A November 2021 federal report reveals that incidents of bullying behavior in grades K-12 grew alarmingly between 2014 and 2019. The report, entitled “Students' Experiences with Bullying, Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and Victimization in Schools,” was produced by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) at the request of Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia. Rep. Scott is Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor and asked the GAO to look into the prevalence of K-12 bullying after he was presented with evidence that bullying, harassment, hate speech, and other types of victimizations can harm young people's mental health for the rest of their lives.
In response to Rep. Scott's request, the GAO analyzed responses to surveys of students and administrators conducted over a six-year period concerning hostile behaviors in grades K-12. The study looked at a range of behaviors, including bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, hate speech, hate crimes, physical attacks or fights, rape, and sexual assault. Among other grim discoveries, data analysts found that between the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 school terms, hate crimes rose by 81% and physical attacks with a weapon rose by 97%. A quarter of the roughly 5.2 million students bullied during 2018-2019 were targeted based on immutable characteristics–inherent personal attributes such as race, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.
The report found that bullying crimes are underreported in schools. Even when reports are made, school administrators often make investigations a low priority. A 2019 Office of Civil Rights investigation of the Chicago public schools revealed that school administrators had been ignoring reports about student assaults for many years. Even when investigations were carried out, they were poorly managed and often conducted by untrained staff.
And the problem isn't confined to major urban areas. A September 2021 report by the Department of Justice found that school officials in Utah's Davis School District were aware of numerous blatantly racist incidents carried out against Black and Asian students but ignored complaints from both parents and students. Blacks and Asians make up only 2% of the district's student body.
The GAO study found that bullying can lead to self-destructive behaviors–not just in victims, but in those who do the bullying, as well as on-the-scene witnesses. It can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, involvement in interpersonal violence (as a perpetrator and as a victim), and poor school performance. Both the bullies and the bullied are at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.
If your child has been accused of bullying or other anti-social behavior and is facing a disciplinary hearing, don't brush it off as teenage hijinks. Schools take these things seriously, and you don't want your child's future academic and even career opportunities to be permanently hindered by an instance of bad judgment. You need an experienced legal advocate who is familiar with school disciplinary procedures. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law firm have helped students nationwide who found themselves in similar situations. Call 888-535-3686 or contact us online.