Verbal and physical bullying up, but electronic bullying drops, newest data show

By Victoria Ratliff
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—For the first time since 2016, the Indiana Department of Education has reported that the number of bullying incidents in Indiana schools went down, largely because written or electronic harassment dropped sharply.

In its annual schools bullying, safety and arrest report, the IDOE reported 5,257 bullying incidents during the 2018-19 school year, compared to 5,604 from prior academic year.

In 2018, House Enrolled Act 1421 was passed and requires the IDOE to survey school corporations to determine methods to improve data reporting for bullying incidents. For this year’s report, an application center allowed schools to attach their bullying numbers to the other data they provide to the state. Every public school in Indiana submitted a report, according to the IDOE.

Incidents of verbal and physical bullying both rose substantially from 2018 to 2019—verbal abuse went up from 1,522 to 2,105 and the number of physical incidents more than doubled from 620 to 1,532.

The number of written or electronic incidents decreased by more than half, from 2,446 to 505, IDOE said in its report, which was released this month.

However, 49% of all schools reported no bullying incidents during the school year. That is down from last year’s report, where 60% of schools reported no bullying incidents.

Adam Baker, press secretary for IDOE, said that schools self-report and the department is working with schools to educate them on how to notice bullying, and how to report it properly.

“As a department, we are not in every classroom, we are not walking the halls,” Baker said. “The schools need to be held accountable.”

In May, the family of a Franklin teen filed a lawsuit against Franklin Community Schools over “severe and pervasive” bullying. The lawsuit detailed her bullying, and instances of verbal and physical harassment, including being punched, kicked, teased, and told “dig a hole and bury yourself.”

The lawsuit says that when the teen or her parents went to the school with concerns, the school administrators saidthe teen was “overreacting” and suggested she attend half days or become homeschooled.

The lawsuit also says that the school corporation said the teen wasn’t facing bullying since it didn’t not involve multiple incidents committed by the same students.

The role of IDOE is to help and educate schools to know how they can better protect the students.

Often, Baker said, if students or parents don’t report the incidents of bullying to the school, teachers and administrators will never know about them. That is true in cases of out-of-school bullying, which are also required to be included on the yearly reports.

“We work on educating districts and communicating with districts to make sure they have good programs in place,” he said.

Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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