Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Bullying Intervention: New Study Confirms It Is Worth Prioritizing

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

A new study that tracks the long-term effects of bullying suggests that intervention efforts are well worth attention and investment.  While some consider bullying to be a rite of passage - it is certainly a common occurrence – the behavior adversely affects student learning and can account for higher rates of absenteeism. Nationally, 160,000 students miss school on a daily basis due to a fear of being bullied or attacked.

Duke University researchers recently conducted one of the first long-term studies on bullying and found that bullied students were at an increased risk of anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts well into adulthood. Beginning in 1993, scientists followed 1,420 children in North Carolina, at three different ages – 9, 11, and 13 – with interviews each year until they turned 16 and then conducted re-interviews at 19, 21, 24 and 26. For increased accuracy, they took family history, poverty levels, abuse at home and other factors into account. The researchers also found that bullies, who had not been victims of bullying, were four times more likely to have an anti-social disorder. Psychological damage is long-lasting, a reality that should encourage parents, teachers, administrators and law enforcement to support prevention efforts.

Communication is a critical component when it comes to real-time incident reporting. Data suggests that in 81 percent of violent incidents in U.S schools, someone other than the aggressor had knowledge of the attack, yet failed to report it. After all, who wants to risk retaliation for sharing such information? Preemptive reporting has huge potential to reduce occurrences, and a series of steps highlighted in the March issue of District Administration can help students feel safe and protected when it comes to supporting anti-bullying efforts.

  • Go where students are and leverage the technology that they utilize. Make sure that students can phone and text in tips.
  • Make sure you offer confidential reporting – it will increase the buy-in and support from the student body.
  • Make sure your reporting platform is accessible to everyone – parents, teachers and students.
  • Make sure the reporting platform includes tip reporting, management and tracking as well as an alerting program to ensure a single point of communication for parents and teachers.
  • Ensure you can share information seamlessly with local law enforcement.

Blount County Schools is an example of a district that uses an electronic platform in their intervention efforts; they adopted the TipSoft program in 2010. Tips originating from any of their campuses go out simultaneously to the school resource officer, principal, and assistant principals. Most of them have TipSoft on their phones and receive immediate notification. Tips are also sent to Blount County’s 911 department, which collects necessary information and disseminates it to other parties, ensuring everyone is on the same page. The reporting individual’s information remains entirely confidential. 

A student-lead initiative helped drive the adoption of this program. As primary stakeholders, students spread the word among their peers, which increased the legitimacy in the eyes of other students. The community got involved, and the hospital sponsored the production of posters that were posted throughout schools.

A second example of an electronic reporting program is Safe2Tell, a nonprofit that started collaborating with PublicEngines after Columbine. It offers a single platform with easy access and recently announced a mobile app for Apple and Android devices. Since its launch, Safe2Tell has received 6,000 tips, intervened in more than 1,000 suicides and prevented 28 planned attacks.

Everyone has a role to play in creating a supportive and secure learning environment, and electronic platforms allow quick, easy and anonymous reporting to prevent incidents before they occur.