Special Report

States With the Biggest Bullying Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the national spotlight off many other physical and mental health problems, including childhood bullying. Approximately one in five kids between the ages of 12 and 18 experiences bullying, which the CDC defines as being the subject of unwanted aggressive behavior. That behavior may involve observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or is very likely to be repeated.

The rise in social media usage has likely led to an increase in cyberbullying. While bullying is rarely the primary cause of suicide, peer-on-peer aggression can have serious and long-lasting effects on child development, including experiencing depression, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviors, and even substance abuse later in life. Here are 20 warning signs your child may be getting bullied at school.

The prevalence of bullying varies throughout the U.S. To determine the states with the most reported cases of bullying at school, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the share of high schoolers who were bullied on school property in 2018, the latest year for which data is available, from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Though any child, regardless of background and living situation, can be a victim of bullying, students who identify as LGBTQ as well as children with disabilities, may be at a higher risk. State-level data for these groups was available only in a handful of states and thus were not included in our analysis.

Currently, there is no federal law that directly addresses bullying. In some cases, when bullying is based on race, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity, bullying may constitute harassment and schools may be legally obligated to address it.

A 2015 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that students in states with at least one legislative component recommended by the Department of Education were 24% less likely to report bullying and 20% less likely to report cyberbullying. According to the study, some of the components most likely to reduce the prevalence of bullying include having a description of prohibited behaviors and having requirements for school districts to establish local policies.

Click here for the states with the biggest bullying problem

Methodology

To determine the states with the most reported cases of bullying at school, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the share of high schoolers who were bullied on school property in 2018, the latest year for which data is available, from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Data was available for 43 states. The seven states without available data — Minnesota, Oregon, Delaware, Indiana, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming — were not included in the analysis.

The YRBS question about cyberbullying includes being bullied through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media, during the 12 months before the survey. The question about being bullied on school property also applies to the last 12 months before the survey was taken. High school students were also asked if they had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months before the survey.