United States Government Accountability Office GAO Report to Congressional Requesters May 2012 SCHOOL BULLYING Extent of Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups Needs to Be More Fully Assessed GAO-12-349 May 2012 SCHOOL BULLYING Extent of Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups Needs to Be More Fully Assessed Highlights of GAO-12-349, a report to congressional requesters Why GAO Did This Study What GAO Found Millions of youths are estimated to be School bullying is a serious problem, and research shows that it can have subject to bullying in U.S. schools. detrimental outcomes for victims, including adverse psychological and behavioral GAO was asked to address (1) what is outcomes. According to four nationally representative surveys conducted from known about the prevalence of school 2005 to 2009, an estimated 20 to 28 percent of youth, primarily middle and high bullying and its effects on victims, (2) school-aged youths, reported they had been bullied during the survey periods. approaches selected states and local However, differences in definitions and questions posed to youth respondents school districts are taking to combat make it difficult to discern trends and affected groups. For example, the surveys school bullying, (3) legal options did not collect demographic information by sexual orientation or gender identity. federal and selected state The Departments of Education (Education) and Health and Human Services governments have in place when (HHS) are partially addressing the issue of inconsistent definitions by bullying leads to allegations of discrimination, and (4) key federal collaborating with other federal departments and subject matter experts to agencies’ coordination efforts to develop a uniform definition of bullying that can be used for research purposes. combat school bullying. GAO reviewed However, gaps in knowledge about the extent of bullying of youths in key research on the prevalence and effects demographic groups remain. on victims; analyzed state bullying According to Education, as of April 2012, 49 states have adopted school bullying laws, and school district bullying laws. The laws in the 8 states that GAO reviewed vary in who is covered and the policies; and interviewed officials in 8 requirements placed on state agencies and school districts. For example, 6 of the states and 6 school districts. States states cover a mix of different demographic groups, referred to as protected were selected based on various classes, such as race and sex or gender, in their bullying laws, while 2 states do characteristics, including student enrollment, and their definitions of not include any protected classes. With respect to school districts, each of the 6 bullying. Also, GAO reviewed selected districts GAO studied adopted policies that, among other things, prohibit bullying relevant federal and state civil rights and describe the potential consequences for engaging in the behavior. Also, laws, and interviewed officials from school district officials told GAO that they developed approaches to prevent and Education, HHS, and Justice. respond to bullying. For example, several school officials said they implemented a prevention-oriented framework to promote positive school cultures. Both state What GAO Recommends and local officials expressed concerns about various issues, including how best GAO recommends that Education to address incidents that occur outside of school. compile information about state civil Federal civil rights laws can be used to provide protections against bullying in rights laws and procedures that relate certain circumstances, but certain vulnerable groups are not covered and to bullying, and inform complainants therefore have no recourse at the federal level. For example, federal agencies about state legal options; Education, lack jurisdiction under civil rights statutes to pursue discrimination cases based HHS, and Justice develop information solely on socioeconomic status or sexual orientation. While some state civil rights about bullied demographic groups in laws provide protections to victims of bullying that go beyond federal law, federal their surveys; and assess whether complainants whose cases are dismissed for lack of jurisdiction are not always legal protections are adequate for these groups. Education disagreed informed about the possibility of pursuing claims at the state level. with our first recommendation and we Three federal departments—Education, HHS, and the Department of Justice clarified it to address some of their (Justice)—have established coordinated efforts to carry out research and broadly concerns. Education is considering our disseminate information on bullying to the public, including establishment of a second recommendation, agreed with central website and an informational campaign to raise awareness about our third, and provided information on bullying. In addition to these efforts, Education has issued information about how efforts related to the last. HHS agreed federal civil rights laws can be used to address bullying of protected classes of with our recommendations. Justice did youths and is conducting a comprehensive study of state bullying laws and how not provide a written response. selected school districts are implementing them. However, no similar information View GAO-12-349. For more information, is being gathered on state civil rights laws and procedures that could be helpful in contact Linda Calbom at (206) 287-4809 or assessing the adequacy of legal protections against school bullying. firstname.lastname@example.org. United States Government Accountability Office Contents Letter 1 Background 3 Reported Levels of Bullying and Related Effects Are Significant 5 Selected State Legislatures and Educational Agencies Are Taking Various Approaches to Reduce Bullying 10 Federal and State Civil Rights Laws Offer Some Protections against Bullying, but Vulnerable Groups May Not Always Be Covered 16 Coordinated Federal Antibullying Efforts Are Under Way, but Assessment of Legal Remedies Is Incomplete 22 Conclusions 26 Recommendations for Executive Action 27 Agency Comments 28 Appendix I Objectives, Scope, and Methodology 31 Appendix II Comparison of the Definition and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys 36 Appendix III Selected Data on National Prevalence of Youth Who Report Being Bullied in School 38 Appendix IV Selected Data on National Prevalence of Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors 40 Appendix V Coordination Practices of Key Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying 42 Appendix VI Additional Federal Programs and Services Are Available to Combat Bullying 46 Page i GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII Comments from the Department of Education 48 Appendix VIII Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services 56 Appendix IX GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments 58 Tables Table 1: Coverage of Demographic Groups in Federal Surveys of Youth 7 Table 2: Examples of Provisions Commonly Required by State Bullying Laws 13 Table 3: Relevant Federal Civil Rights Laws, Protected Classes, and Agency Enforcement Authority 18 Table 4: Nationally Representative Surveys We Reviewed That Ask about Youths Being Bullied, among Other Topics 32 Table 5: Selected Aspects of the Definition and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys 36 Table 6: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied by Sex in Three National Surveys 38 Table 7: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied by Race/Ethnicity in Three National Surveys 39 Table 8: NCVS SCS 2009: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors 40 Table 9: HBSC 2005/2006: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors 41 Table 10: NatSCEV 2008: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors 41 Table 11: Practices for Key Coordinated Federal Efforts Specifically on Bullying 42 Table 12: Selected Services and Programs That Can Be Used to Support Bullying Prevention 46 Page ii GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Abbreviations ADA Americans with Disabilities Act CCD Common Core of Data CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CRT Civil Rights Division CSN Children’s Safety Network ERIC Education Resources Information Center GLSEN Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network HBSC Health Behavior in School-Aged Children HHS Department of Health and Human Services HRSA Health Resources and Services Administration NatSCEV National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence NCES National Center for Education Statistics NCVS National Crime Victimization Survey NIH National Institutes of Health OCR Office for Civil Rights OJJDP Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention PBIS Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SCS School Crime Supplement SEA state educational agency SS/HS Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative YRBS National Youth Risk Behavior Survey This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. Page iii GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548 May 29, 2012 The Honorable Tom Harkin Chairman Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions United States Senate The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Jr. United States Senate The Honorable Al Franken United States Senate The Honorable Mark Kirk United States Senate It is estimated that millions of American youths have been bullied by their peers, including physical, verbal, and electronic attacks. 1 Some of these incidents, including some where bullying has been linked by the media to teen suicide, have received widespread attention, resulting in heightened awareness of bullying, as well as a wide range of actions at the federal, state, and local levels to address the behavior. Some of these incidents involved bullying based on personal characteristics, including race, religion, or sexual orientation, and have also raised questions about the role and availability of federal and state civil rights protections. Given the dynamic and rapidly changing nature of these efforts, governments at all levels, as well as the public, face a growing need for information about possible legal and practical approaches to combating bullying. In this context, you asked us to address the following questions: 1 For the purposes of this report, we use the term bullying to reflect behavior that is intended to inflict harm, repeated over time, and characterized by an imbalance of power between the perpetrator(s) and victim(s). Some sources refer to similar behavior as harassment, and may use the terms interchangeably. Page 1 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention 1. What is known about the prevalence of school bullying and its effects on victims? 2. What approaches are selected states and local school districts taking to combat school bullying? 3. When bullying leads to allegations of discrimination, what legal options do federal and selected state governments have in place? 4. How are key federal agencies coordinating their efforts to combat school bullying? To identify what is known about the prevalence of school bullying and its effects on victims, we interviewed knowledgeable federal officials, compared estimates and methodologies of four nationally representative surveys that captured information on bullying, and conducted a literature review of meta-analyses on the subject of the effects of bullying on victims. 2 The four surveys focused primarily on middle and high school- aged youths and were conducted by federal statistical agencies from 2005 to 2009. The results of the meta-analyses are not generalizable, but represent a systematic approach to summarizing or analyzing findings across studies included in the meta-analyses. To describe approaches that selected states and local school districts are taking, we reviewed relevant state bullying laws, regulations, guidance, and documents from eight selected states and conducted interviews with state education officials. We selected eight states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia—based on the following criteria: Each has bullying laws or regulations, and they vary with respect to bullying definitions and enumeration of protected classes, geographic variation, and student enrollment. Further, we selected three states—New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia, which vary on the characteristics listed above—to review policies and guidance of six local school districts, two in each state. School districts and schools were selected to reflect a range of size and urbanicity (urban, suburban, and rural), as well as racial and socioeconomic diversity. Participation in the National School Lunch Program is used as a proxy for socioeconomic status. In these school districts, we conducted interviews with central administrators, principals, school staff, and parents. To identify legal 2 Meta-analyses are reviews that analyze other studies and synthesize their findings, usually through quantitative methods. Page 2 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention options that federal and selected state governments have in place when bullying leads to allegations of discrimination, we reviewed relevant federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as state anti-discrimination laws for the eight states included for review. We also conducted interviews with officials in the Departments of Education (Education) and Justice (Justice), as well as with state education and civil rights officials, on anti- discrimination laws and complaint processes. Last, to identify coordination of efforts of key federal agencies to combat school bullying, we conducted interviews and reviewed documents from three federal departments: Education, Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). We analyzed coordination of efforts based on our professional judgment and relevance of selected key practices that we have previously identified as effective coordination practices. 3 We conducted this performance audit from April 2011 through May 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. These standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. For more information on our scope and methodology, see appendix I. Although definitions vary, including definitions used by federal agencies, Background many experts generally agree that bullying involves intent to cause harm, repetition, and an imbalance of power. The pioneering research of Dr. Dan Olweus in Norway has defined being bullied or victimized as when a student “is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other youths” with an intent to harm. 4 Notably, bullying is distinct from general conflict or aggression, which can occur absent an imbalance of power or repetition. For example, a single fight between two youths of roughly equal power is a form of aggression, but may not be bullying. When bullying occurs it may take many forms that can also be associated with conflict or aggression, including physical 3 GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005). 