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Reports of Bullying in Kentucky's Public Schools Triple in 3 Years

The reported incidents of Kentucky’s public school students accused of bullying, harassing or threatening others has more than tripled since 2012 to 21,015.

The statistic was contained in the preliminary results of a school safety study from the Office of Education Accountability, known as OEA, which was presented on Tuesday to a bipartisan panel of lawmakers exploring ways to make schools safer.

Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) who co-chaired the panel known as the Education Assessment & Accountability Review Subcommittee, asked about reasons for the dramatic increase.

Preliminary results presented to legislators indicate the increase was caused by schools failing to report bullying, harassing and threatening behavior – as required by law – until last school year in addition to increased reporting requirements.

Other preliminary findings include the following:

In 2012, there were a total of 6,782 bullying, harassment and threatening behavior violations reported. This number more than doubled the following year. By 2014 that number had tripled the 2012 number. The numbers started to plateau this past year only increasing by 908 incidents to 21,015.

In 2012, harassment was almost half of the total violations at 49 percent. The following year all types of school violations examined by the OEA more than doubled with the exception of threatening staff.

Beginning in 2014 a new school violation – threatening another student – began to be specifically tracked. That year there were a little over 1,600 incidents of threatening another student reported, or 8 percent of the total violations for that year. Harassment increased the most in 2014, adding about 2,500 more incidents, accounting for 45 percent of the total incidents that year.

This past school year saw the biggest shift in incident types with threatening another student almost doubling from prior years. That category now represents 19 percent of the total violations. Threatening staff was the only other type of school violation that had an increase last school year. It increased 220 to a little more than 4,000 incidents.

Last school year, a little under 6,500 school violations happened in elementary schools. That’s 32 percent of the total violations that year. Fifty-nine percent of those violations were from bullying.

The violations committed by middle school students account for 49 percent of the total violations and account for a little under 10,000 incidents. At the middle school, harassment was the biggest problem with 4,671 incidents reported.

The least amount of violations occurred in high schools with a little over 4,000 total violations. Harassment carried over as the largest problem in those grades with 1,692 violations, or 42 percent.

Retired educator Rep. Linda Belcher (D-Shepherdsville) said the preliminary findings were concerning.

“We all know if we do not have a safe environment, children do not learn well,” she said. “So if we look at this, it kind of bothers me that we have this much going on in our schools.”

Final results of the study are scheduled to be released in 2016.

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