarding effective bullying, cyberbullying and hate crime prevention programs and resources – and promote awareness of successful training initiatives and best practices.
The Administration also should commend and highlight state and local efforts to carry out effective anti-bias education programs.
2) Research, Reports, and Data Collection Initiatives
- In conjunction with academic institutions, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice should fund research into the nature and magnitude of the bullying/cyberbullying problem in the United States, specifically its impact on both the social and emotional health of students and the impact on academic achievement.
Bullying can have a devastating effect on the lives of teenagers:
- According to an Associated Press 2009 survey, 60% of young people who have been bullied report destructive behavior such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or shoplifting (compared to 48% of those not bullied).
- The same study indicated that the targets of digital abuse are twice as likely to report having received treatment from a mental health professional (13% vs. 6% of others), and nearly three times more likely to have considered dropping out of school (11% vs. 4% of others).
- A 2009 study from the Cyberbullying Research center found that bullied students are 3 times more likely to drop out of school and 1.5-2 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
- The Department of Education’s National Center on Education Statistics, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Department of Health and Human Services – including the CDC – should update and coordinate reporting requirements and data collection efforts on bullying and cyberbullying. Possible reforms include:
This detailed guide promoted a comprehensive approach to protecting students from harassment and hate-motivated violence and included sample policies and procedures from across the nation. An updated report should integrate resources to address cyberbullying.
3) Media Literacy and Public Awareness Initiatives
- The federal government should provide resources for parents and adult family members to inform them regarding the prevalence of bullying on social networking sites and through cell phone use.
Despite the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying, many adults are unaware of the problem due to a lack of fluency in new technologies, limited involvement in and oversight of youth online activity and strong social norms among youth against disclosure of online behavior. Therefore, it is critical to develop programming for teachers, parents and other critical partners on how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying. There is considerable misunderstanding about harassment, students’ free speech rights on the Internet, and when “kids will be kids” goes too far. Current research indicates that less than one-third of parents are aware of available tools, such as parental controls, that can help them protect their children from online threats.
- Working with youth-oriented private corporations – such as Cartoon Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, YouTube and Facebook – the Federal government should promote programs and awareness of the nature and magnitude of the bullying/cyberbullying problem.
Facebook alone reaches 500 million registered users worldwide each month. Public awareness and Ad Council campaigns and programming partnerships with corporations such as Facebook, MTV, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon can leverage their standing with youth to encourage young people to speak out against harassment and bullying and promote responsible online behavior.
For example, the Anti-Defamation League serves on the Advisory Board for MTV’s A Thin Linecampaign, developed to empower youth to identify, respond to and stop the spread of digital abuse in their lives. In addition, since 2010, ADL has partnered with Cartoon Network on its STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP campaign, aimed at empowering youth to take action to reduce bullying. The campaign has its own Web site, which features a variety of tools and links, including ADL educational resources.
- The Department of Justice and the Department of Education should encourage state and local Bar Associations and lawyers and judges to involve themselves in assessing the nature of the bullying and cyberbullying problem at the state and local levels and crafting appropriate, constitutional responses.
We welcome the recent action by the American Bar Association to adopt a thoughtful and inclusive anti-bullying and cyberbullying Resolution. The Resolution puts the ABA on record in support of:
- Adopting inclusive federal and state policies and laws designed to prevent and respond to bullying and cyberbullying;
- Developing federal and state programs to identify targets and enhance appropriate interventions;
- Funding programs, research, and evaluations that address prevention and responses to bullying and cyberbullying;
- Training, data collection, and appropriate notice of bullying incidents to the families of those involved;
- Internet service providers and social networking platforms to adopt terms of service that define and prohibit cyberbullying and cyberhate; and
- School districts to implement the October 2010 U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights “Dear Colleague” letter on bullying and harassment.
- Consistent with the First Amendment, the Federal government should encourage Internet providers to clearly define prohibited hate speech and prohibit the use of hate in any Terms of Service agreement.
