Report: One in four kids who report being bullied in school are targeted based on identity

WASHINGTON D.C. — More than five million public school students report being bullied in school each year, and among those students, one in four said they are bullied based on their identity including race, religion, disability or sexual orientation, according to a new report.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzed national surveys and tens years’ worth of complaints filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) with the U.S. Department of Education.

The findings said bullying ranges from taunting to physical assaults.

Students also reported experiencing hate speech written in schools.

“About one in four of all students aged 12 to 18 saw hate words or symbols written in their schools, such as homophobic slurs and references to lynching,” the report said.

The findings said the bullying is not only student against student, but it can also include staff.

“For example, one school received a complaint that a teacher constantly ridiculed a Hispanic student and taunted him for working at a taco truck (though the student did not),” the report said.

“Those that had training specifically on their anti-bullying policies had less regular bullying than schools that didn’t so I think there are some lessons to be learned there about the types of training that seems to be more effective,” said Jackie Nowicki, a Director with the GAO.

The report said nearly every school used programs or practices to address hostile behaviors.

“The bottom line is that bullying has serious negative effects on all kids who are exposed to it, whether they’re victims, whether they’re observers or whether they’re the bullies themselves,” said Nowicki. “Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, increased criminal convictions and suicide. So, it’s just really important that everyone in school communities work together to continue to try to create a place where all students from all backgrounds and all walks of life feel safe.”

The report said the number of complaints filed with the OCR did drop by 15 percent in the 2019-2020 school year but it also said civil rights expert said in recent years, they have lost confidence in the Department’s ability to address civil rights issues in schools.