Read this article if you’re having a rough day. This is a rare story about positive social change.
Every state now has laws against school bullying. In the past decade, many districts have overhauled discipline policies and created interventions to increase mutual respect at school. Pop culture and the news media have focused on the harm that is done when children target each other with cruel treatment. Marginalized groups have found solidarity in social media campaigns such as It Gets Better and World Autism Awareness Day, underlining the message that everyone is worthy of learning in a safe environment.
And, according to a big new study in the journal Pediatrics, bullying is down. In 2005, 28.5 percent of students surveyed reported experiencing at least one form of bullying. By 2014, that had dropped more than half, to 13.4 percent.
“Occasionally, there is some good news out there,” says Catherine Bradshaw, a professor and associate dean at the University of Virginia, one of the study authors. “There are some things that are improving.”
The study scrutinized the responses of nearly 250,000 Maryland students in grades 4 through 12 to an annual school survey. Students were asked if they had directly experienced behaviors such as pushing, slapping, threats, spreading rumors or negative online posts in the previous 30 days. There were significant declines across every category of behavior and in most grades, the researchers found.
“The story isn’t that bullying is checked off the list,” notes Bradshaw. Instead, this paper provides a mark in favor of “increased awareness,” and “evidence-based practices and policies.”