No provider of Internet services, social networking, or user-submitted content sites should ignore the fact that these sites can become vehicles for promoting harassment and hate. Web sites should establish clear, user-friendly reporting mechanisms for reporting hateful content and act quickly to remove or sequester hateful content once it is reported.
- The Federal government should promote Internet media literacy – specifically programs to help develop students’ critical thinking skills for Internet, viral, and wireless communications.
For most teenagers, Internet use is a part of daily life. We should promote civil discourse on the Internet and should teach young people how to identify risks and engage in critical thinking for Web-based research and communications. Students should be trained on how to use electronic communications in a responsible manner, how to develop empathy for others and how to intervene safely and not be a bystander when confronted with bullying and harassment.
4. Public Advocacy Supporting Anti-Bullying and Hate Crime Prevention Initiatives
- The Justice Department and the FBI should work collaboratively with civil rights and community-based groups and law enforcement organizations to ensure comprehensive and effective implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), with particular attention to the new requirement that the FBI collect hate crime statistics committed by and against juveniles, beginning in January 2013.
The HCPA provides new tools to promote partnerships between Federal and state and local officials to confront hate violence. The passage of the HCPA provides a teachable moment for the country on the impact of hate violence and bullying – and effective responses. ADL resources on the hate crimes and the HCPA can be found here.
- The White House should complement its Bullying Prevention Conference with a National Youth Bullying/Cyberbullying Summit.
The Federal Government should make every effort to engage young people in an advocacy role on these issues. A “National Youth Bullying Summit” could help organize student leaders to promote discussions surrounding effective ways students can combat harassment and bigotry in their own school and to bring awareness to successful efforts nationwide.
- Government leaders and public officials should use their bully pulpit to condemn bullying/cyberbullying, bigotry and bias-motivated violence whenever and wherever it arises.
We applaud the significant contributions the Administration has made as part of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying video campaign. The fact that President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez all made videos is extraordinary – and demonstrates their very welcome willingness to use their bully pulpit to address this issue and empower targets of bullying.
Strong leadership from Federal officials can help create a climate and a culture in which other members of the community are willing to condemn bigotry and combat bullying, hate, and harassment. Efforts to advocate for strong hate crimes laws, comprehensive hate crime data collection, and better understanding between different communities are a vital part of these efforts.
Left unchecked, bullying can contribute to environments in which youth feel that it is acceptable to express and act on feelings of prejudice. In an online setting, social cruelty may be a precursor to more destructive behavior, including participation in gaming sites that promote hate messages, involvement in hate groups and bias-related violence. Name-calling and bullying, like other bias-motivated behaviors, have the potential to escalate into more serious incidents of violence if they are unchecked. Too frequently, educators, parents, and students are unsure how to respond.
The bottom line is that whether or not bullying is related to bias and prejudice, it impacts young people’s sense of safety in their school community and beyond. For this reason, educators, administrators, families and youth service providers are reaching out to organizations like ADL to help them navigate the growing problem of bullying as well as cyberbullying and social cruelty in electronic forums. This provides ADL with an important opportunity to not only address the problems of bullying and cyberbullying, but to deepen understanding about the connections among bullying, bias-motivated behavior, and online hate activities. It also opens the door to ongoing anti-bias work and ultimately the chance to promote a culture of acceptance and kindness in schools and the broader community.
We applaud the Committee for holding this field hearing on bullying. We stand ready to assist the Committee as you examine initiatives and promote proactive strategies to confront bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment in schools and in the community.
