Bullying Allegations and Incidents Reported in Delaware Public Schools

The Delaware Department of Education has released a report on bullying allegations and incidents reported in Delaware Public Schools in the 2021-2022 School Year. The executive summary is reprinted below, and the entire report can be found at the bottom of this page.

Executive Summary

Bullying is best defined as repetitive conduct designed to harm another individual either physically, mentally or emotionally as well as to create an imbalance of power between two individuals. The impacts of bullying can include long term mental health issues as well as negative educational outcomes. Nationally, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) notes that close to 40% of secondary school students have been bullied on at least one occasion in the past twelve months. (Control, 2015, 2017) That number is close to what is reported from the 5,000 students who answered the YRBS in Delaware.

These students do not often share their victimization with staff members, other adults or their parents. Based upon the far lesser numbers of recorded allegations from district and charter schools. If we use the same data rule to compare the self-reporting from the YRBS and the statewide reported allegations which districts and charter schools must record in E-School, less than 1% of the students who self-reported in the YRBS survey that they were victims of bullying actually reported to their schools that they were allegedly victims or bullying, either physical or

As a State, we realize that this means students simply are not reporting that they are being victimized. In some cases, adults discover the bullying and correct it, even if the students fail to report it. Nationally nearly 70% of students stated that they witnessed bullying in some form but failed to notify anyone or take any action. Of the students who witnessed it and attempted to intervene, the bullying stopped within an estimated 53 seconds.

Yet another significant consequence of bullying is highlighted in the most recent US Secret Service Threat Assessment Study of school shootings, which notes that 60% of the school shootings between 2004 and 2017 had a nexus to bullying victimization (Center, 2019). Students who conducted physical attacks in schools had either been significantly victimized or felt as if they had been significantly victimized. In 34% of those cases, the school was aware of the alleged victimization prior to the attack.

With students returning to the classroom environment after nearly two years of limited personal interactions with peers and others in the normal school community, it could be expected that there would be some difficulty in students becoming adjusted to what normal and appropriate interactions look like once again. Staff members focused on levels of respect and sense of community in their interventions to help students to return to their normal sense of school community and respect.

While there is no simple answer to solving the issue of bullying, schools that attempt to create a climate of inclusivity and civility can help students take ownership of their school “community” and reduce tolerance for bullying among their peers. The most telling statistic from the national surveys is the note regarding what happens when a bystander attempts to intercede. When a peer attempts to intervene, the act of bullying tends to end within approximately 53 seconds. Their intervention tends to be successful and sets a positive example to other bystanders that intervention can lead to a positive outcome.

This form of supportive community would also increase the support that victims receive from not only staff and mental health workers, but from their own peer group. Staff can help create a more universal community of caring by implementing trauma informed practices and professional development for their staffs. Administrators should support trauma awareness and utilizing restorative disciplinary practices if they wish to develop a stronger sense of community within their school.

As a state, the number of allegations was higher than any previous year, mostly due to the focus of the staff to be aware of such inappropriate contact and try to minimize the negative impacts of bullying on students, especially in a time of returning to normalcy and not knowing what the nature of our students’lives have been for the previous two years. Students experienced various levels of familial and community trauma and that could impact a student return to normal social activities. The focus on all school staff has been to ensure that the mental health needs of students was a paramount consideration, which also impacted the way schools recognized and responded to reports of bullying behaviors.

That being said, the overall percentage of bullying incidents when comparing to other reported incidents remain relatively low. This could be because bullying behavior may not have been identified as part of the overall incident which may have led to a consequence (i.e. an offensive touching incident which was created due to alleged bullying but staff was not made aware that bullying had any role in the incident.) Overall, as with the other data collected from the 2021-2022 post Pandemic year will serve as the benchmark for efforts to move forward in a positive way to continue to monitor and report these critical issues in schools.