The 10 Worst States for Bullying
Sept. 29, 2016
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Bullying used to be a silent epidemic in America, but today we have sobering statistics that showcase just how serious the problem is.
Nine out of 10 students in fourth through eighth grade report being victims of bullying. Suicide is the leading cause of death among children under 14, and suicide rates among 10- to 14-year-olds have grown more than 50 percent over the past three decades, according to National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment.
In light of Suicide Awareness Month and back-to-school season, WalletHub analysts studied the prevalence and prevention of bullying in 45 states and the District of Columbia. They gave each state points based on 17 metrics, including “bullying incidence rate,” “truancy costs for schools” and “percentage of high school students bullied online.”
Here are the top 10 states, ranked from the least biggest problems to the biggest problems with bullying, along with bullying statistics that may surprise you.
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Alaska came in 10th place on WalletHub’s list, with a score of 51.97. Bullying in schools can have negative, lifelong impacts. When bullied students grow older, they’re more likely to be socially anxious, have less self-esteem and require more mental-health services, according to NVEEE. Researchers at the Association for Psychological Science recently discovered that those who were bullies, victims or both during childhood and adolescence are “more likely to experience poverty, academic failure and job termination in their adulthood than those who were neither.”
Related: WalletHub's 2016’s States with the Biggest Bullying Problems
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South Carolina scored a 51.98, making it WalletHub’s ninth worst state for bullying. Even nonphysical bullying can result in violence. According NVEEE, harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents. And the potential for gun violence in schools might be greater than you think: One out of 20 students has seen a peer with a gun at school. Lastly, bullying statistics say that revenge is the strongest motivation of school shootings.
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Alabama ranked eighth, with a score of 52.76, according to Wallethub’s analysis. Unfortunately, it also came in second for having some of the worst anti-bullying laws in the country. Bullying rates have remained stable since the first anti-bullying laws went into effect in 2005. There are no federal anti-bullying laws, and some states have been slow to enact them. Montana was the final state to do so, and that was just last year, according to Huffington Post. What’s more, the laws are pretty inconsistent from state to state. Only 18 states include cyberbullying in their legislation, according to Governing.com. Alabama’s laws utilize the term “harassment” instead of “bullying,” and do not cover behavior that occurs off campus.
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Idaho came in seventh place, scoring 54.43. A truant student is one who has at least one unexcused absence a month, according to a National Association of Secondary Schools Principals report. If a public high school has a truancy rate of 6 percent (less than the natural average), it could experience an annual loss of $21,600 of state funding. According to NVEEE, about 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Also, schools lose big when students drop out. High schools with a relatively low dropout rate of 12 percent could lose more than $2 million a year. According to bullying statistics, one out of every 10 students drops out of school because of repeated bullying.
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Texas ranked sixth, with a score of 55.08, making it one of WalletHub’s worst states for bullying. Speaking of dropout and truancy rates, Texas tied for first place in the “Highest Cost of Truancy for Schools Due to Bullying” category of WalletHub’s results, along with California and Hawaii. Truancy costs Texas 82 times more money than it does for the state that did the best in this category, North Dakota.
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Rounding out the top five worst states for bullying, Arkansas scored 55.4. The state also made the top five lists for “High Percent of High School Students Involved in Physical Fight at School” and “Highest Percent of High School Students Who Attempted Suicide.” When it comes to becoming a bully, WalletHub’s experts often echoed that bullies are usually victims of bullying themselves and are influenced by the adults in their lives. Adults who fail to demonstrate empathy and who adopt authoritarian parenting styles influence similar behaviors in children. Furthermore, environments that foster associations between bullying, “coolness” and increased social status also contribute.
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Montana ranked fourth among the states, with a score of 56.92. WalletHub asked a panel of experts, “What are the main factors that put a child at risk of being bullied?” Many noted that LGBTQ and minority race students, as well as students who are overweight or differently abled, are at a heightened risk for bullying. Rona Milch Novick, dean of the Azriele Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University, notes that “children who will provide the bully with evidence of [the bully’s] ‘power’ by crying,” or “appearing upset,” are also vulnerable. Lastly, girls are more likely to be victimized by cyberbullying than boys — 59 percent compared to 41 percent, respectively.
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West Virginia had a score of 58.93, making it the third worst state for bullying. Karyl E. Ketchum, associate professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at California State University, Fullerton, warns against victim blaming when it comes to bullying. Victim blaming is when people hold the victim responsible for what happened to them. While the duty to end bullying should not fall on the victim’s shoulders, StopBullying.gov provides a few suggestions for what students can do if they’re being bullied. For example, students can confront bullies in a calm and clear voice or try to laugh it off. They can also try to stay near adults and avoid places where bullying occurs.
Related: StopBullying.gov's Tips for What You Can Do
Louisiana was the runner-up on WalletHub’s list, scoring 59.43. WalletHub’s experts emphasize parents’ role in stopping and preventing bullying. Establishing a relational connection between the parent and child is key to preventing their child from being bullied, according to Jeff Leffler, executive director for the Center for Child Development at the University of Southern Mississippi. Monitoring online activity and restricting certain sites, such as social-media sites, are good strategies. Parents should also get savvy about smartphones and apps that children can use to deceive them.
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WalletHub named Michigan the number one worst state for bullying, giving it a score of 60.18. Only 4 percent of adults and 11 percent of peers will intervene when they see bullying occur, which means 85 percent of people will do nothing. It’s important for schools to create a culture that discourages bullying and celebrates difference. According to Jonathan Todres, professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law, evidence suggests that zero-tolerance policies aren’t working and can actually be harmful. WalletHub’s experts suggest a number of strategies, including that schools create awareness campaigns around bullying and discrimination and establish upstander reporting procedures for students who witness bullying.
Related: Welcoming Schools' List of Resources for Your School
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What Do YOU Think?
Was bullying ever a problem in your life or the life of someone you love? Do you think bullying is a normal part of growing up or do you think that it’s preventable? What do you think is the most affective way to handle bullying? Let us know in the comments section!
Related: The 21 Most Lethal Places in America
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