ADL Selected Resources on Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Harassment
Educational Strategies to Respond to Bullying and Cyberbullying
ADL Curriculum Connection:
Using Children's Literature to Address Bullying
ADL Tools for Responding to Cyberbullying:
ADL has created several different half-day or full-day training programs for middle and high school educators, administrators, and youth service providers
ADL CyberALLY™ : a half or full-day interactive training for middle and high school students:
Workshops and Trainings to Address Name-Calling and Bullying:
Becoming an Ally: Responding to Name-Calling and Bullying
Becoming an Ally: Responding to Name-Calling and Bullying (Educator Version)
Becoming an Ally: Responding to Name-Calling and Bullying (Youth Version)
Step Up! Assembly Program
Names Can Really Hurt Us Assembly Program
Responding to Cyberbullying:
Trickery, Trolling and Threats: Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying: Focus on the Legal Issues
Youth and Cyberbullying: What Families Don’t Know Will Hurt Them
Tips on How to Respond to Cyberbullying:
What Can Be Done About Name-Calling
Take a Stand: A Student’s Guide to Stopping Name-Calling and Bullying
Advice on Cyberbullying and Teens
(ADL interview, Your Teen Magazine)
Internet Safety Strategies for Students http://www.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/cyberbullying/Internet%20Safety%20Strategies%20for%20Students.pdf
Confronting Hate Speech Online: http://www.adl.org/main_internet/hatespeechonline2008.htm
Advocacy Resources to Prevent and Respond to Bullying and Cyberbullying
ADL Bullying/Cyberbullying Advocacy Toolkit for state anti-bullying laws: http://www.adl.org/civil_rights/Anti-Bullying%20Law%20Toolkit_2009.pdf
ADL Bullying/Cyberbullying Model Statute (which has been a model for a number of states) http://www.adl.org/main_internet/Cyberbullying_Prevention_Law
Responding to Cyberhate: Toolkit for Action:
In advance of the August 11-12 Federal Bullying Summit, ADL submitted to a trio of federal agencies (Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Justice) recommendations for programs, training initiatives, and research proposals: http://www.adl.org/Civil_Rights/letter_bullying_cyberbullying_2010.asp
71 national civil rights, education, religious, and professional organizations submitted complementary consensus recommendations to the lead Federal agencies in advance of the August Federal Bullying Summit: http://www.civilrights.org/advocacy/letters/2010/coalition-letter-to-sec-duncan-on-bullying-cyberbullying-and-harassment-recommendations.pdf
Federal Anti-Bullying/Cyberbullying Initiatives:
- March 26, 2012: The White House, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education hosted an LGBT Conference on Safe Schools & Communities at the University of Texas, Arlington. Over 400 students and administrators attended to talk about safety and security for the LGBT community.
- June 1, 2011: The Administration launched an LGBT-specific web page on the White House Web site to coincide with the first day of LGBT Pride Month. The site includes “It Gets Better” videos made by the President, Vice President, and other administration officials.
- March 10, 2011: The President and the First Lady host the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, attended by approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, youth-oriented media, advocates, and policymakers. One outcome of the Conference is the creation of a new comprehensive federal anti-bullying Web site, http://www.stopbullying.gov/
- March 9, 2011: The President and First Lady create a video addressing bullying for the stopbullying.gov Facebook page.
- December 20, 2010: White House staff members make an anti-bullying video for the “It Gets Better” video campaign.
- November 23, 2010: John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, creates an anti-bullying video for the “It Gets Better” video campaign.
- November 18, 2010: Vice President Biden posts an anti-bullying video in the “It Gets Better” video campaign.
- October 21, 2010: President Obama records an anti-bullying video in the “It Gets Better” video campaign.
Department of Education
- April 20, 2012: Education Secretary Arne Duncan makes a statement in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
- April 2, 2012: The Department of Education released its final strategic plan to improve the nation’s education system in order to make all students, regardless of individual characteristics, feel safe and secure, which impacts students’ classroom success. This included new commitments to LGBT students.
- January 2012: U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center publishes a Prevention Update. Bullying and Cyberbulling at Colleges and Universities describes what bullying is, what statistics say about the nature and magnitude of the problem, and lessons colleges and universities have learned.
- December 6, 2011: The U.S. Department of Education releases Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies, a new report summarizing current approaches in the 46 states with anti-bullying laws and the 41 states that have created anti-bullying policies as models for schools.