4 Dan Olweus, “Annotation: Bullying at School: Basic Facts and Effects of a School Based Intervention Program,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 35, no. 7 (1994). Page 3 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention harm, such as hitting, shoving, or locking inside a school locker; verbal name calling, taunts, or threats; relational attacks, such as spreading rumors or isolating victims from their peers; and the use of computers or cell phones to convey harmful words or images, also referred to as cyberbullying. Often bullying occurs without apparent provocation and may be based on the victim’s personal characteristics. For example, youth may be bullied based on the way they look, dress, speak, or act. There are several federal efforts under way to bring together federal resources that can be used to identify and address bullying. In particular, given their focus on education, health, and safety issues, Education, HHS, and Justice, along with other federal agencies, have been involved in efforts to help coordinate federal resources to identify and address bullying. Additionally, several bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress that relate to bullying. 5 Among the various issues addressed in these bills are bullying policies, the collection and reporting of bullying data, and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Some of the bills would authorize federal grants to states and school districts for antibullying-related purposes. Although there is not presently a federal law directly targeted to address school bullying, several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on protected characteristics of individuals may, under certain circumstances, be used to address particular incidents of bullying. 6 With respect to states’ efforts to address bullying, Education commissioned a two-part study that examines the elements of state bullying laws and the manner in which school districts are implementing the laws. The first part of Education’s study, issued in December 2011, included a review of all state bullying laws and model policies in effect as of April 2011, including those of the eight states we reviewed, as well as policies from 20 large school districts. The second part of Education’s study is scheduled for completion during fall 2012. It will include case 5 See, for example, S. 506 and H.R. 1648, the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011; S. 540 and H.R. 1048, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2011; S. 555 and H.R. 998, the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011; S. 919, the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act of 2011; H.R. 83, the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2011; and H.R. 975, the Anti-Bullying and Harassment Act of 2011. 6 Throughout this report we use the terms “civil rights laws” and “anti-discrimination laws” interchangeably. Page 4 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention studies of how 24 schools, selected from four states, implement their states’ bullying laws. Reported Levels of Bullying and Related Effects Are Significant Federal Survey Data Being bullied is a serious problem, as evidenced by four federally sponsored nationally representative surveys conducted from 2005 to 2009. Estimates of the national prevalence of bullying ranged from approximately 20 to 28 percent of youth reporting they had been bullied during the survey periods, which ranged from a couple of months to a year. 7 However, differences in definitions and survey methods make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions regarding trends and affected demographic groups. Our analysis and similar work from HHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the sponsors of two of the surveys, showed that the surveys vary in the way they pose questions about being bullied and how bullying is defined, if at all. 8 Officials at Education, the sponsor of one of the surveys, and HHS also told us that different survey questions and definitions of bullying lead to different results in estimates of prevalence. While it is clear that bullying is a serious problem, it is unclear from the surveys the extent to which bullying affects certain groups of youths relative to other groups. Specifically, the surveys collected information on the percentage of youths bullied based on gender and race. However, the information showed varying results. For example, there was no significant difference in the percentage of boys and girls that reported being bullied, 7 These estimates have a 95 percent confidence interval of within plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. 8 CDC officials have documented the differences in the four nationally representative surveys, including estimates of prevalence, definitions and questions about bullying, and other differences in how the four surveys measure bullying. CDC, as part of a federal interdepartmental coordinating committee on bullying and its subcommittee on research, developed an analysis for internal purposes comparing the four surveys. According to CDC officials, the agency plans to post relevant information based on this analysis on its public website in the next few months. They added that CDC currently posts and updates some prevalence information on its public website on a fact sheet about bullying. Page 5 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention according to two surveys, while one noted that girls were bullied at a higher percentage. In two of the three surveys, white youths reported being bullied at a higher percentage than African-American youths, while one other survey found no significant difference. In addition, the four national surveys we identified did not consistently collect information about other demographic characteristics, making it impossible to determine percentages of bullying for these groups. 9 For example, none of the surveys collected demographic information for youths by sexual orientation or gender identity. 10 Researchers noted various challenges to obtaining such information, such as some schools may not permit questions on sexual orientation or gender identity status, potentially resulting in a sample that would not be nationally representative. Also, questions about sexual orientation or gender identity may be sensitive for youth respondents to complete, and researchers noted that such questions may not yield accurate information. Additionally, the surveys varied in whether or not they collected demographic information to allow for analysis based on religion, disability, or socioeconomic status, and two of the surveys did not include any questions asking specifically if youths had been bullied based on specific demographic characteristics. (See table 1.) 9 The National Crime Victimization Survey, School Crime Supplement 2009, asks youths about hate-related words directed at students based on their sexual orientation. 10 According to a 2011 publication of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, gender identity refers to one’s sense of gender (such as male or female or another gender such as transgender), whether or not associated with a person’s sex at birth. Page 6 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Table 1: Coverage of Demographic Groups in Federal Surveys of Youth National Crime National Survey of National Youth Victimization Survey Health Behavior in Children’s Risk Behavior (NCVS), School Crime School-aged Exposure to Survey (YRBS) Supplement (SCS) Children (HBSC) Violence a 2009 2009 2005/2006 (NatSCEV) 2008 Survey collected demographic information that allows for analysis to determine if differences in bullying exist between different demographic groups. Sex yes yes yes yes Race/ethnicity yes yes yes yes Religion no no no no b Disability no no no yes b Sexual orientation no no no no b Gender identity no no no no Socioeconomic status no yes yes yes Survey included question(s) that specifically ask about bullying based on the following demographic characteristics Sex no yes yes no Race/ethnicity no yes yes no Religion no yes yes no Disability no yes no no Sexual orientation no yes no no Gender identity no no no no Socioeconomic status no no no no Source: GAO analysis of surveys. Note: See appendixes I through IV for more information on the four surveys. a Includes “hate-related” speech as form of bullying. b The YRBS includes optional questions about disability, sexual identity, and sexual contacts that state and school districts may choose to use. While federal agencies have not collected information on some demographic groups, other researchers have attempted to fill the void. For example, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducted a survey in the 2008-2009 school year and received responses from more than 7,000 students between the ages of 13 and 21 Page 7 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention who self-reported as not heterosexual. 11 Although not nationally representative, the results found, among other things, that 85 percent of students who responded to the survey said they were called names or threatened at some point in the past school year based on their sexual orientation, and 64 percent based on their gender expression; for example, for not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”. 12 Forty percent of students who responded said they were pushed or shoved based on their sexual orientation, and 27 percent based on their gender expression. 13 In addition to the fact that there are voids in information about demographic groups, Education and HHS officials said that researchers need a uniform definition to measure bullying. To better understand the prevalence of bullying, and given the different definitions used by bullying research instruments, CDC is leading an interdepartmental project to develop a uniform definition of bullying for research purposes. According to CDC officials, a report is expected to be issued in 2012 that contains a uniform definition along with information on other data elements to measure bullying, such as the frequency or types of bullying behavior. According to CDC, the project on the uniform definition is still under review, but may contain data elements for a number of demographic characteristics, including sex, race, ethnicity, disability status, religion, and sexual orientation. Negative Outcomes from Research, spanning more than a decade, has demonstrated that bullying Bullying is associated with a variety of negative outcomes for victims, including psychological, physical, academic, and behavioral issues. 14 For example, 11 GLSEN used two approaches to invite lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students to participate in the survey: outreach through community-based groups serving LGBT youth and outreach via the Internet. 12 According to another publication by GLSEN, “gender expression” refers to how one appears and acts, which are socially defined as masculine or feminine. 13 Joseph G. Kosciw et al., “The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools.” Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network: 2010. Available at http://www.glsen.org/cgi- bin/iowa/all/library/record/2624.html?state=research&type=research, last accessed May 22, 2012. 14 Some of the meta-analyses may refer to peer victimization. According to Education and HHS officials, peer victimization has substantial overlap with bullying. Page 8 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention a 2000 analysis of 23 bullying research studies found that youth who were bullied experienced higher levels of depression, loneliness, low self- esteem, and anxiety than their peers who had not been bullied. 15 Similarly, a 2010 analysis of 18 research studies found that being bullied was linked to increased psychological issues later in life. 16 A third analysis, of 20 studies, published in 2011, found that being bullied was associated with greater likelihood of being depressed later in life. 17 A 2009 analysis of 11 research studies found that bullying victims had a higher risk for such physical health outcomes as headaches, backaches, sleeping problems, and bad appetite, as compared with their peers who had not been bullied. 18 Additionally, a 2010 analysis of 33 research studies on bullying and academic achievement found that bullying is related to concurrent academic difficulties for victims. Academic achievement was assessed based on such measures as grade point averages, standardized test scores, or teacher ratings of academic achievement. 19 Researchers have also linked bullying to increases in behavioral problems for victims over time, such as aggression, delinquency, and truancy. 20 15 David S. J. Hawker and Michael J. Boulton, “Twenty Years’ Research on Peer Victimization and Psychosocial Maladjustment: A Meta-analytic Review of Cross-sectional Studies.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 41, no. 4 (2000). 16 Albert Reijntjes et al., “Peer Victimization and Internalizing Problems in Children: A Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies.” International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 34 (2010). 17 Maria M. Ttofi et al., “Do the Victims of School Bullies Tend to Become Depressed Later in Life? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies.” Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 3, no. 2 (2011). 18 Gianluca Gini and Tiziana Pozzoli, “Association Between Bullying and Psychosomatic Problems: A Meta-analysis,” Pediatrics, vol. 123, no. 3 (2009). 19 Jonathan Nakamoto and David Schwartz, “Is Peer Victimization Associated with Academic Achievement? A Meta-analytic Review.” Social Development, vol. 19, no. 2 (2010). 20 Albert Reijntjes et al., “Prospective Linkages Between Peer Victimization and Externalizing Problems in Children: A Meta-analysis,” Aggressive Behavior, vol. 37, no. 3 (2011). According to the authors, “[p]eer victimization can take various forms, including teasing, deliberate exclusion, being the target of malicious gossip, and experiencing physical threats or violence.” Page 9 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention While researchers point out that the causes of suicide and violence are varied and complex, bullying has been identified as one risk factor associated with violent actions against oneself and others. For example, one 2011 analysis of 18 studies found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth were more likely to be verbally harassed and teased or physically and sexually victimized than heterosexual youth, and more likely to experience detrimental outcomes, such as suicidal thoughts and attempts. 21 According to a federally sponsored website on bullying, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian-American, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. Their risk of suicide can be increased further by bullying. Bullying has also been linked to acts of violence against others. For example, a 2002 study by Education and the Secret Service reviewed 37 incidents of school attacks and shootings occurring between 1974 and the end of the 2000 school year, and reported out 10 key findings that could be used to develop strategies to address targeted school violence. One of those 10 findings was that nearly three-quarters of attackers were bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack, and that in several cases the bullying was severe and long-standing. 