A widespread and often underreported problem, bullying includes repeated harmful acts and a real or perceived imbalance of power. Bullying creates a climate of fear in schools, on playgrounds, in neighborhoods, in juvenile detention facilities, and in gangs. Victims of bullying suffer from a wide range of psychological and school-related problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, chronic absences, and trouble concentrating.
Bullying can be physical, verbal, or psychological/relational. Physical bullying can include assault, intimidation, and destruction of property. Threats and name-calling are often the hallmarks of verbal bullying. Psychological/relational bullying can include all of these methods and is distinguished by the power imbalance between the victim and the bully. Cyber-bullying is a distinct type of bullying in which the victim is targeted online. Bullying can also take the form of sexual harassment.
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), bullying is common on school playgrounds and in neighborhoods throughout the United States. A young person can be a bully, a victim, or both.
The majority of bullies are males, while victims are both females and males in equal proportion. Females experience mainly verbal bullying and spreading of rumors, while males experience both verbal and physical bullying. Bullying typically begins in elementary school and is at its highest levels in middle school, but also occurs in high school.
Most victims remain silent out of fear of retaliation or shame, leading school and law enforcement officials to underestimate the extent of bullying. Student witnesses as well often fail to report incidents.
Rates of bullying are unrelated to school or class size and urban or rural setting. However, higher rates occur in classes with students who have behavioral, emotional, or learning problems.
What OJP Is Doing
In August 2010, working with the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee, the Department of Justice (DOJ) cosponsored the first-ever Federal National Bullying Summit. The steering committee is a collaboration among the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Interior.
Using presentations from the National Summit, OJJDP developed a webinar to serve as a free training tool for practitioners nationwide. OJJDP is also developing a five-bulletin series on the topic of peer victimization in schools that summarizes the findings from OJJDP-funded research conducted by the National Center for School Engagement. The Bullying in Schools bulletins, to be released in 2011 and 2012, will address bullying and student engagement, attendance, and achievement.
Additional research is available from the National Institute of Justice, which sponsored a systematic review of school-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization and an evaluation of "Bullyproofing Your School," a program for elementary and middle schools. The Bureau of Justice Statistics also supported research on indicators of school crime and safety.
In December 2010, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division released a video as part of the "It Gets Better" project. The video informs youth of DOJ’s commitment to enforcing federal laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from bullying and harassment. It features the personal stories and experiences of DOJ employees and provides messages of support for youth.
- Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey, OJJDP Bulletin
- Peer Victimization in Schools
- School-Based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimization
- Evaluation of Bullyproofing Your School
- Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009
- Addressing the Problem of Juvenile Bullying, OJJDP Fact Sheet
- 411 Bullying
- Bullying in Schools, COPS Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, No. 12
- Anti-Bullying Video, Part of the National "It Gets Better" Project
–Tom Perrelli, Associate Attorney General
Bullying Summit, August 2010
- In an OJJDP survey, 13.2 percent of participants reported having been physically bullied during the previous year.
- In the United States, 13 percent of 6th- through 10th-grade students bully and 6 percent are both victims and bullies.
- In a survey of American middle and high school students, 66 percent of bullying victims believed school professionals responded poorly to bullying problems.
- Bullying takes place more often at school than on the way to and from school.
- Male bullying declines after age 15 and female bullying after 14.
- Of student victims, 25 percent were bullied about their race or religion.
Sources: Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey, OJJDP Bulletin, Bullying in Schools, COPS Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series, No. 12.
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
Web site: www.ojp.gov