New federal data indicate that the prevalence of bullying at schools is at a record low, the U.S. Department of Education says.
The department's National Center for Education Statistics latest School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey says that in 2012-13, the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 21.5 percent.
That is lower than the percentage reported in every prior survey year in which the information was collected (28 percent each in 2005, 2009, and 2011 and 32 percent in 2007).
"As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially," Education Secretary Arne Duncan says.
The federal government has taken several steps in recent years--such as creating the stopbullying.gov website--to draw attention to the problem of school bullying and reduce its prevalence, the department says.
The statistics indicate that girls are victims of bullying more often than boys--23.7 percent of female students of ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied in 2012-13, compared with 19.5 percent of boys. Sixth grade has the highest percentage of students victimized by bullying: 27.8 percent. The rate falls for seventh (26.4 percent) and eighth grades (21.7 percent), but rises to 23 percent as most students begin their high school years.
Of the 21.5 percent of students who reported being bullied, 67.3 percent said it happened once or twice in the school year, 19.4 percent said it occurred once or twice a month; 7.6 percent said it happened once or twice a week; and 5.7 percent said they were bullied almost every day. Only 38.9 percent of students said they let an adult know they had been bullied.
"Even though we've come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation's children," says Duncan.
The education department categorizes bullying into three types: physical, relational (or social) and verbal. Research shows that students who are bullied are more likely to struggle in school and skip class. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed, and are at higher risk of suicide.