Half of all high school students admit to being a bully, according to a new study by the non-profit Josephson Institute of Ethics. The study also finds that 47% of high school students say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. Moreover, one-third of all high school students say that violence is a big problem at their school, and nearly one in four say they do not feel very safe there. The study notes however, the problem is much less pronounced at private schools, where the figures drop to less than 10% in those two categories.
"If the saying, 'sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me' was ever true, it certainly is not so today,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Institute and a national leader and radio commentator on ethical issues. “Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain," Josephson added. "It's not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that's troublesome. The Internet has intensified the injury. What's posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus – there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun."
Yes, guns. Even more unsettling is that fact that 10% of all student surveyed say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past 12 months, and 16% admit they have been intoxicated at school. More than half also confess to hitting someone within the last year because they were upset.
"The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence," said Josephson.
The study comes as the White House set forth new guidelines for educators on how to address the problem of bullying and harassment in schools. Federal officials warn that school administrators risk being cited for contributing to a pattern of civil rights violations that could, in extreme cases, lead to a cut in federal funding, if they fail to properly deal with harassment based on gender, race or other issues.
Last year, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services also joined forces with four other departments to create a federal task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit, bringing together 150 top state, local, civic, and corporate leaders to begin mapping out a national plan to end bullying. The task force also launched a new website, www.bullyinginfo.org, which brings all the federal resources on bullying together in one destination.