Policymakers Can Help Prevent and Respond to Bullying

Be aware that bullying affects a large number of children and youth. The available data indicate that school-based bullying likely affects between 18 and 31 percent of children and youth, and cyber victimization affects between 7 to 15 percent of youth.

Base anti-bullying laws on evidence about their effectiveness. Additional research is needed to determine the specific components of anti-bullying laws that are most effective at reducing bullying, in order to guide legislators who may amend existing laws or create new ones.

Use research to strengthen policy. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the state attorneys general, and local education agencies together should partner with researchers to collect data on the efficacy and implementation of anti-bullying laws and policies; convene an annual meeting to facilitate collaborations between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners; and report research findings on an annual basis to Congress and state legislatures.

Support schools in implementing evidence-based bullying prevention programs. The most effective programs combine elements for all students – such as classroom discussions about bullying – with targeted interventions for students most at risk of being bullied. In addition, teachers and other professionals need a more consistent, intentional, and evidence-based system of training to support their efforts to prevent bullying.

Be aware of what doesn’t work. For example, zero tolerance policies, which use suspension and other harsh penalties, do not appear to be effective, and there is little evidence that they curb bullying or make schools safer.