Good news! A new study by the Mailman School of Public Health has found that anti-bullying state laws successfully reduce bullying. "While policies alone cannot completely eradicate bullying," said lead author Mark Hatzenbuehler in a statement, "these data suggest that legislation represents an important part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent bullying.”
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, pulled data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study, and compared it to anti-bullying legislation passed that year in 25 states. Overall, responses of about 60,000 high school students where used in the Mailman study. Each state's law was ranked for compliance by the Department of Education in 2011, so the researchers were able to see which laws were most effective, and why. Hatzenbuehler and his colleagues found that the more specific laws were best at curbing bullying:
Students in states with at least 1 DOE legislative component in the antibullying law had a 24% … reduced odds of reporting bullying and 20%… reduced odds of reporting cyberbullying compared with students in states whose laws had no DOE legislative components. Three individual components of antibullying legislation were consistently associated with decreased odds of exposure to both bullying and cyberbullying: statement of scope, description of prohibited behaviors, and requirements for school districts to develop and implement local policies.
A few years ago, a study found that Oregon counties with anti-bullying legislation that specifically prohibits sexuality-based bullying saw a decreased suicide rate among gay teens.
Overall, 49 states have anti-bullying legislation today.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.