One in every three U.S. students, an estimated 18 million young people, will be bullied in school this year, federal statistics suggest.
Despite the increasing attention to bullying, however, more research is needed to pinpoint effective anti-bullying practices, said researchers, school leaders, and federal education and health officials at the U.S. Department of Education’s first anti-bullying summit, held in Washington this month. The department sponsored the summit in partnership with the federal Agriculture, Interior, Justice, and Health and Human Services departments.
One reason adults don’t know more about bullying is simple: “They didn’t ask. They didn’t want to know,” said Phillip C. Rodkin, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mr. Rodkin said adults need to spend more time talking to children about the social ecology of relationships to understand what factors in a school—including classroom management—create conditions for bullying relationships to persist.
Another challenge, particularly for school administrators, is the lack of agreement about what constitutes bullying. The behavior is defined in some of the 43 state laws banning it, but the definition varies, as does the way researchers ask students and others about incidences of bullying and other aggressive acts in schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the department and its office for civil rights are stepping up enforcement of civil rights violations and will issue policy guidance to schools about their responsibilities.
The federal agencies also used the two-day summit to show off two new websites, FindYouthInfo.org and BullyingInfo.org, which bring together information from across the federal government that can help administrators, teachers, students, and parents understand and deal with bullying.
A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2010 edition of Education Week as First Summit on Bullying Shows Need for Studies