School Climate & Safety What the Research Says

The State of Bullying in Schools, in Charts

By Laura Baker & Arianna Prothero — August 31, 2023 1 min read
Image of a school hallway with students moving.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When it comes to school safety, bullying is teachers’ top concern, even more so than school shootings or drugs on campus, according to a recently released report from the RAND Corporation. That’s despite the fact that federal data show that bullying in schools has declined a bit since 2009.

Taken together, the data illustrate how persistent a challenge bullying remains for schools, even as policymakers in most states have taken action to address the issue.

Students who are bullied often do worse in school—they are less engaged and their learning suffers, according to one study that tracked a group of kindergarteners through 12th grade. And contrary to popular belief, being bullied does not in and of itself make children more resilient.

Research has found that students who are bullied or left out are more likely to take future social rejections much more personally—believing that there is something wrong with them and taking longer to bounce back from rejection—than teens who felt accepted by their peers.

While schools have reported a decline in bullying incidents over the past decade or so, separate surveys of high school students found that bullying in school has remained mostly flat, only declining the first full year of the pandemic when many students were learning from home full- or part-time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that around 20 percent of high school students reported being bullied at school in its biennial surveys between 2011 and 2020, dropping to 15 percent in 2021. The percentage of teens reporting that they had been cyberbullied remained mostly flat between 2011 and 2021.

Bullying is a major concern for parents as well educators. A Pew Research Center survey of parents conducted in the fall of 2022 found that nearly three-quarters of parents said they were either very or somewhat concerned about their child being bullied, up from 60 percent in 2015.

Following are four charts that depict the state of bullying in U.S. public schools—from its frequency, to where it happens in the school building, to what’s being done about it.

Educators in elementary, middle, and high school universally say bullying is the top school safety concern according to SOURCE: RAND Corporation survey of 1,000 randomly selected educators, October and November 2022.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the September 20, 2023 edition of Education Week as The State of Bullying in Schools, in Charts


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Another State Will Let Teachers Carry Guns. What We Know About the Strategy
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns with administrators' permission a year after the Covenant School shooting.
5 min read
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee could join more than 30 other states in allowing certain teachers to carry guns on campus. There's virtually no research on the strategy's effectiveness, and it remains uncommon despite the proliferation of state laws allowing it.
George Walker IV/AP
School Climate & Safety Video WATCH: Columbine Author on Myths, Lessons, and Warning Signs of Violence
David Cullen discusses how educators still grapple with painful lessons from the 1999 shooting.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Much Educators Say They Use Suspensions, Expulsions, and Restorative Justice
With student behavior a top concern among educators now, a new survey points to many schools using less exclusionary discipline.
4 min read
Audrey Wright, right, quizzes fellow members of the Peace Warriors group at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Wright, who is a junior and the group's current president, was asking the students, from left, freshmen Otto Lewellyn III and Simone Johnson and sophomore Nia Bell, about a symbol used in the group's training on conflict resolution and team building. The students also must memorize and regularly recite the Rev. Martin Luther King's "Six Principles of Nonviolence."
A group of students at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School participates in a training on conflict resolution and team building on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Nearly half of educators in a recent EdWeek Research Center survey said their schools are using restorative justice more now than they did five years ago.
Martha Irvine/AP
School Climate & Safety 25 Years After Columbine, America Spends Billions to Prevent Shootings That Keep Happening
Districts have invested in more personnel and physical security measures to keep students safe, but shootings have continued unabated.
9 min read
A group protesting school safety in Laurel County, K.Y., on Feb. 21, 2018. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, parents and educators are mobilizing to demand more school safety measures, including armed officers, security cameras, door locks, etc.
A group calls for additional school safety measures in Laurel County, Ky., on Feb. 21, 2018, following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three staff members died. Districts have invested billions in personnel and physical security measures in the 25 years since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Claire Crouch/Lex18News via AP