22 Selected State Legislatures and Educational Agencies Are Taking Various Approaches to Reduce Bullying State Laws Vary in How According to Education, 49 states had school bullying laws as of April They Address Bullying 2012, including the 8 states that we reviewed. These 8 states’ laws vary 21 Alicia L. Fedewa and Soyeon Ahn, “The Effects of Bullying and Peer Victimization on Sexual-Minority and Heterosexual Youths: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis of the Literature,” Journal of GLBT Family Studies, vol. 7, no. 4 (2011). 22 United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States” (Washington, D.C.: May 2002). Page 10 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention in several ways, including who is covered and the requirements placed on state agencies and school districts. 23 For example, the 8 states’ laws that we reviewed vary in whether and the extent to which they cover specific demographic groups, referred to as protected classes. Five states— Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont—identify race, color, sex or gender, national origin or nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion as protected classes. 24 California includes all of these groups, except for color. Some states also prohibit bullying of other protected classes. For example, Illinois also includes as protected classes ancestry, age, and marital status. Virginia and Massachusetts do not include protected classes in their state bullying laws. According to Massachusetts officials, protected classes were intentionally omitted from the state’s law to ensure that all youths were equally protected. Within Massachusetts’ state educational agency (SEA), a specific office is designated to receive complaints, including from youths who have been bullied for any reason, such as obesity or socioeconomic status. Additionally, four of the states that identify protected classes—Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, and New Mexico—provide that the list of classes is not exhaustive, so protection can be afforded to youths with characteristics not explicitly listed. For example, Iowa prohibits bullying “based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student.” 25 In contrast, California’s bullying law is more exclusive and limits protection to only those groups that are listed in the law. 23 For the sake of simplicity, we refer to bullying laws throughout this section of the report. Such references, unless specified otherwise, are meant to broadly encompass such state provisions, whether they are found in state laws or regulations, and whether the state uses the terms “bullying,” “harassment,” or both. Vermont officials stressed to us that much of our discussion of their bullying laws applies to the provisions using the term “harassment,” which specify protected categories of students, as opposed to provisions using the term “bullying,” which do not specify protected classes. The bullying laws we reviewed include the following (with the relevant state in parentheses): Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514 (Arkansas); Cal. Educ. Code §§ 201, 234.1, 234.3, 32261, 32270, 32280, 32281, 32282, 48900, and 48900.4, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 5, § 4910 (California); 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/10- 20.14 and 5/27-23.7 (Illinois); Iowa Code §§ 280.12 and 280.28 (Iowa); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, §§ 37H and 37O (Massachusetts); N.M. Stat. Ann. § 22-2-21, N.M. Admin. Code tit. 6, §§ 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 (New Mexico); Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 16, §§ 11, 14, 164, 165, 565, and 1161a (Vermont); Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-279.6 (Virginia). 24 While New Mexico’s law does not explicitly include gender identity, it does include sexual orientation, and according to a state official, these concepts were intended to be closely aligned. 25 Iowa Code § 280.28(2)(b). Page 11 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention We also found that state laws impose various requirements on SEAs. For example, laws in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia require that SEAs develop model bullying policies as a resource for school districts. 26 Also, we found that while SEAs in Arkansas, California, and Illinois are required by law to review or monitor school district’s bullying policies, the approach taken to do so is different from state to state. 27 For example, officials in Arkansas reported that as part of a broader effort to ensure that school districts’ policies align with federal and state laws, they conduct on-site reviews every 4 years, and require school districts to forward information to the Department of Education for review every year, including information about discipline and bullying policies. Conversely, an Illinois official reported that little meaningful oversight is occurring, in part because of resource constraints. In each of the states we reviewed, the laws require school districts to adopt bullying policies or plans, but the states differed in the specific requirements of what must be included in these policies or plans. 28 For example, of the 8 states’ laws we reviewed, 6 states require school districts to set forth a process for receiving and investigating complaints, and 2 do not. Similarly, we found that 6 states’ laws require district policies to identify the consequences for bullies, while 2 do not. Table 2 provides information about commonly required school district provisions in state bullying laws. 26 Model policies may be used by local school districts as a guide in developing their policies, and may include procedures for reporting and investigating bullying behavior. While not required to do so by law, SEAs in Iowa and New Mexico also make model bullying policies available to school districts. 27 Massachusetts and Vermont officials reported that they also review district policies, although not required by law to do so. Iowa officials review district policies as part of the state’s school accreditation process. New Mexico officials checked to ensure that school districts had policies. 28 More broadly, Education’s review of state bullying laws found that 39 states require school districts’ policies to contain clear prohibitions against bullying. Page 12 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Table 2: Examples of Provisions Commonly Required by State Bullying Laws Notification of Consequences for Require that school Process for Complainant will policy to engaging in bullying employees report receiving and be protected from parents and behavior must be incidents or that schools investigating retaliation or youths articulated have reporting procedures complaints reprisal a Arkansas X X X X X California X X X Illinois X X Iowa X X X X X Massachusetts X X X X X New Mexico X X X X X Vermont X X X X X Virginia X X Source: GAO review of relevant state bullying laws and regulations for the 8 states included in our review. a School district policies must require notice of what constitutes bullying, that bullying is prohibited, and the consequences of bullying be provided. Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-514(e)(2)(G). States are also making changes to their bullying laws, as evidenced by 4 of our 8 selected states amending or enacting bullying laws since we began our study in the spring of 2011. 29 For example, Arkansas, among other things, amended its law to include protected classes based on actual or perceived characteristics. Vermont amended its law to include protections against cyberbullying and incidents that do not occur during the school day on school property, or at school-sponsored events. Selected School Districts’ The six school districts we reviewed in New Mexico, Virginia, and Antibullying Policies and Vermont have all adopted policies, plans, or rules, and implemented a Programs range of approaches, to combat bullying. Among other components of the bullying policies and rules, each prohibits bullying and describes potential consequences for the behavior. Also, the school districts in New Mexico and Vermont developed policies and procedures covering the reporting and investigation of bullying behavior. School district officials explained that they have developed several approaches to prevent and respond to bullying. For example, in five of the six school districts we visited, central administrators or principals said 29 These states are Arkansas, California, New Mexico, and Vermont. Page 13 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention they conduct student surveys that include questions about bullying to determine the prevalence of the behavior, and two administrators said the surveys are used to develop strategies to address the behavior. Also, officials from four of the six school districts said that several or all of their schools utilize the prevention-oriented framework Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to improve overall behavior in schools (see text box). 30 Additionally, several school districts and schools use curricula that help youths develop interpersonal skills and manage their emotions, such as Second Step, a classroom-based social skills program for youths 4 to 14 years of age, and Steps to Respect, a bullying prevention program developed for grades three through six. Several central administrators and principals mentioned that antibullying-focused events have been held at their schools, such as Rachel’s Challenge and Ryan’s Story. Rachel’s Challenge is a program that seeks to create a positive culture change in schools and communities and begins with video/audio footage of Rachel Scott, the first person killed during the 1999 Columbine High School incident. Ryan’s Story is a presentation that recounts the factors that led to the 2003 suicide of Ryan Halligan, a victim of both bullying and cyberbullying. 30 PBIS is used by educators to improve overall school environments. PBIS’ focus on improving behavior, teaching social skills, and supporting academic achievement can help reduce bullying behavior. Page 14 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework utilizes evidence-based, prevention-oriented practices and systems to promote positive and effective classroom and school social cultures. According to Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, PBIS steps to addressing bullying behavior at school include the following: • examining discipline data to determine, for example, the frequency, location, and timing of specific bullying behaviors; • examining the extent to which staff members have, for example, actively and positively supervised all students across all school settings, had high rates of positive interactions and contact with all students, and arranged their instruction so all students are actively engaged, successful, and challenged ; and • teaching students and staff common strategies for preventing and responding to bullying behavior, such as intervening and responding early and quickly to interrupt bullying behavior, removing what triggers and maintains bullying behavior, and reporting and recording when a bullying behavior incident occurs. Students whose bullying behavior does not improve are considered for additional supports. For example, on the basis of the function of a student’s behavior, students would (1) begin the day with a check-in or reminder about the daily expectations; (2) be more overtly and actively supervised; (3) receive more frequent, regular, and positive performance feedback each day; and (4) conclude each day with a checkout or debriefing with an adult. Source: National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports. In addition to mentioning efforts focused on youths, several central administrators and principals said that teachers receive some bullying prevention guidance or training. Information about bullying prevention is also shared with parents during workshops and forums. For example, one official mentioned that Rachel’s Challenge includes a session with parents and community leaders. A parent said that his school district hosted a national speaker to share information with parents about bullying. State and Local Officials Both state and local officials expressed concerns about various issues Cited Concerns That associated with implementing state bullying laws, regulations, and local Hinder Antibullying Efforts policies and codes of conduct. For example, administrators and principals reported that determining how to respond to out-of-school incidents, such as cyberbullying, is challenging. Administrators and principals said that sometimes they are not informed of incidents in a timely manner, resulting in a delayed response. Additionally, some parents discourage school officials’ involvement in out-of-school incidents. However, administrators and principals agreed that when out-of-school incidents affect school climate, the behavior has to be addressed. Another issue of concern for both state and local officials is that parents and youths can confuse conflict with bullying. According to the state and local officials that we spoke with, they spend a lot of time on nonbullying Page 15 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention behavior and more could be done to educate parents and youths on the distinction between bullying behavior and other forms of conflict. On a related matter, state and local officials said that it is important to train teachers and staff to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying behavior. However, according to these officials, because of state budget cuts and the elimination of some federal funding that could be used for bullying prevention activities, there is little funding available for training. State officials specifically cited the loss of funding from Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, which among other things could be used to prevent violence in and around schools. According to federal officials, funding for this program was eliminated in 2009. Federal and State Civil Rights Laws Offer Some Protections against Bullying, but Vulnerable Groups May Not Always Be Covered Federal Civil Rights When bullying rises to the level of discrimination, federal civil rights laws Protections may be used to provide redress to individuals in legally protected groups. Federal civil rights laws protect against discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, or disability. However, federal agencies generally lack jurisdiction to address discrimination based on classifications not protected under federal civil rights statutes. For example, federal agencies lack authority to pursue discrimination cases based solely on sexual orientation. Additionally, federal civil rights laws do not cover all youths in all educational settings, and as a result, where a student goes to school could affect the student’s ability to file a claim of discrimination with the federal government. For example, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Page 16 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention (Title IV) prohibits discrimination in public schools and institutions of higher learning. 