- November 2, 2011: U.S. Department of Education publishesStudent Victimization in U.S. Schools. The report uses data from the 2009 School Crime Supplement to examine student criminal victimization and the personal characteristics of crime victims.
- September 21, 2011: The Department of Education, in partnership with eight other federal agencies hosted the second annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit, at which Secretary Duncan spoke.
- June 14, 2011: Secretary Arne Duncan issues a ”Dear Colleague” Key Policy letter and accompanying legal guidelines that focus on protecting LGBT students and the rights of students who want to establish gay-straight alliances in schools.
- June 6-7, 2011: The Department of Education held the first-ever “Federal LGBT Youth Summit” in Washington, D.C. Secretary Duncan said that his “commitment to LGBT students is unequivocal.”
- April 5, 2011: Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Conference on the Administration’s efforts to prevent bullying and cyberbullying.
- April 5, 2011: Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, addressed ADL’s National Leadership Conference and participated in a panel discussion about preventing bullying and cyberbullying.
- March 10, 2011: Secretary Duncan makes Enough is Enough speech at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.
- December 16, 2010: The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issues a ”Dear Colleague” Key Policy Letter providing technical assistance for states drafting their own anti-bullying and cyberbullying laws.
- October 26, 2010: The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issues a trailblazing ten-page “Dear Colleague” letter to schools clarifying that some student harassment or bullying – including harassment on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity – may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice
- August 11-12, 2010: Department of Education, with other federal partners led by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, hosts the first Federal Bullying Summit. Federal agencies joined together to establish an Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
- March 16, 2010: The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights announces it will begin collecting data to measure whether all students have equal educational opportunity, including data on bullying policies in schools. This data will help with the department’s enforcement of federal civil rights laws.
Department of Justice
- April 3, 2012: At the 2012 Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, young people lead discussions and recommended steps forward for their city’s youth violence prevention programs.
- March 26, 2012: The Department of Justice cosponsored the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Safe Communities in partnership with the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Department of Education and the University of Texas at Arlington. The conference highlighted the law enforcement tools and programmatic resources being used by the Justice Department in the education and law-enforcement contexts to combat violence and harassment directed at LGBT individuals.
- March 5, 2012: Following an extensive investigation by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, parties enter into a consent decree to address complaints involving student harassment on the basis of gender stereotypes and an unsafe and unwelcoming climate in Doe and United States v. Anoka-Hennepin School District.
- February 22, 2012: The Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2011, an annual report that examines crime that occurs inside and outside schools from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals.
- December 2011: The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention published a Juvenile Justice Bulletin, Bullying in Schools: An Overview, which describes a study that examines the connections between bullying in schools, school attendance and engagement, and academic achievement.
- June 3, 2011: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) hosts a webinar on “Bullying and Civil Rights: An Overview of School Districts’ Federal Obligation to Respond to Harassment.”
- December 9, 2010: The Justice Department releases an anti-bullying video, featuring Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez and other Justice Department staff. The video describes rights of individuals and enforcement powers of the Department.
- January 15, 2010: The Department intervenes in a lawsuit on behalf of an openly gay high school student who was beaten up because of his sexual orientation. The case is settled on March 29.
Department of Agriculture
Department of Health and Human Services
- March 20, 2012: The CDC hosts a Twitter Live Chat. Veto Violence is a forum to discuss bullying prevention.
- September 21, 2011: The Department Health and Human Services, in partnership with eight other federal agencies, hosted the second annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit, at which Secretary Sebelius spoke.
- Spring 2011: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues a new fact sheet that defines what bullying is, why it is a public health problem, and which people are particularly at risk.
- June 6, 2011: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the first “Federal LGBT Youth Summit,” sponsored by the Department of Education.
- April 22, 2011: A new joint Massachusetts Department of Public Health/CDC study of Massachusetts middle and high school students shows family violence may also be associated with bullying.
