Report: Professional Development Related to Anti-Bullying Policies Lacking in American Schools

Three in 10 school districts lack anti-bullying policies, including addressing cyberbullying. Only two in 10 require professional development for their educators on bullying or have district accountability for reporting of bullying incidents.

Those results come out of a new comprehensive survey of anti-bullying policies in place at school districts across the country as of March 2011. Research staff at the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a national education organization, examined policies in place at 13,181 school systems as well as a compilation of state education laws and department of education and school board association regulations related to anti-bullying. GLSEN published the results of the research project in a 108-page report, "From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policy Efforts in U.S. States and School Districts."

Among the findings, district policy doesn't always align with state law. In states with anti-bullying laws, 26 percent of districts lacked their own anti-bullying policies. Yet researchers also found that having a state anti-bullying law doubled the likelihood that a district would have an anti-bullying policy.

Where states offer a framework that can be used by school systems for creating their local rules, the chances increase of equivalent protections showing up in those policies. For example, when state guidance includes sexual orientation, the odds are two times greater that a district will include comparable protections in its local policy.

Of the 70.5 percent of school districts with anti-bullying policies in place, 27 percent required professional development for staff on addressing bullying and harassment in their schools. Less than a third stipulated accountability for reporting incidents of bullying or harassment. Having state-level regulations that required accountability increased the likelihood of a district doing the same. Those aspects, the report's authors stated, relate to "improved school climates," in the areas of safety and educator response.

"The report...illustrates the gap that can emerge between the intentions of a law and the actual implementation — arguably the most critical component of the passage of any law," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "There remain far too many school districts that have failed to institute policy protections, even in states which require them by law. As a result, these schools continue to fail our students."

The report can be found on the GLSEN Web site at glsen.org.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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