31 Since Title IV is the only federal civil rights law addressing religious discrimination in educational settings, only youths at public schools and public institutions of higher learning, where Title IV applies, could file such a claim. Youths who attend public schools or other schools receiving federal education funding and who belong to other federally protected classes may have the option to file a complaint with Education, Justice, or both departments, depending on which agency has enforcement authority. 32 See table 3 for the relevant federal civil rights laws, protected classes, and agency enforcement authority. 31 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000c, 2000c-6. 32 Persons in protected classes who have been bullied or harassed and believe they are victims of discrimination may be able to file a complaint with Education or Justice. According to Education officials, their department investigates all complaints it receives for which it has jurisdiction. Justice officials stated that because they have far fewer staff than Education, they must use their available resources in a targeted way. According to Justice officials, the department is not statutorily required to investigate every complaint and thus evaluates complaints they receive to identify those that involve pressing matters or novel legal questions requiring government involvement. When either an Education or Justice investigation determines that civil rights violations have occurred, they first try to work with the institution to develop a voluntary resolution—Education through resolution agreements and Justice through negotiated settlements. When Justice enters into a settlement agreement, it can do so in conjunction with or following the filing of a complaint in federal court, or the settlement can be entered into out of court. Resolution agreements and settlements may require that, among other things, school districts revise their policies and publicize them to schools and communities, conduct training of staff and students, and/or collect and report data. In instances where resolution agreements and settlements are not reached or complaints are not otherwise resolved, Justice could engage in litigation in federal court. According to Education officials, since they have a high level of voluntary compliance, they generally do not need to refer complaints to Justice for litigation. As an alternative to initiating litigation, Justice may also intervene in a private lawsuit or file amicus briefs on behalf of the United States. Page 17 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Table 3: Relevant Federal Civil Rights Laws, Protected Classes, and Agency Enforcement Authority Agency with Protected enforcement class Applicable federal law Settings where discrimination is prohibited authority Sex Title IX of the Education Amendments of Education programs and activities receiving Education and Justice a 1972 (Title IX) federal financial assistance. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title Public schools and public institutions of higher Justice b IV) learning. Race, color, or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title Programs and activities receiving federal Education and Justice c national origin VI) financial assistance. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title Public schools and public institutions of higher Justice b IV) learning. Religion Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title Public schools and public institutions of higher Justice b IV) learning. Disability Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of Programs and activities receiving federal Education and Justice d 1973 (section 504) financial assistance or conducted by an executive agency (such as Education). Titles II and III of the Americans with Title II prohibits discrimination by public entities, Education (Title II) e Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) including public schools. Title III prohibits and Justice (Titles II discrimination by places of public and III) accommodation, including private schools. Source: GAO analysis of relevant federal laws and information from Education and Justice. a 20.U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. b 42 U.S.C. § 2000c et seq. c 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. d 29 U.S.C. § 794. e Title II: 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; Title III: 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. In addition to those groups explicitly enumerated in federal civil rights laws, protections have been applied to other classes of youth in some situations. For example, Titles IV and IX, which prohibit discrimination based on sex, have been interpreted, in certain circumstances, to apply to discrimination based on gender identity. However, Titles IV and IX have not been used to address discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. Justice officials explained that youths who are discriminated against based on gender identity are generally protected under Titles IV and IX, as discrimination based on gender identity is a form of sex discrimination. They explained that sexual orientation, on the other hand, is not covered under Titles IV or IX. According to Education and Justice officials and some court decisions, however, youths bullied on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation may have some protection under Page 18 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Titles IV and IX if there is overlapping gender-based discrimination. 33 For example, in Montgomery v. Independent School District No. 709, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota addressed the issue of sexual orientation discrimination in the Title IX context. 34 In Montgomery, a male student claimed that he was verbally and physically abused by other youths because he did not meet their stereotyped expectations of masculinity and because they perceived him to be gay. The court held that the student’s claim of sexual orientation discrimination was not actionable under Title IX because sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic under Title IX. 35 On the other hand, however, the court found that a discrimination claim based on a failure to meet gender stereotypes was permissible under Title IX. 36 Little is known about the extent to which students belonging to various demographic groups not covered by federal civil rights laws are being discriminated against because they either do not file claims or, when they file claims, information about those claims is not routinely collected or tracked. Victims of bullying who are members of a protected class and feel that they have been discriminated against can generally file a complaint with Education or Justice. According to Education’s guidance, individuals must generally file complaints with Education within 180 days of the latest incident, whereas no time limitations apply for filing complaints with Justice. 37 Education and Justice differ in their approaches to processing complaints and levels of staff resources to investigate complaints of discrimination. In general, Education resolves complaints through a formal administrative process, and while both Education and Justice investigate complaints, Justice negotiates and, if necessary, litigates in federal courts. According to Education and Justice officials, an important difference in their approaches to handling discrimination 33 According to Justice officials, all students, including LGBT students, are protected from gender-based discrimination, including discrimination based on gender stereotypes. 34 109 F. Supp. 2d 1081 (2000). 35 Id. at 1090. 36 Id. at 1092. 37 According to OCR’s case processing manual, a complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by Education’s Office for Civil Rights for good cause shown under certain circumstances. Page 19 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention complaints is partly due to Education’s greater staff resources. Education’s Office for Civil Rights has roughly 400 staff, and Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section, has about 20 attorneys. According to departmental officials, Education investigates all complaints it receives for which it has jurisdiction. Conversely, Justice selects a limited number of complaints to review based on such factors as the severity of the complaint and whether the federal government has a special interest in the case. Additionally, officials from Education and Justice told us that they collaborate closely. Generally, Justice and Education share information about complaints because they may have overlapping jurisdiction, and try to coordinate efforts where feasible. Education and Justice do not currently have a systematic approach for tracking information about the number of cases related to various demographic groups that they do not have jurisdiction to address. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a 2011 report on the protections of federal anti-discrimination laws relating to school bullying, recommended that Justice and Education, among other things, track dismissed civil rights claims by various demographic characteristics. However, Education and Justice officials told us that as part of their complaint review processes, they focus on collecting information to establish federal jurisdiction, and as a result neither department collects information in a way that would allow them to routinely assess the demographic characteristics of cases where they lack jurisdiction. Thus, they do not plan to address the commission’s recommendation. Additionally, according to officials from both departments, attempting to track such information would be problematic because of difficulties in ascertaining demographic information. They also believe the information could be misleading. According to Justice officials, they dedicate significant resources to outreach designed to educate communities on their jurisdiction, and this may impact the number of complaints they receive from demographic groups that fall outside of their jurisdiction. State Civil Rights We found that some states’ civil rights laws extend beyond the Protections protections afforded at the federal level, but information about the possibility of pursuing claims at the state level was not always provided to federal complainants. For all eight states we reviewed, state anti- discrimination laws, like federal civil rights laws, provide protections for individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of sex, race, Page 20 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention national origin, religion, and disability, and in all but Arkansas, color. 38 Thus, in these eight states, for these protected classes, legal action can generally be taken at the federal, state, or both levels. The majority of the eight states that we reviewed include in their anti- discrimination laws protections for various groups of people who are not explicitly covered at the federal level. For example, six of the eight states we reviewed prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, 39 and five of the eight states prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 40 Beyond these protected classes, most states we reviewed also prohibit discrimination on the basis of other personal characteristics, such as marital status. California is unique among the states in our review in that its anti-discrimination laws explicitly protect individuals on the basis of citizenship, gender-related appearance and behavior, and individuals who are associated with a person with (or perceived to have) a protected characteristic. 41 However, because some characteristics are not explicitly protected under anti-discrimination laws at either the federal level or in the states we reviewed, youths in these states who are bullied on the basis of one of these characteristics would have no recourse under civil rights law at either level. For example, state education and civil rights officials mentioned that anti-discrimination laws generally do not apply to youths who were bullied based on their socioeconomic status or obesity. Education officials told us they sometimes provide information on state civil rights laws to complainants on an informal basis, but not as a matter of routine. For example, these officials said that a federal complainant 38 The state civil rights laws we reviewed include the following (with the relevant state in parentheses): Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-123-101 through 16-123-108 (Arkansas); Cal. Educ. Code §§ 200 et seq., 210 et seq., 220 et seq., and 260 et seq. (California); 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-102, 5/5A-102, and 5/1-103 (Illinois); Iowa Code § 216.9 (Iowa); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, § 5, ch. 71B, § 2 (Massachusetts); N.M. Stat. Ann. § 28-1-1 et seq. (New Mexico); Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4500-4507 (Vermont); Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3900 et seq. (Virginia). In some of the states these laws apply only in the education context, while in others they apply more broadly. We only analyzed these laws in the education context, and make no assessment of how they might apply in other areas. 39 The six states are California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Vermont. 40 The five states are California, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont. In addition, Massachusetts recently passed a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, and that law will take effect in July 2012. 