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One In Three Oklahoma Students Involved In Bullying

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A report released this week by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) suggests that as many as a third of elementary and middle school students in Oklahoma are involved in bullying. The report presents findings from a 2005 survey, the Oklahoma Anti-Bullying Survey, of 7,848 third, fifth, and seventh grade students from 85 school districts. Fourteen percent of the students reported that they had been victims of bullying, 12 percent had been bullies, and seven percent had been both a bully and a victim.

The most common place for bullying to occur was on the playground (70 percent), followed by on the bus (42 percent), in halls (36 percent), bathrooms (28 percent), classrooms (23 percent), and the cafeteria (23 percent).

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More than 90 percent of the students felt that bullying others was hurtful to some degree. Children who were bullied worried more frequently than children who were not bullied. When asked what adults could do to make students feel safer at school, nearly two-thirds of children who were frequently bullied and half of children who had not been bullied wanted better adult supervision. Frequently bullied children wanted their teachers to take action by making and enforcing rules, and teaching lessons about how to get along better.

Other studies have shown that bullying can result in health problems and adjustment difficulties that may continue into adulthood. Bullying behavior in childhood has also been linked to antisocial and violent behavior in adulthood. In one study, 60 percent of those characterized as bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by age 24. A U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education study of 37 school shooting incidents from years 1974 - 2000 found that 71 percent of the shooters had felt bullied, threatened, attacked or persecuted.

"Bullying at school can lower a student's academic performance and negatively impact health," said Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Crutcher. "Working to prevent bullying and violence in schools is also an important step toward preventing violence in adulthood."

The Oklahoma Bullying Prevention Act, which was passed in 2002 and amended this year, requires each school to have a policy that addresses bullying prevention and establish a procedure for investigating incidents (§70-24-100.4). Each school is required to have a Safe School Committee to make recommendations to the principal regarding unsafe conditions, bullying, school violence and professional development needs of faculty and staff (§70-24-100.5).