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Heading Back to School Safer: A Look at Bullying

Did you know that 1918 was the first year that all 50 states required students to complete elementary schooling? In recognition of August as National Back to School Month, we’re sharing some important ways to support youth in preparing themselves for a successful and safe year by calling attention to the issue of bullying and how to tackle it.

What we’ve learned about bullying through research and first-hand reports and experiences is that it affects all youth, including those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness bullying. The effects of bullying may even continue into adulthood.

There is not a single profile of a young person involved in bullying. Youth who bully can be either well connected socially or marginalized, and may be bullied by others as well. Similarly, those who are bullied sometimes bully others.

About 20% of students ages 12-18 have experienced bullying nationwide. Students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied said they thought those who bullied them:

  • Had the ability to influence other students’ perception of them (56%)
  • Had more social influence (50%)
  • Were physically stronger or larger (40%)
  • Had more money (31%)

Nationwide, 19% of students in grades 9–12 reported being bullied on school property in various places, including:

  • Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
  • Classroom (42.1%)
  • Cafeteria (26.8%)
  • Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
  • Online or text (15.3%)
  • Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
  • Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)

Among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15% were bullied online or by text. Youth report experiencing various types of bullying, including:

  • Being the subject of rumors or lies (13.4%)
  • Being made fun of, called names, or insulted (13.0%)
  • Pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on (5.3%)
  • Leaving out/exclusion (5.2%)
  • Threatened with harm (3.9%)
  • Others tried to make them do things they did not want to do (1.9%)
  • Property was destroyed on purpose (1.4%)

Approximately 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying.

Solutions to bullying are not simple. Bullying prevention approaches that show the most promise confront the problem from many angles. They involve the entire school community—students, families, administrators, teachers, and staff such as bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria and front office staff—in creating a culture of respect. Zero tolerance and expulsion are not effective approaches.

Bystanders, or those who see bullying, can make a huge difference when they intervene on behalf of someone being bullied. If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying or harassing behavior, reach out for help. Tell a trusted friend, parent, teacher or ally. If you believe you have been the victim of a crime, you can also reach out to Someplace Safe at 800-974-3359 or find us online at www.someplacesafe.info, or on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Helpful resources for youth, adults, parents and schools:


Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center

Committee for Children

*Data sources include the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019 (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) and the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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Monday 08/30/2021

Heading Back to School Safer: A Look at Bullying

Wednesday 07/28/2021