INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s first statewide report on bullying at its public schools has found
more than 9,000 incidents over the last school year, although student
advocates say the state needs more data to fully assess the scope of the
problem at its schools.
The bullying data
posted on the Indiana Department of Education’s website shows that 44
percent of the 9,396 bullying case reported during the 2013-14 school year
were verbal incidents and 21 percent were physical. The rest included
written or electronic threats and social shunning.
Schools coordinator David Woodward said the initial data is insufficient to
provide full assessments of bullying in Indiana but it provides a starting
point to understand the problem’s extent.
“I think now it is
most helpful at the local school district to see what trends are going on
and how they can deal with it,” he told The Indianapolis Star.
A state law passed
last year and supported by parents of bullying victims required Indiana’s
public schools to begin collecting data on bullying incidents.
State Rep. Greg
Porter, D-Indianapolis, the legislation’s author, called the bullying data a
big step forward for Indiana’s anti-bullying initiatives, but questioned why
more than 240 of the more than 1,000 individual schools in the data reported
no bullying incidents.
“The whole point is
to look at the education atmosphere of our children. This is why we have the
data, to give schools tools to address it,” he said.
Porter said that
when the legislation was debated, there was concern some schools might not
report to avoid “looking bad.”
schools are still learning the reporting requirements and he expects it will
be improved next year.
president of the Bully Prevention Alliance, said she would like the state
education department to do more to ensure all schools are honestly reporting
bullying incidents going on in classrooms, hallways and buses.
The 2013 law’s
intent was to better define bullying so schools can identify it and react to
it. Indiana’s teachers now receive training on how to spot signs of bullying
and report such incidents to school administrators, who must then report
those incidents to parents and submit an annual report to the state.
The school with the
most bullying incidents was Emma Donnan Middle School in Indianapolis, where
128 acts of bullying were reported among its 322 students. That school was
taken over by the state in 2012 after years of poor test scores and is now
operated by Charter Schools USA.
USA’s chief academic officer, Sherry Hage, attributes the large number of
reported bullying incidents to the school’s strict behavior code and policy
requiring staff to report all discipline issues.
“Do I believe that
we have a serious bullying issue? No I do not. I believe that our students
feel comfortable going to an adult to mediate conflict,” she said.