- April 1, 2011: Secretary Sebelius establishes a page on HHS Recommended Actions to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities, including anti-bullying initiatives.
- March 3, 2011: The CDC issues Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration, and Bystander Experiences: A Compendium of Assessment Tools to aid researchers in creating a set of psychometrically-sound measures for assessing the incidence and prevalence of bullying.
- January 25, 2011: CDC launches a new LGBT bullying prevention web page, with resources for schools and parents.
- October 28, 2010: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issues a press release announcing that she has taken part in the “It Gets Better” campaign by creating her own video.
- July 1, 2010: CDC issues three new guides: Youth Violence: Electronic Media and Youth Violence — A CDC Issue Brief for Educators and Caregiversdescribes what is known about young people and electronic aggression, offers strategies to address the issue, and discusses the implications for school staff, education policy makers, caregivers and parents. Youth Violence: Electronic Media and Youth Violence — A CDC Research Brief for Researchers, describes current research on electronic aggression, highlights gaps, and suggests future directions; and a new tip sheet for parents Youth Violence: Technology and Youth — Protecting Your Child from Electronic Aggression, which provides an overview of electronic aggression, any type of harassment or bullying that occurs through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website, or text messaging.
Department of Labor
Department of State
- May 3, 2011: U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) hosted “Get Schooled, Kids and Cyber Security,” an event to raise awareness about cyber security and children.
- October 19, 2010: Secretary Clinton offers a message of hope to LGBT youth through a video as part of the “It Gets Better” series.
United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR)
- September 27, 2011: The Commission released
- its bullying report, Peer-to-Peer Violence and Bullying: Examining the Federal Response. The report develops recommendations to further address the problem of bullying and harassment based on sex, race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and religion in public K-12 schools.
- May 13, 2011: The Commission held an all-day briefing on Federal Enforcement of Civil Rights Laws to Protect Students Against Bullying, Violence and Harassment.Four panels of witnesses presented statements through the day, which are also available to view through C-Span.
Updated June, 2012
Studies on the Nature and Magnitude of the National Bullying and Cyberbullying Problem
Here are highlights from some of the most important recent studies on this national problem:
A. Student Attitudes Toward Teasing and Bullying
- In a survey commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more eight to fifteen year-olds picked teasing and bullying as "big problems" than those who picked drugs or alcohol, racism, AIDS, or pressure to have sex. More African Americans saw bullying as a big problem for people their age than those who identified racism as a big problem (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2001).
- A survey conducted by Widmeyer Communications for the Health, Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services underscores the "omnipresent fear of physical violence and name-calling" that students age 9-13 feel. The report describes the prevailing view among students that schools "don't get it" when it comes to verbal and emotional bullying, instead simply focusing on physical bullying (Widmeyer Communications, 2003).
- Students who participated in the HRSA survey report that it is not worth the effort to tell an adult about bullying because bullies are rarely punished severely enough to deter them from future bullying. Students describe "unsympathetic and apathetic teachers and principals" who are "difficult to motivate to take action" and "weak and ineffective penalties and punishments for bullies that allows bullying to flourish" (Widmeyer Communications, 2003).
- Adolescents' opinions about their school staff's attitudes about bullying in rural and suburban public schools were investigated by Harris (2004) and Harris, et al (2002). Approximately one-quarter of students said that they did not believe that their teachers or administrators were interested in trying to stop bullying, while slightly less than a quarter believed that they were interesting in reducing bullying (the rest of the students indicated that they did not know). Eighty percent of the students in Swearer and Cary's (2003) study of Midwestern middle schoolers thought that the school staff did not know that bullying occurred.
- Oliver, et al (1994) found that many students believed that "teasing is playful" and most (61 percent) felt that bullying can "toughen" a weak student.