41 Cal. Ed. Code §§ 210 et seq., 220. Page 21 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention who withdraws his or her complaint may be informed in a phone discussion about legal options at the state level. Also, officials said that if a complaint reaches the stage of a dismissal, Education’s letter to the complainant sometimes suggests that the claimant might have a claim under state civil rights law, along with the name and address of the relevant state agency. However, according to Education officials, when the agency lacks jurisdiction, it does not presently notify complainants about the availability of possible recourse under state law on a routine basis. As a result, individuals who file complaints with Education may not be fully aware of their legal options. On the other hand, according to Justice officials, department officials routinely share with complainants that they may have legal options available to them through their state’s civil rights laws. While not specific to particular states and their laws, Justice provides a general notification in letters to complainants for complaints they do not pursue. Coordinated Federal Antibullying Efforts Are Under Way, but Assessment of Legal Remedies Is Incomplete Federal Coordination Education, HHS, and Justice have established coordinated efforts to carry Efforts out research and broadly disseminate information on bullying. Education has also provided key information about how federal civil rights laws can be used to address bullying and is conducting a study of state bullying laws and how selected school districts are addressing bullying. Three federal efforts, in particular—formation of a coordinating committee, establishment of a central website, and an informational campaign—have provided the public with a range of information about bullying, through a variety of media. Coordinating Committee to The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee serves Promote Collaboration on as a forum for federal agencies to develop and share information with Bullying across the Federal each other and the public. The committee was created in 2009 and is Government composed of the Departments of Education, HHS, Justice, Agriculture, Page 22 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Defense, and Interior, along with the Federal Trade Commission, the National Council on Disability, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Among other activities, the coordinating committee helped to plan a conference on bullying in March 2011 hosted by the White House, as well as annual conferences of the coordinating committee in August 2010 and September 2011. Following each annual conference, the committee has developed priorities and formed subcommittees to address those priorities. For example, after identifying a need for better coordination of bullying research, a research subcommittee was created after the August 2010 conference. Following the September 2011 conference, this subcommittee’s activities in the upcoming year will also include identifying best practices for training teachers as well as drawing attention to programs that could help youths develop interpersonal skills and manage their emotions. Central Website to Provide The three federal departments, along with the White House, established a Consistent Federal Information central federal website (www.stopbullying.gov, last accessed May 22, to the Public 2012), launched in March 2011 at the White House conference on bullying. The central website sought to consolidate the content of different federal sites into one location to provide free materials for the public. Hosted by HHS, with content and technical support from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the website aims to present a consistent federal message and features content arranged by target audience, such as teens, along with sections on special topics such as cyberbullying. Informational Campaign to HHS through HRSA launched the informational campaign called Stop Raise Awareness about Bullying Now! in 2004. Federal departments outside HHS that assist with Bullying the campaign include the Departments of Education, Justice, Agriculture, Defense, and Interior. The campaign is designed for youth and adults to raise awareness, foster partnerships, and disseminate evidence-based findings to help prevent and intervene in instances of bullying. The informational campaign offers a variety of free materials, including a DVD with 14 cartoon episodes, 30 tip sheets based on research and evidence- based practices, public service announcements, posters, brochures, comic books, and kits for youth leaders and adults. According to data from HRSA as of August 2011, recipients of materials in mass mailings included, among others, all 66,000 public elementary and middle schools in the country, 17,000 libraries, relevant state health and education agencies, offices serving Indian and military youth, 4,000 Boys and Girls Clubs, relevant state health and education agencies, schools on military bases worldwide, and offices serving American Indian youth. (See app. V for more information on the campaign.) However, according to HHS Page 23 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention officials, the campaign and its online content are currently in a period of transition, as they adapt to the new interdepartmental website and its governance. While these efforts are still evolving, we found that they are consistent with key practices that we determined can help or sustain coordination efforts across federal agencies. 42 Specifically, we found that in each of these three efforts that key agencies reached agreement on roles and responsibilities. For example, the roles and responsibilities of the federal agencies responsible for stopbullying.gov are spelled out in a governance document, and the lead agency, HHS, for this website has executed agreements to provide funding for the maintenance and operation of the website. Similarly, we found that these agencies worked to establish compatible policies and procedures, and to develop mechanisms to monitor progress for these coordinated efforts. Appendix V provides more information on federal coordination efforts on bullying. In addition to these collaborative agency efforts to share information about bullying, Education has disseminated information about federal civil rights laws that can be used to address bullying, and key components of state bullying laws. In October 2010, Education sent a letter to state and local education officials outlining how federal civil rights laws can be applied to bullying. The letter stated that student misconduct may trigger school responsibilities under federal civil rights laws and provided examples of behavior that may meet the threshold for violating the laws. In December 2010, the department issued another letter that summarized several key components of state bullying laws, such as specifying prohibited behavior, development and implementation of school district policies, and training and preventive education. As previously discussed, following up on this letter, the department commissioned a study of state bullying laws to determine the extent to which states and school districts incorporate the key components into their laws and policies. In December 2011, Education issued the first part of this two-part study on state bullying laws. 43 42 GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005). 43 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies (Washington, D.C.: 2011). Page 24 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention No Assessment of State While Education, HHS, and Justice have initiated several efforts to better Civil Rights Laws and inform the public about how to utilize federal, state, and other resources Procedures Has Been to better address bullying, none of these efforts include an assessment of state civil rights laws and procedures for filing complaints. Since some Performed states’ civil rights laws provide protection for groups not named in applicable federal civil rights laws, collection and dissemination of such information could assist in better understanding how these laws vary in coverage and in the procedures states have in place for filing complaints. For example, five states in our review—California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont—have established processes and procedures for resolving civil rights complaints, and have empowered a statewide organization with the authority to hold schools and school districts accountable when discrimination is found, according to state officials. Specifically, according to a state official, California’s Uniform Complaint Process empowers its Department of Education’s Office of Equal Opportunity to ensure compliance with state and federal civil rights laws. California’s state code also requires uniform complaint procedures that each school district within the state must follow when addressing complaints of discrimination against protected groups, according to a state official. The complaint process allows up to 60 days for an investigation and decision to be rendered at the district level, unless a child is directly in harm’s way and the school district is unresponsive, in which case a complaint can be filed directly with the state. In Vermont, the state’s Human Rights Commission acts as an independent agency focused solely on the protection of civil rights, and if its investigation determines unlawful discrimination occurred, the agency assists the parties in negotiating a settlement. Human Rights Commission officials told us if a settlement cannot be reached, the agency may choose to take the case to court. However, they said that this usually does not happen because cases are generally settled. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a formal process called the Problem Resolution System that handles complaints that allege a school or a district is not meeting legal requirements for education, including complaints of discrimination. In each of the five states with established processes and procedures for resolving civil rights complaints, the SEAs include information on their websites about the civil rights complaint process, including where to file, required information, and time frames. According to their respective state officials, Arkansas and New Mexico offer only limited legal options for protected classes with complaints of discrimination based on school bullying because they lack a state entity with the authority to investigate and hold school districts accountable for such complaints. Although Arkansas has an Equity Assistance Center Page 25 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention within its Department of Education that can serve as an intermediary between the complainant and the school district, its decisions lack the authority to discipline a school district, according to state officials. New Mexico has a human rights commission that receives and investigates complaints of discrimination based on protected classes, but the commission is focused on employment issues and does not address discrimination complaints related to education. As a result, the state lacks formal processes and procedures to address complaints of discrimination stemming from instances of bullying, according to state officials. Therefore, according to state officials from these two states, if an individual cannot afford an attorney to file a private right of action related to complaints of discrimination because of school bullying, the individual’s only legal option is to file a federal complaint. By not incorporating an assessment of state civil rights laws and procedures into their various bullying prevention efforts, federal agencies are overlooking a potentially important source of information. Building on information from Education’s study of state bullying laws and the letters they issued on federal civil rights laws, information on state civil rights laws and procedures would provide a broader and more complete perspective of the overall coverage of federal and state efforts to prevent and address bullying. Students who are bullied may seek recourse through a number of Conclusions avenues—local and state educational policies, state bullying laws, state civil rights laws, or federal civil rights laws. However, the nature and extent of protections available to them depend on the laws and policies of where they live or go to school. Education and Justice have taken important steps in assessing how federal civil rights laws can be used to help combat certain instances of bullying of protected classes of youth for which they have jurisdiction. And Education has completed a study of state bullying laws and is conducting another study looking at how school districts are implementing these laws. However, neither Education nor Justice has assessed state civil rights laws and procedures as they may relate to bullying. Many of the states’ civil rights laws we reviewed extend protections to classes of individuals beyond the groups protected at the federal level, but states vary in the groups that are explicitly protected; therefore, whether bullying victims have any recourse through civil rights laws can depend on the state in which they live or go to school. Also, states vary in their procedures for pursuing civil rights claims, which could also affect the ability to pursue a bullying-related discrimination claim. State civil rights laws, just like federal civil rights laws and state bullying Page 26 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention laws, can play an important role in addressing this important issue. More information about state civil rights laws and procedures is a key missing link and is needed by administration officials and decision makers alike, to understand the potential overall legal protections available to students who have been bullied. Federal claimants would also benefit from knowing that options may be available to them at the state level. This is particularly key when cases are dismissed at the federal level because of a lack of jurisdiction. While Justice routinely informs individuals when their complaints are dismissed because of a lack of jurisdiction of possible recourse under their state civil rights laws, Education does not. Routinely making this basic information available would be another key step in helping ensure that bullying victims are aware of some of the legal options available to them. Multiple efforts to collect information about bullying have been under way for several years; however, the prevalence of bullying of youths in certain vulnerable demographic groups is not known. A greater effort by key federal agencies to develop more information about the extent to which a broader range of demographic groups are subject to bullying and bullying- related discrimination would better inform federal efforts to prevent and remedy bullying. Understanding the prevalence of bullying by demographic groups would help administration officials develop additional actions targeted at the greatest areas of need. This information, together with an assessment of federal and state legal protections, could also aid policymakers in determining whether additional actions are needed to protect vulnerable groups of youths who are subjected to bullying. To allow for a more comprehensive assessment of federal and state Recommendations for efforts to prevent and address bullying, we recommend the Secretary of Executive Action Education, in consultation with the Attorney General, as appropriate, compile information in a one-time study—similar to its study of state bullying laws—about state civil rights laws and procedures, as they may pertain to bullying. In order to better ensure that individuals are aware of their options to seek legal redress, especially in cases where their complaints to Education are not pursued because of a lack of jurisdiction, we recommend that the Secretary of Education develop procedures to routinely inform individuals who file complaints of discrimination stemming from bullying about the potential availability of legal options under their state’s anti-discrimination laws. Page 27 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention To address gaps in knowledge about targets of bullying and discrimination, we recommend that the Secretaries of Education and HHS and the Attorney General work together to develop