Data from schools across the state shows a sharp increase in bullying, but the numbers could be a bit misleading. That’s because the state recently changed how schools are required to collect and report the data.
Indiana’s charter and public schools reported around 3,614 bullying incidents during the 2015-16 school year, and during the 2017-18 school year, those numbers jumped to 5,604. So, are kids getting meaner?
Probably not. Indiana Department of Education spokesperson Adam Baker says the state’s old reporting system just wasn’t as clear or comprehensive.
“So we wanted to move that and shift that to basically a software program that ensured we were receiving the right kind of data,” he says.
The state made the change about three years ago, and started breaking down bullying incidents by type, like verbal or written, shortly thereafter. Baker says, reporting the types of bullying gives the state a clearer picture of what’s happening in schools:
“What’s actually occurring, what’s starting these [incidents] and how can we ensure that, you know, we can work on preventing them moving forward,” he says
The state only requires schools to report cases where a student shows repeated bullying behavior. This year, lawmakers passed legislation focused on making more improvements to how data on bullying is collected by the state.
Part of the new law requires the department to remind schools about their obligation to report that information. It also requires the department to survey schools on how they plan to improve bullying reporting and share results of that survey with lawmakers by November.