Bullying on the Decline in Region

Bullying on the Decline in Region

Published On: 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bullying remains a prominent national concern due to its harmful effects on young people, but in the Mid-Hudson Valley, statistics suggest it is mostly on the decline.

The number of reported incidents in the region has decreased 40% since 2004, from about 1,900 to less than 1,200. Incidents are down 40% in Dutchess County, 29% in Orange and 49% in Ulster over that time period.

Although long-term impacts of bullying are still being studied, immediate effects are seen on children when bullying and other forms of harassment are not prevented or addressed. These include declines in physical and mental health that affect social interaction and academic performance, even for children who may only witness the bullying and are not directly involved as either the victim or aggressor.[1]

Recognizing the importance of addressing bullying, New York State adopted the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) in 2010. This legislation was aimed at ensuring that all public school students would be able to learn and interact with their peers in an environment free of “discrimination, intimidation, taunting, (and) harassment.” The legislation requires school districts to report the type, location, and nature of all harassment or discrimination incidents and to provide instructional materials for students on bullying and harassment prevention.

Despite the overall declines, there has been a recent increase in Ulster County, largely driven by higher numbers in the Kingston City School District, where reported incidents grew from a low of 114 in 2012 to 279 in 2015.

Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul J. Padalino said the increase in reported incidents is due to more diligent tracking and reporting. The district has committed professional development time to create a district-wide understanding of the reporting system and a common language to describe what constitutes a reportable incident. Staff have also received training in bullying prevention and intervention, including this year’s training on ways to make schools safe for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) students and allies.

“We are always striving to decrease bullying. We now train our support staff, including cafeteria workers and hall monitors, in bullying recognition and awareness,” Padalino said.

Mary Farel, director of Girls Inc. of Ulster and Dutchess Counties, could not say whether bullying itself is increasing but said it seemed to be starting at younger ages. Girls Inc. provides research-based programs in topics such as media literacy, community leadership, STEM, and, increasingly, bullying.  Anti-bullying efforts include a leadership program Girls Inc. recently completed with 4th graders, one component of which teaches girls to be “upstanders” who step in to stop bullying, rather than being bystanders.  Other similar prevention programs are happening elsewhere in the Mid-Hudson Valley.

The landscape for bullying continues to change.  For example, cyber-bullying was created as a separate reporting category in 2013. For more on efforts to reduce bullying, see http://www.StopBullying.gov or the New York State Dignity Act. To read more about the Mid-Hudson Valley’s bullying data, visit our indicator.

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