information in their future surveys of youths’ health and safety issues on the extent to which youths in various vulnerable demographic groups are bullied. To aid policymakers and program administrators at the federal and state levels in understanding more comprehensively what is being done to address bullying and discrimination, we recommend that the Secretaries of Education and HHS and the Attorney General, in conjunction with the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee, assess the extent to which legal protections against bullying exist for vulnerable demographic groups. Such an assessment, to be comprehensive, should make use of information federal agencies have already compiled on state bullying laws and federal civil rights laws together with information from our recommendations above to compile information on state civil rights laws and collect more information on demographic groups in federal surveys of youth health and safety issues. We provided Education, HHS, and Justice an opportunity to comment on Agency Comments a draft of this report. Education and HHS provided written responses, which appear in appendixes VII and VIII, respectively. Each of the agencies provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. Justice chose not to provide a written response. Education disagreed with our recommendation that it compile information about state civil rights laws and procedures as they pertain to bullying. Specifically, Education noted that it does not have jurisdiction over state civil rights laws, nor the appropriate expertise, to interpret and advise on these laws. The department stressed that its previous analysis of state bullying laws was limited to compiling a list of statutes or regulations and identifying key components of statutes and regulations. Further, Education suggested that compiling information about state civil rights laws and procedures would only be useful if kept current, and that undergoing such a time-intensive and costly survey and review of state’s civil rights laws would not be an appropriate use of the department’s limited resources. We continue to believe that a one-time compilation of state civil rights laws and procedures would be beneficial, and provide a basis, along with other information, for analyzing the overall legal protections that are available for vulnerable demographic groups. Such an assessment would Page 28 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention help determine the extent to which states are positioned to respond to these types of civil rights complaints and to identify those instances where certain students are left with little recourse to pursue discrimination claims simply because of the state in which they reside or go to school. While we appreciate the work involved in any analysis of state laws, we believe that Education can develop a methodological approach that would limit the scope of their work and hone in on those aspects of civil rights laws that come into play when bullying leads to allegations of discrimination. For example, this review could be limited to compiling basic information about state civil rights laws, such as which protected classes are included and whether they apply in educational settings, and may not require an extensive analysis of state case law. In implementing a study of this type, Education may consider approaches similar to those they used in their previous work on state bullying laws. Alternatively, Education officials could choose to rely on the knowledge and expertise of cognizant state officials by conducting a survey or otherwise soliciting pertinent information, rather than undertaking the bulk of this work themselves. We acknowledge Education’s concerns regarding keeping the information on state civil rights laws updated and have modified language in the report and our recommendation to clarify that this is meant to be a onetime effort. Regarding our second recommendation, Education indicated that they are considering whether to develop procedures that would inform complainants whose complaints are dismissed for lack of jurisdiction that they may have possible recourse under state or local laws. We encourage Education to review the language that Justice currently includes in similar notification letters. As Education suggested, more detailed guidance regarding rights and procedures for seeking redress may then be provided by state and local agencies. Both HHS and Education agreed with our recommendation that they develop additional information in their surveys about youths in various vulnerable groups who are bullied. In response to our recommendation that Education, HHS, and the Attorney General assess the extent to which protections exist for various demographic groups likely to be the target of bullies, HHS agreed with the recommendation and Education cited many of its ongoing efforts to this end. We commend Education on its current efforts as well as other efforts we have discussed in our report. However, as we point out in our previous recommendations, more information is needed on state civil rights laws as well as about how various demographic groups are Page 29 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention affected by bullying. Utilizing all of the information at their disposal, including information we recommend be collected, Education, HHS, and Justice could work together to assess how well the available laws and resources address areas of need and identify measures that could be taken to help prevent bullying. We believe that it is an important step to assimilate information on resources and laws with research about areas of need in order to assist federal policy makers and agency officials in their efforts to address this important issue. Based on questions we received during discussions with Justice on our report, we modified this recommendation to clarify that such an assessment should make use of information from our previous recommendations in this report, as well as information that federal agencies have already gathered, and that the three agencies in our review could work through the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee to conduct such an assessment. As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the report date. At that time, we will send copies to the Secretaries of Education, and Health and Human Services, and the Attorney General; relevant congressional committees; and other interested parties. In addition, the report will be available on GAO’s website at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff have any questions about the report, please contact me at (206) 287-4809 or email@example.com. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. GAO staff that made major contributions to this report are listed in appendix IX. Linda M. Calbom Western Regional Director Page 30 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology Methodology To obtain information on the prevalence of school bullying of victims in Analysis of Surveys the United States, we primarily compared estimates and methodologies of and Literature Review available data on being bullied in four nationally representative surveys by federal statistical agencies conducted from 2005 to 2009. Specifically, we compared data on being victims of bullying from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Health Behavior in School-aged Children Survey, and the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (see table 4). We selected these surveys based on interviews with officials at the Departments of Education (Education), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Justice (Justice), as well as the similar work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this topic that compared the four surveys. We evaluated these federal surveys for methodological rigor, as well as to determine the extent to which the data could be used to offer a national perspective on bullying in schools. This included interviews with researchers, as appropriate. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for our purposes. Because the survey data were collected using generalizable probability samples, this sample is only one of a large number of samples that might have been selected. Since each sample could provide different estimates, we have used 95 percent confidence intervals to show the precision of our results. All percentage estimates used in this report have 95 percent confidence intervals of within plus or minus 2.1 percentage points, unless otherwise noted. In addition to sampling error, surveys are subject to nonsampling error, such as how respondents interpret questions, including any biases or tendencies to provide desirable answers or false answers. Although respondents self-reported being bullied in the surveys, this approach to measure the prevalence of bullying is viewed as valid and robust, according to some previous research on bullying. We also reviewed certain other relevant research as appropriate. Finally, we conducted interviews with officials at Education and HHS to obtain information about how different surveys and research define bullying and their efforts to develop a uniform definition of bullying for research purposes. Page 31 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology Table 4: Nationally Representative Surveys We Reviewed That Ask about Youths Being Bullied, among Other Topics Age/grade of Survey Sponsoring federal agency Purpose youth surveyed Youth Risk Behavior Survey HHS’s CDC To monitor priority health risk behaviors Grades 9-12 a (YRBS) that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in this country National Crime Victimization Education’s National Center for To collect additional information about Ages 12-18 Survey’s (NCVS) School Crime Education Statistics and Justice’s school-related victimizations on a national Supplement (SCS) Bureau of Justice Statistics level Health Behavior in School-aged HHS’s National Institutes of Health To better understand the health behaviors Grades 6-10 b Children (HBSC) of youths and their social context during early adolescence National Survey of Children’s Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice To examine past-year and lifetime Ages birth-17 Exposure to Violence and Delinquency Prevention and exposure to violence of children age 17 (NatSCEV) HHS’s CDC and younger across several categories of violence Source: GAO analysis and information from CDC. a We reviewed the national YRBS rather than associated state and local surveys. b HBSC is an international survey. For the purposes of our work, we reviewed the sample used for the national survey rather than the sample used for the international data. To describe the effects of school bullying on victims, we conducted a literature review. To identify studies on the effects of bullying on victims, we searched numerous databases—including MEDLINE, Embase, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), ProQuest, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, and WorldCat. We also consulted with officials at Education, HHS, and Justice to identify relevant studies. Because of the extensive available literature, we limited our review to meta-analyses, which analyze other studies and synthesize their findings. Additionally, we limited our review to articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Our literature search covered studies published from 2001 through July 2011. Subsequently, new meta-analyses were brought to our attention by agency officials, and we reviewed them to the extent they were consistent with our search criteria. We identified seven relevant studies. We reviewed the methodologies of these studies to ensure that they were sound and determined that they were sufficiently reliable. The meta-analyses synthesized the findings of studies of school- aged children in a variety of countries, including the United States. They were not designed to establish causal relationships, nor are the results of the meta-analyses generalizable. Page 32 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology States and Local School To describe approaches that selected states and local school districts are District Interviews and taking, we reviewed relevant state bullying laws and regulations, as well Document Review as guidance and other documents from eight selected states and conducted interviews with state education officials. We selected eight states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia—based on the following criteria: Each has bullying laws or regulations, and they vary with respect to bullying definitions and enumeration of protected classes, geographic variation, and student enrollment. Further, we selected three of these states (New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia), which vary on the characteristics listed above, to review policies and guidance of local school districts and conduct interviews with school officials. We selected a total of six school districts, two in each state—Albuquerque Public Schools, Rio Rancho Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Warren County Public Schools, Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, and Windham Southwest Supervisory Union. The six school districts were selected from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Common Core of Data Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey: School Year 2008–09. The Common Core of Data (CCD) nonfiscal surveys consist of data submitted annually to NCES by state educational agencies (SEA). School districts and schools were selected to reflect a range of size, and urbanicity (urban, suburban, or rural), as well as racial and socioeconomic diversity. Participation in the National School Lunch Program was used as a proxy for socioeconomic status. We held interviews with central administrators, principals, school staff, and parents. In several instances, multiple individuals attended an interview; for example six parents attended one parent interview. During the interviews, we asked about measures taken to prevent bullying, school officials’ response to bullying behavior, and lessons learned. We analyzed narrative responses thematically. Review of Laws and To identify legal options that federal and selected state governments have Discrimination Complaint in place when bullying leads to allegations of discrimination, we reviewed Processes relevant federal and state anti-discrimination laws and regulations, selected federal court decisions, as well as guidance and other documents of the federal government and the eight states selected for review. 1 We also conducted interviews with federal officials in the 1 State court decisions were beyond the scope of our review, so we did not review such decisions. Page 33 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (CRT), Educational Opportunities Section, as well as with state officials. State officials were from various departments, including state educational agencies and human rights or civil rights commissions or departments. 