- Most Washington state adolescents (57 percent) would not take action if they witnessed another student being bullied or teased (Smyser & Reis, 2002). While between 36 percent (6th graders) to 46 percent (12th graders) of these students said that they would "tell that kid to stop," between one-third and one-fourth of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders said they would "walk away" or "mind their own business." A full 20 percent indicated that they would "stay and watch" (Smyser & Reis, 2002).
- Research has found that only between 4 and 13 percent of middle and high school youth indicated that they would report an incident of bullying to a teacher, administrator, or another school staff member (Bulach et al., 2000; Harris, 2004; Harris et al., 2002; Shakeshaft et al., 1997).
B. Associations Between Bullying and Academic/Social/Emotional Adjustment
Targets of bullying
- Both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at a higher risk for suicide than their peers. Children who are both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at the highest risk (Kim & Leventhal, 2008; Hay & Meldrum, 2010; Kaminski & Fang, 2009). All three groups (victims, perpetrators, and perpetrator/victims) are more likely to be depressed than children who are not involved in bullying (Wang, Nansel et al., in press). One study found that victims of cyberbullying had higher levels of depression than victims of face-to-face bullying (Wang, Nansel et al., 2010).
- A 2001 study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found that students who were bullied demonstrated poorer social and emotional adjustment, reporting greater difficulty making friends, poorer relationships with classmates, and greater loneliness. In addition, the study found that fighting, smoking, poorer academic achievement, poorer relationships with classmates and increased loneliness were all positively associated with being bullied (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001).
- A study of bullying, teasing, and sexual harassment in school by the American Association of University Women demonstrates a direct link between "hostile hallways" and diminished academic outcomes, self-confidence, attachment to school, and participation in curricular and extracurricular activities, especially among girls. Girls who experienced harassment were twice as likely as boys to feel "less confident" (16% to 32%) and more likely to change behaviors in school and at home because of the experience, including not talking as much in class (18% to 30%) and avoiding the person who harassed them (24% to 56%) (American Association of University Women, 2001).
- A survey conducted by Widmeyer Communications for the Health, Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that students who regularly experience verbal and non-verbal forms of bullying report hurt feelings, low self-esteem, depression, living in fear and torment, poor academic achievement, emotional turmoil, physical abuse, and suicide (Widmeyer Communications, 2003).
- A study that assessed Midwestern kindergarteners at three schools found that these children had greater difficulty adjusting to school and became more school avoidant following their victimization by peers (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996). Reis and Saewyc (1999) similarly found that harassed adolescents were more likely to report missing at least one day of school in the past month out of fear of their safety than their non-harassed peers.
- According to Dan Olweus, a trailblazing Norwegian researcher on bullying, individuals formerly bullied were found to have higher levels of depression and poorer self-esteem at the age of 23 years, despite the fact that, as adults, they were no more harassed or socially isolated than comparison adults (Olweus,1994).
- The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducts a periodic School Climate Survey about the experiences of LGBT youth in schools. Findings from their 2009 survey included the following:
- 61.1% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; 39.9% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
- Nearly a third missed class at least once in the last month (29.1%) and missed at least one day of school (30.0%).
- Students who experienced high levels of harassment and assault had poorer educational outcomes.
- Students who experienced high levels of harassment and assault had lower psychological well-being.
Bystanders to bullying
- Both a 2001 study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and a survey conducted by Widmeyer Communications for the Health, Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that bystanders to bullying suffer from feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, and develop poor coping and problem-solving skills (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001; Widmeyer Communications, 2003).
Perpetrators of bullying
- A 2001 study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found that students who bully demonstrate poor social and emotional adjustment, social isolation, lack of success in school, and involvement in problem behaviors, such as fighting, drinking alcohol, and smoking. Without intervention, note the researchers, bullies often continue on a path of even more extreme violence and abusive behavior and often become involved in crime (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001).
- Olweus found former bullies to have a four-fold increase in criminal behavior at the age of 24 years, with 60% of former bullies having at least one conviction and 35% to 40% having three or more convictions (Olweus, 1992).
