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Study Finds Bullying Laws Protect Teens When They Include US DOE Guidelines

Study Finds Bullying Laws Protect Teens When They Include US DOE Guidelines
There was good news recently in the campaign to stomp out school bullying: a new JAMA Pediatrics study released this month indicates anti-bullying laws reduce aggression in real life and online.

According to an article from NPR about the study, bullying affects at least one in five US high school students, but anti-bullying laws—especially those complying with US Department of Education guidelines—do make a difference.  

About 15 years ago, there were no anti-bullying laws on the books, but now all 50 states have some form of anti-bullying legislation. Mark Hatzenbuehler, lead author of the study, wanted to address a gap between the flurry of legislation and the lack of research surrounding whether or not the laws effectively reduce bullying. 

Examining data collected from over 60,000 students in 25 states, researchers discovered that when a state’s anti-bullying laws included one or more of 16 components recommended by the Department of Education, students in that state reported bullying 24 percent less in person and 20 percent less online.

The study found that three components of anti-bullying laws were related to decreased bullying:
  • a clear definition of what constitutes bullying behavior
  • a description of when and where the school has the authority to take action against bullying
  • a requirement that schools develop and implement their own policies, in certain instances on a timeline

Hatzenbuehler stressed that understanding which elements of anti-bullying laws were more or less effective has done some set-up work for future studies. "One of the things we really need to understand is which specific components and in which combination are most effective," Hatzenbuehler noted in the article.

The study is an important first step in understanding the effects of anti-bullying laws, but Hatzenbuehler is quick to point out that more research is required on how schools implement laws, because their effectiveness can depend on the strength of implementation.

In future research, Hatzenbuehler is interested in determining whether these laws protect even the most vulnerable school populations, including those who are overweight, in a sexual minority, or living with disabilities.

Are you familiar with anti-bullying laws in your state and how your district or school supports them?

For more great information about bullying prevention, check out our School Bullying Prevention page and these articles:

10 Ways to Help Reduce Bullying in Schools
Teach Kids These 3 Ways to Stop Bullying
Boys Don't Tell on Sugar-and-Spice-but-Not-So-Nice Girl Bullies
 
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