2 During the interviews with federal and state officials, we asked about provisions, discrimination complaint processes, complaint resolutions, and legal mechanisms available to individuals who are not members of a protected class. Interviews with Federal To address how key federal agencies are coordinating their efforts to Officials and Document combat school bullying, we interviewed officials from Education, HHS, Review and Justice and reviewed relevant documents. These departments were represented with officials from many component agencies. For Education, we spoke to officials from the Office of Safe and Healthy Students (formerly the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools), OCR, and Office of Special Education Programs. For HHS, we spoke to officials from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, CDC, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), National Institutes of Health, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For Justice, we spoke to officials from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, CRT, and Office of Justice Programs. We focused on these three departments, given their leadership roles on an interdepartmental coordinating committee and website (www.stopbullying.gov, last accessed May 22, 2012) on bullying. We analyzed coordination of efforts based on key practices that GAO has previously identified as effective coordination practices. 3 For example, in our interviews and analysis, we asked questions about such effective coordination practices as agreeing on roles and responsibilities or establishing compatible policies, procedures, or other means to operate across agency boundaries. We focused on these practices, among those GAO has identified, based on our professional judgment and relevance 2 Officials from the state of Virginia declined to speak with us about this component of our review. 3 GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005). Page 34 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology for the coordinated federal efforts regarding bullying. 4 Related documents that we reviewed included plans, meeting agendas, conference materials, interagency agreements, and educational materials provided to the public. We also attended the second annual bullying prevention conference of the interdepartmental coordinating committee. In addition, we conducted interviews with Education, HHS, and Justice officials about efforts within their departments to combat bullying. We also reviewed relevant documents and agency websites. We conducted this performance audit from April 2011 through May 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. These standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 4 As we have previously reported in GAO-06-15, we recognize that there is a wide range of situations and circumstances in which agencies work together and that not all practices may be necessary or be as relevant for particular coordinated efforts. For example, during the course of our audit work, we determined that certain other practices that may promote coordination were not as applicable in this particular context, given competing priorities of departments or the new nature of the coordination. Page 35 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix II: Comparison of the Definition Appendix II: Comparison of the Definition and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys Table 5 compares how four nationally representative surveys define and measure bullying. Table 5: Selected Aspects of the Definition and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys National Crime National Survey of National Youth Risk Victimization Survey Health Behavior in Children’s Exposure Behavior Survey (NCVS), School Crime School-aged Children to Violence (YRBS) 2009 Supplement (SCS) 2009 (HBSC) 2005/06 (NatSCEV) 2008 Definition of bullying, if “When 1 or more “What students do at school “When another student, or No explicit definition is any students tease, that make you feel bad or are a group of students, say or presented threaten, spread hurtful to you” do nasty and unpleasant rumors about, hit, things to him or her. It is shove, or hurt another also bullying when a student over and over student is teased again. It is not bullying repeatedly in a way he or when 2 students of she does not like or when about the same he or she is deliberately left strength or power out of things. But it is NOT argue or fight or tease BULLYING when two each other in a friendly students of about the same way.” strength or power argue or fight. It is also not bullying when a student is teased in a friendly and playful way.” Use of a question on Yes, but no questions No, but overall prevalence is Yes, and questions follow No, but there are a b overall prevalence about types of bullying calculated based on about types of bullying questions about three affirmative answers to one or types of bullying. more types of bullying Use of questions about Yes Yes Yes Yes gender and race/ethnicity (see app. III for c estimates) Use of questions about No Yes Yes No frequency of being bullied in the past year or couple of months d Age/grade of youth Grades 9-12 Ages 12-18 Grades 6-10 Ages birth-17 surveyed Time period for During past 12 months During this school year In the past couple of In the past year, over question about being months a lifetime. bullied e Frequency of survey Every 2 years Every 2 years Every 4 years Periodic Page 36 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix II: Comparison of the Definition and Measurement of Bullying in Four Nationally Representative Surveys National Crime National Survey of National Youth Risk Victimization Survey Health Behavior in Children’s Exposure Behavior Survey (NCVS), School Crime School-aged Children to Violence (YRBS) 2009 Supplement (SCS) 2009 (HBSC) 2005/06 (NatSCEV) 2008 Purpose of survey To monitor priority To collect additional To better understand the To examine past-year health risk behaviors information about school- health behaviors of children and lifetime exposure that contribute to the related victimizations on a and their social context to violence of children g leading causes of national level during early adolescence age 17 and younger death, disability, and across several social problems among categories of violence youth and adults in this f country Source: GAO analysis and information from CDC. a YRBS did not ask about types of bullying in the 2009 survey, but the 2011 survey included a question on cyberbullying. b Thus, it is possible for the overall prevalence to appear less than the prevalence for certain types of bullying behaviors. According to one researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involved in the HBSC, respondents may be more inclined to respond affirmatively to a specific type of behavior rather than an overall, or general, question on bullying. c We did not include estimates for NatSCEV in appendix III, as this survey did not provide an overall estimate but reported estimates of prevalence for certain types of behaviors in the past year. Estimates are for youth aged 0-17. They include school and nonschool settings and being victimized by a peer or sibling. See, for example, David Finkelhor et al., “Violence, Abuse, and Crime Exposure in a National Sample of Children and Youth.” Pediatrics, vol. 124, no. 5 (2009). d For NatSCEV, youth aged 10 and older were interviewed, while adult caregivers of youth under 10 were interviewed. e According to NIH officials involved in the HBSC, the future of the HBSC is uncertain, partly because of budget constraints. f We reviewed the national YRBS rather than associated state and local surveys. g HBSC is an international survey. For the purposes of our work, we reviewed the sample used for the national survey rather than the sample used for the international data. Page 37 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix III: Selected Data on National Appendix III: Selected Data on National Prevalence of Youth Who Report Being Bullied in School Prevalence of Youth Who Report Being Bullied in School This appendix provides estimates of the overall prevalence of youth who reported being bullied by sex and by race/ethnicity. Three of the four federal surveys that we reviewed present an estimate of overall prevalence of being bullied, and for these three surveys, the results of each are shown separately by sex and by race/ethnicity. Unless otherwise noted, all estimates in these tables have 95 percent confidence intervals of within plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. The difference between boys and girls reporting that they were bullied was statistically significant in one survey (YRBS), with girls reporting a higher percentage of bullying, but was not statistically significant in the other two surveys (SCS and HBSC). See table 6. Table 6: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied by Sex in Three National Surveys Sex YRBS 2009 NCVS SCS 2009 HBSC 2005/2006 a Male 18.7 26.6 28.0 Female 21.2 29.5 26.1 Source: GAO analysis of YRBS 2009, NCVS SCS 2009, HBSC 2005/2006. a This estimate has a 95 percent confidence interval of within plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. White youth reported being bullied at higher percentages than African- American youth in two of the three surveys (YRBS and HBSC), while the other survey found no difference. In two of the three surveys (YRBS and HBSC), differences between the overall prevalence for white compared with Hispanic youth and for African-American youth compared with Hispanic youth were not statistically significant. 1 In the other survey, Hispanics reported a lower percentage of bullying than whites or African- Americans. Asian-American youths reported a lower percentage of bullying in the one survey (NCVS) that captured information for that demographic group. See table 7. 1 We tested for differences using a significance level of 0.05. Page 38 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix III: Selected Data on National Prevalence of Youth Who Report Being Bullied in School Table 7: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied by Race/Ethnicity in Three National Surveys Race/ethnicity YRBS 2009 NCVS SCS 2009 HBSC 2005/2006 a b,c White non-Hispanic 21.6 29.3 28.6 a,d b,c Black non-Hispanic 13.7 29.1 22.7 a,d b,c Hispanic 18.5 25.5 26.4 e d e Asian, not Hispanic or Latino not applicable 17.3 not applicable e d c Other not applicable 26.7 28.6 Source: GAO analysis of YRBS 2009, NCVS SCS 2009, HBSC 2005/2006. a In the SCS, these three racial or ethnic groups were labeled as (1) white, not Hispanic or Latino; (2) black, not Hispanic or Latino; and (3) Hispanic or Latino, respectively. b In the HBSC, these three racial or ethnic groups were labeled as (1) Caucasian, (2) African- American, and (3) Hispanic, respectively. c These estimates have 95 percent confidence intervals of within plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. d These estimates have 95 percent confidence intervals of within plus or minus 9.0 percentage points. e Data were not collected in this survey in this category. Page 39 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix IV: Selected Data on National Appendix IV: Selected Data on National Prevalence of Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors Prevalence of Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors This appendix provides estimates of the prevalence of being bullied for certain types of bullying behaviors. Three of the four federal surveys that we reviewed provide estimates of the prevalence of being bullied for certain types of behaviors, and the results of each are shown separately. Unless otherwise noted, all estimates in these tables have 95 percent confidence intervals of within plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. These surveys also found that boys may be subject to somewhat different types of bullying than girls. For example, estimates from SCS and HBSC showed that a higher percentage of boys were bullied physically than girls, while girls were more commonly bullied than boys with rumors or social exclusion, which are examples of relational bullying, or bullying using interpersonal relationships. Table 8: NCVS SCS 2009: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors Estimate (percentage) for this Type of bullying school year Overall prevalence of being bullieda 28.0% Made fun of, called names, or insulted 18.8 Spread rumors 16.5 Pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on 9.0 Cyberbullied 6.0 Threatened with harm 5.7 Excluded from activities on purpose 4.7 Tried to make do things they did not want to do 3.6 Property destroyed on purpose 3.3 Source: GAO analysis of NCVS SCS 2009. a A separate question on this survey asks about being cyberbullied. This estimate of overall prevalence therefore does not include being cyberbullied. Page 40 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix IV: Selected Data on National Prevalence of Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors Table 9: HBSC 2005/2006: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors Estimate (percentage) for the past Type of bullying couple of months a Overall prevalence of being bullied 27.0 Spreading rumor: told lies or spread false rumors 31.9 Called mean names, was made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way 31.5 Social isolation: excluded from a group of friends or was ignored 25.6 Bullied with mean names and comments about race or color 13.1 Hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around, or locked indoors 12.8 Bullied with mean names and comments about religion 8.5 Bullied using a computer or e-mail messages or pictures 8.1 Bullied using a cell phone 5.7 Source: GAO analysis of HBSC 2005/2006. a As separate HBSC survey questions ask about the overall prevalence and the prevalence of specific types of bullying behaviors, it is possible for the overall prevalence to appear less than the prevalence for certain types of bullying behaviors. According to one researcher at NIH involved in the HBSC, respondents may be more inclined to respond affirmatively to a specific type of behavior rather than an overall, or general, question on bullying. Table 10: NatSCEV 2008: Estimates of Youth Who Reported Being Bullied for Certain Types of Bullying Behaviors Type of bullying Estimate (percentage) for the past year Overall prevalence of being bullied N/A Teasing or emotional bullying 19.7 Physical bullying or intimidation 13.2 Internet harassment 1.8 Source: GAO analysis of NatSCEV 2008. Note: For NatSCEV, youth aged 10 and older were interviewed, while adult caregivers of youth under 10 were interviewed. Page 41 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix V: Coordination Practices of Key Appendix V: Coordination Practices of Key Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying In table 11 are selected coordination practices that we have previously found help to enhance and sustain coordination across federal agencies, as well as the ways that key interdepartmental activities against bullying reflect those coordination practices. Table 11: Practices for Key Coordinated Federal Efforts Specifically on Bullying Selected coordination Federal Partners in Bullying Central website Stop Bullying Now! practices Prevention Steering Committee (stopbullying.gov) campaign Agree on roles and Education through its Office of Safe The roles and responsibilities of HRSA has collaborated and responsibilities and Healthy Students has agreed federal agencies are outlined in a received funding from to serve as chair. HHS through governance document that serves Education from the start of HRSA served as cochair until as the framework for coordination the campaign until fiscal year a October 2011. On the one hand, across agencies and departments. 