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Bullying is rising in schools. How are districts responding?

In December, Pew Research released a survey showing an increase in reported cyberbullying since 2020.
Posted at 8:52 PM, Feb 27, 2023

During the pandemic, research from Harvard shows bullying in schools fell both in-person and online, but new data shows it might be rising again.

In December, Pew Research released a survey showing 46% of students reported experiencing some form of cyberbullying. It is lower than 2018’s total of 59% from the same Pew Research survey but higher than 2020’s total of 40%.

According to the report, the demographic that has consistently seen the most cyberbullying is older teen girls.

During the first week of February, 14-year-old Adrianna Kuch of Bayville, New Jersey, took her own life due to repeated online bullying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 30% of teenage girls have considered doing the same.

“It starts in school. It goes home and gets worse with all the technology and then it spills back over into school, so it’s almost become a 24/7 job as an administrator to get that under control,” said Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder, superintendent of the Somers Point School District, which is located 54 miles south of Bayville. “I really feel very strongly that the combination of COVID and social media has exacerbated what we’re looking at from a school perspective regarding HIB: harassment, intimidation, and bullying than we’ve had in the past.”

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In 2006, CarneyRay-Yoder‘s school district became a Renaissance school district. That means it features a program designed to cultivate teacher and student engagement through pep rallies, energy, and positivity.

Renaissance is just one of many programs set on building positive culture within schools nationwide and watching the results trickle down.

In the first year of its implementation, CarneyRay-Yoder said disciplinary referrals went down by 33% in the Somers Point School District. A national study of the program from 2019 shows that engagement also boosted straight-A students by 4% in the districts it studied.

It follows other research that shows more structured time reduces bullying since most of it happens during recess, lunch, and breaks between classes— when there is less supervision.

“[Renaissance] is giving [students] the opportunity to not only receive rewards and reinforcement for what they’re doing well, but also that they have that connection to the school, the relationships with the adults in the school and classmates, and that they feel like they’re appreciated and that they’re seen and heard and ultimately loved," CarneyRay-Yoder said.

It is a step in helping kids build a culture of acceptance and collaboration so adversaries turn into peers.

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