Bullying more likely at schools with anti-bullying programs

By Sheryl Kay • Published: January 3rd, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It really goes against everything that would seem logical. Many schools are working diligently to address issues of bullying, including establishing yearlong programs to help educate students. But new research shows that children who attend schools with anti-bullying programs actually report more bullying than those who attend schools that don’t have such programs.

Recently published in the Journal of Criminology, the report included data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study. The researchers analyzed records from 7,000 students, specifically noting any report of bullying, be it verbal or physical.

The findings showed that while race and ethnicity did not play any part, boys were more likely to report physical altercations, while girls recounted more occurrences of emotional bullying. They also found that older students were less likely to be victims of this abuse than younger student. Bullying was also less common when parents and teachers were involved in day-to-day student affairs.

Although the studies did not address what might specifically encourage a student to pick on others, the fact that bullying happened more at schools with anti-bullying programs left the researchers wondering if perhaps the students were actually learning new bullying techniques from the programs. Another thought? Students exposed to bullying prevention programs might be better schooled at spotting the signs of bullying and more willing to report it.

Regardless, the researchers aren’t encouraging schools to drop their anti-bullying programs. They are, however, encouraging educators to revisit how anti-bullying material is presented and how the follow-up is conducted.

After all, all students have a right to feel safe in school.