2010. Unlike in prior years, these agencies have not developed For example, the participating in fiscal year 2011, a formal document that sets their federal agencies serve on the two Education and HRSA were overall roles and responsibilities, governing bodies of the website: unable to execute an given the fluid nature and rapid (1) the editorial board, which interagency agreement evolution of the committee and its reviews and develops content for because of time constraints. external environment. the website, and (2) the steering Instead, HHS’s SAMHSA On the other hand, despite the committee, which makes provided funding to reprint committee’s evolving organization, managerial decisions for higher- and disseminate b agencies can and in some cases level planning and resources. informational materials for have formally agreed on roles and HHS’s lead agency, the Office of the campaign. responsibilities for particular the Assistant Secretary for Public projects. For example, the project Affairs, executed agreements in to develop a uniform definition of summer 2011 with Education, bullying for research purposes HHS’s Office of the Assistant features an interagency agreement Secretary for Planning and between Education and CDC Evaluation, HRSA, and SAMHSA signed in 2011. that provide funding to maintain and operate the website. Page 42 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix V: Coordination Practices of Key Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying Selected coordination Federal Partners in Bullying Central website Stop Bullying Now! practices Prevention Steering Committee (stopbullying.gov) campaign Establish compatible policies, Education and CDC signed an Four agreements provide for the An agreement between procedures, and other means interagency agreement for the maintenance and operation of the HRSA and Education (more to operate across agency project on the uniform definition of website. recently SAMHSA) has boundaries, including bullying for research purposes. The governing bodies have so far provided for the frequent communication The committee so far has used operated with frequent development, publication, regular phone meetings, along with communication. According to HHS and dissemination of its conferences, to share officials, the editorial board meets informational materials of the information among federal approximately every 2 to 4 weeks campaign. agencies and potentially with the and corresponds by e-mail, and HRSA has communicated public. According to Education the steering committee meets across six federal officials, monthly or even biweekly quarterly and as needed. departments. The campaign phone meetings as well as also relies on its more than correspondence by e-mail have 140 partner organizations to facilitated preparations for the three help disseminate materials, conferences in 2010 and 2011. such as chapters of the Such internal communication, American Academy of including electronic Listservs, has Pediatrics or Boys and Girls also promoted sharing information Clubs of America. One way among federal agencies on that these government and upcoming opportunities that may nongovernment partners be relevant to bullying, such as may communicate and upcoming webinars, grant provide input to HRSA’s announcements, or recent research communications contractor publications. is seven external work groups that have provided expertise and reviewed materials, especially when the campaign was designed. Page 43 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix V: Coordination Practices of Key Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying Selected coordination Federal Partners in Bullying Central website Stop Bullying Now! practices Prevention Steering Committee (stopbullying.gov) campaign Develop mechanisms to The committee as a whole does not HHS and Education officials said HRSA and its monitor, evaluate, and report have formal mechanisms to they monitor metrics about the communications contractor results monitor results. use of the website, such as the track the distribution of the Specific projects within the number of visits. From its launch campaign’s materials. committee, such as the project of in March 2011 to the end of According to data from the research subcommittee on the December 2011, the website HRSA as of August 2011, uniform definition of bullying, may received more than 1.1 million recipients of the materials in have formal time frames and visits, according to HHS data. mass mailings included, deliverable products. This project HHS officials said that they plan to among others, all 66,000 may help other efforts to monitor add a qualitative feature for public elementary and the extent of bullying and evaluate feedback from users and conduct middle schools in the programs. additional usability testing of the country, 17,000 libraries, website as it continues to evolve relevant state health and Besides the uniform definition, education agencies, schools another way that the committee in its second phase. on military bases worldwide, and its research subcommittee are and offices serving American helping others to monitor and Indian youth. evaluate antibullying efforts is by Nongovernment and sharing information on evaluation government partners research. Because of funding distributed roughly 92,000 constraints and stipulations, the additional materials from research subcommittee has mainly July 2007 to August 2011 focused its activities about through a variety of evaluation research on participating organizations. in local conferences, understanding existing publications, and obtaining HRSA has received information from researchers, feedback on the materials including any suggestions for from its government and additional research. nongovernment partners through the seven implementation working groups through e-mail and occasional phone outreach. Also, in structured discussions held with partner organizations three times since 2003, many organizations reported using the campaign’s materials to raise awareness about the problem of bullying. HRSA officials said that the campaign’s impact has not been formally evaluated because of funding constraints such that funding for an evaluation could divert resources from delivery of the campaign. Source: GAO analysis of information from Education, HHS, and Justice officials. Page 44 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix V: Coordination Practices of Key Interdepartmental Federal Efforts on Bullying a Prior to September 2011, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education was a separate office, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The organizational change followed funding reductions to the separate Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, including reductions to its grant programs. b The first phase of www.stopbullying.gov relied on three governing bodies, which the governance document reflects. HHS officials said that, for the second phase, federal officials decided to eliminate one of the three bodies to streamline the management of the website. Page 45 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VI: Additional Federal Programs Appendix VI: Additional Federal Programs and Services Are Available to Combat Bullying and Services Are Available to Combat Bullying In addition to supporting antibullying activities, the Departments of Education, HHS, and Justice support more broadly focused services and programs that may be used for bullying prevention. Generally, bullying prevention represents one of many allowable activities within these services and programs. Within each agency, officials identified a range of services and programs, including technical assistance, funding opportunities, information sharing, and research, that may include bullying prevention. For example, HHS provides funding for the Children’s Safety Network (CSN), a national resource center for the prevention of childhood injuries and violence. See table 12. Table 12: Selected Services and Programs That Can Be Used to Support Bullying Prevention Program or service Description HHS 15+ Make Time to Listen–Take Time to An initiative to promote healthy child development and to prevent youth and school-based Talk violence. a Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative Grants support school districts in the development of communitywide approaches to creating safe and drug-free schools and promoting healthy childhood development. Children’s Safety Network A national resource center for the prevention of childhood injuries and violence that, among other things, provides technical assistance on injury prevention planning, promotes child and adolescent health and safety, and disseminates injury prevention research. Maternal and Child Health Services Block Provides funds to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 6 territories to promote the Grant health of mothers and children. Education Safe and Supportive Schools grants Grants to states to measure school safety and to help intervene in those schools with the greatest safety needs. Positive Behavioral Interventions and A national technical assistance center focused on improving student behavior to foster Support Technical Assistance Center academic instruction. Justice National Training and Technical Provides technical assistance to individuals in the juvenile justice field on a range of Assistance Center topics, including webinars on bullying intervention and civil rights. Secure Our Schools grants Provides funding to state, local, or tribal governments to assist with the development of school safety resources. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Describes statistics, research, training, technical assistance, and programs funded Prevention (OJJDP) bulletins through OJJDP grants and contracts, and includes the Bullying in School series. Source: Agency program information. Note: Agency officials reported that it would be difficult to obtain specific spending information on bullying for these services and programs. Furthermore, it could be misleading to include total service or program amounts because it would misrepresent funding for bullying activities. a The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative (SS/HS) is a collaborative program supported by three federal agencies—HHS, Education, and Justice. Page 46 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VI: Additional Federal Programs and Services Are Available to Combat Bullying While these programs and services generally support a broader range of activities than just bullying, several of them have been used to directly address bullying. For example, several grantees have used Safe Schools/Healthy Students funding to implement bullying prevention programs. Also, in fiscal year 2010, 2 of the 11 SEAs awarded Safe and Supportive Schools grants devoted resources to bullying prevention. While these services and programs do not always exclusively focus on bullying prevention, officials across the three federal agencies— Education, HHS, and Justice—agreed that their emphasis on violence reduction and healthy behaviors can help prevent and reduce bullying behavior, even if the funds are not used specifically to address bullying. Page 47 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Department of Education Page 48 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 49 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 50 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 51 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 52 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 53 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 54 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Education Page 55 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VIII: Comments from the Appendix VIII: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services Page 56 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix VIII: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services Page 57 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention Appendix IX: GAO Contacts and Staff Appendix IX: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments Acknowledgments Linda M. Calbom, (206) 287-4809 or firstname.lastname@example.org GAO Contact Bryon Gordon (Assistant Director), Ramona L. Burton (Analyst-in- Staff Charge), Susannah Compton, Alex Galuten, Avani Locke, Ashley McCall, Acknowledgments Sheila McCoy, Jean McSween, Mimi Nguyen, Karen O’Conor, Kate O’Dea, Michael Pahr, Rebecca Rose, Regina Santucci, Matthew Saradjian, Ronni Schwartz, and John Townes made significant contributions to all aspects of this report. (131076) Page 58 GAO-12-349 Bullying Prevention GAO’s Mission The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no Obtaining Copies of cost is through GAO’s website (www.gao.gov). Each weekday afternoon, GAO Reports and GAO posts on its website newly released reports, testimony, and correspondence. To have GAO e-mail you a list of newly posted products, Testimony go to www.gao.gov and select “E-mail Updates.” Order by Phone The price of each GAO publication reflects GAO’s actual cost of production and distribution and depends on the number of pages in the publication and whether the publication is printed in color or black and white. Pricing and ordering information is posted on GAO’s website, http://www.gao.gov/ordering.htm. Place orders by calling (202) 512-6000, toll free (866) 801-7077, or TDD (202) 512-2537. Orders may be paid for using American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard, Visa, check, or money order. Call for additional information. Connect with GAO on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. Connect with GAO Subscribe to our RSS Feeds or E-mail Updates. Listen to our Podcasts. Visit GAO on the web at www.gao.gov. Contact: To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Website: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm E-mail: email@example.com Federal Programs Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470 Katherine Siggerud, Managing Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 512- Congressional 4400, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room Relations 7125, Washington, DC 20548 Chuck Young, Managing Director, email@example.com, (202) 512-4800 Public Affairs U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149 Washington, DC 20548 Please Print on Recycled Paper.
School Bullying: Extent of Legal Protections for Vulnerable Groups Needs to Be More Fully Assessed
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-05-29.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)