Bullying Information

  • October 30, 2015

By Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

First published in The Advocate

DRT does not currently work on bullying issues in school. However, this is an important concern shared by many of our clients, so we’re sharing resources gathered by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

School Safety and Bullying

Safety is a basic need, necessary for children to be able to learn. Tennessee law requires schools to have anti-bullying and harassment policies. The Tennessee Department of Education (DOE) lists recommendations for parents and resources for educators to help protect students from lifelong trauma. 
Four groups of students are involved in bullying: victims, bullies, bullies/victims and bystanders. According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, all four groups are at increased risk of mental disorders in adulthood. The group at highest risk were students who both were bullied and bullied others. The largest group of students affected by bullying are bystanders.

DOE recommends parents:

  • Encourage children to report incidents of bullying they observe immediately to school officials;
  • Have children support the victim by including him or her in social activities.

Resources on bullying

Anti-Bullying Policies

Tennessee law requires school systems to have policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyberbullying. Policies should include a definition of the problem, statement of consequences, procedures for investigation and plan for publicizing the policy. 

Legislation passed in 2012 required school systems to annually submit the number of bullying incidents during the school year. In school year 2013-14, more than 10,000 cases of school bullying were reported. Investigation determined bullying occurred in more than two-thirds (69 percent) of the reports. 

A recent report on national anti-bullying policies found that in 2011, 110 (81 percent) of the state’s schools districts had anti-bullying policies. Nationally, nearly three of every 10 systems did not have anti-bullying process. The report credited Tennessee with providing model policies or guidelines for use by school systems. Tennessee’s law does not specify protected categories of students, even though some groups are much more likely to be bullied than others. According to the state report, a specific category was identified in only a fourth of the cases. Of these, the largest number, 1,329, involved sex- or gender-based discrimination; 665 involved electronic technology (cyberbullying); 326 involved race, color or national origin; and 188, disability. Nationwide, fewer than half of local school systems with policies specifically listed perceived or actual sexual orientation as a protected category.

Having a school anti-bullying curriculum results in a 25 percent reduction in bullying. 

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is a nonprofit legal services organization that provides free legal advocacy services to protect the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities.

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