As part of our efforts to create awareness around the issue of bullying, and in partnership with the makers of the film “Bully”, conducted a survey of 500 parents and 500 principals to capture their thoughts on bullying in schools.

The big picture is positive: a vast majority of school principals, about 81 percent, report that their district has an official policy on bullying. However, only 72 percent of those principals with policies say that their staff is aware of, and complies with, the policy.

When delving deeper into what those policies actually mean for kids, the picture gets more disturbing. Only 38 percent of principals report that they have sufficient resources to effectively implement bullying programs, curricula and policies.

Schools in the Northeast seemed more likely to have implemented a bullying curriculum (54 percent) than schools in the Southeast (41 percent), Midwest (41 percent), Southwest (35 percent), or West (46 percent).

When asked what would have the greatest impact on bullying at their school, principals were most likely to indicate hiring additional staff to monitor students (28 percent) and having the parents of students involved in bullying incidents be more proactive (27 percent). Twenty percent indicated that implementing a “friendship curriculum” or anti-bullying curriculum on campus would have the greatest impact, and 15 percent said reducing class sizes would have the greatest impact.

In the survey, principals were allowed to write in their own comments on the challenging issue of bullying in school. Many wrote about their frustration with the inability of some parents to identify bullying and participate in the schools’ disciplinary measures.

Dovetailing these sentiments, the results from parents show a need for increased awareness about how to identify, and resolve, a bully-victim dynamic in children. While 42 percent of parents report that their child has been a victim of bullying in the last year (and 42 percent have witnessed another child being bullied), only 6 percent report that their child has bullied another child.

Accepting the fact that your child has bullied others is obviously a difficult realization for parents, but without acceptance parents are unable to act as agents of change. The majority of parents who took the survey felt unprepared to help their child, especially if their child was in the bullying role.

When comparing data from parents with data from principals, it’s clear that there is a gap in communication around the issue of bullying between these two groups. While 63 per cent of principals indicate that they communicate with parents and caregivers about anti-bullying efforts and policies at least once each school year, only 47 per cent of parents reported that their child’s school communicates with them at least once during the year regarding bullying prevention efforts and policies.

The numbers reported here show a vast need for improvement in the way administrators, teachers, and parents conceive of, and enact solutions for, the problem of bullying in schools. The good news is that everyone can play in role in that solution; contact your school today and ask what you can do to stop bullying.

To learn more, visit our resource center on bullying.