OTHER RESOURCES on the Nature and Magnitude of the National Bullying and Cyberbullying Problem
Addington, Lynn A., Ruddy, Sally A., Miller, Amanda K., and DeVoe, Jill F. Are America's Schools Safe? Students Speak Out: 1999 School Crime Supplement. Education Statistics Quarterly, National Center for Educational Statistics. Vol. 4, Issue 4 (November 2002).
American Association of University Women Educational Foundation and Harris Interactive. Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School (2001).
Bosworth, et al. Factors Associated with Bullying Behavior in Middle School Students. Journal of Early Adolescence. 19(3), 341-362 (1999).
Bulach, C.R., Fulbright, J.P., & Williams, R. Bullying Behavior at the Middle School Level: Are There Gender Differences? American Educational Research Association Conference. New Orleans, LA. (2000).
Coy, Doris Rhea. Bullying, ERIC Digest (2001).
Harris, S. Bullying at School Among Older Adolescents. The Prevention Researcher, 11(3), 12-14 (2004).
Harris, et al. Bullying Among 9th Graders: An Exploratory Study. NASSP Bulletin (March 2002).
Kaiser Family Foundation, & Children Now. Talking With Kids About Tough Issues: A National Survey of Parents and Kids (2001).
Khosropour, Shirin C. & Walsh, James. That's Not Teasing-That's Bullying: A Study of Fifth Graders' Conceptualization of Bullying and Teasing. Paper Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, Washington (April 2001).
Kochenderfer, B.J. & Ladd, G.W. Peer Victimization: Cause or Consequence of School Maladjustment? Child Development, 67(4), 1305-1317 (1996).
Nansel, Tonja R., Overpeck, Mary, Pilla, Ramani S., Ruan, W. June, Simons-Morton, Bruce, and Scheidt, Peter. Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth: Prevalence and Association With Psychosocial Adjustment, JAMA, 285:2094-2100 (2001).
Oliver, R., Hoover, J.H., & Hazler, R. The Perceived Roles of Bullying in Small-Town Midwestern Schools. Journal of Counseling and Development, 72(4), 416-423 (1994).
Olweus, D. Bullying Among Schoolchildren: Intervention and Prevention. In Peters, R.D., McMahon, R.J., and Quinsey, V.L., Eds. Aggression and Violence Throughout the Life Span. London, England: Sage Publications (1992).
Olweus, D. Bullying at School: Long-Term Outcomes for the Victims and an Effective School-Based Intervention Program. In Huesmann, L.R., Ed. Aggressive Behavior: Current Perspectives. New York, NY: Plenum Press (1994).
Olweus, D. Bully/Victim Problems Among School Children: Basic Facts and Effects of a School Based Intervention Program. In Pepler, D., Rubin, K.H., Eds. The Development and Treatment of Childhood Aggression. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. (1991).
Reis B. & Saewyc, E. Eight-Three Thousand Youth: Selected Findings from Population-Based Studies as they Pertain to the Safety and Well-Being of Sexual Minority Students. Safe Schools Coalition of Washington (1999).
Sharp, S., Smith, P.K. Bullying in UK Schools: The DES Sheffield Bullying Project. Early Child Dev Care. 77:47-55 (1991).
Smith, P.K. Bullying in Schools: The UK Experience and the Sheffield Anti-Bullying Project. Ir J Psychol. 18:191-201 (1997).
Smyser, M. & Reis, E. Bullying and Bias-Based Harassment in King County Middle Schools. Public Health Data Watch, 5(2), 1-15 (2002).
Swearer, S. M. & Cary, P. T. Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Middle School Youth: A Developmental Examination Across the Bully/Victim Continuum. (Eds.) Bullying, Peer Harassment, and Victimization in the Schools: The Next Generation of Prevention, p.63-80 (2003).
Teachers College Reports. Examining School Violence (Winter 2001).
Widmeyer Communications for the Health, Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Bullying Prevention Campaign Formative Research Report (2003).