Survey: 24% of RI students bullied at school within last year

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Nearly 20,000 Rhode Island students reported being bullied on school property within a one-year period, according to a survey released by the R.I. Department of Education earlier this year.

All told, 24% of the 83,000 students in grades three through 12 who were surveyed last spring reported getting bullied on school grounds. In elementary school, almost one in three students reported that they had been picked on within the last year.

“The most important thing for the state is to help make sure that no instance of bullying goes unrecognized, unchallenged, unreported,” Education Commissioner Ken Wagner told Eyewitness News.

The questionnaire, known as SurveyWorks, asked students, teachers and parents questions about school climate, anxiety levels and learning environment in their schools, generating more than 100,000 responses.

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A 2012 state law known as the Safe School Act outlined how schools should handle incidents of bullying, including how they should be reported and the range of discipline bullies can face.

As social media has become an everyday part of many children’s lives, cyber bullying has also become more common. More than 8,000 students in grades six through 12 reported getting bullied online.

“Now things that in the past, 10 years ago, would have been very far away from the school, now [occur] immediately,” Wagner said. “Social media is fast, so immediately something that happens at midnight, 25 miles away from the school, is now in the school within a few hours.”

Wagner said it’s important to create a culture that doesn’t tolerate bullying. He recommended that parents keep the lines of communication open with their children.

“There’s lots of a research to suggest that when bullying is more prominent, or more tolerated, it tends to expand,” he said. “Kids are watching and kids are listening. So we all need to be good role models and when we’re all good role models, it will help the community be cohesive at the school level.”

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