Data from schools across the state shows a sharp increase in bullying, but the numbers could be a little misleading. This is because the state recently changed the way schools are required to collect and report data.
Indiana Charter and Public Schools reported approximately 3,614 incidents of bullying in the 2015-16 school year, and in the 2017-18 school year, those numbers increased to 5,604. So, are children getting meaner?
Probably not. Indiana Education Department spokesman Adam Baker said the state’s old reporting system just wasn’t as clear or comprehensive.
“So we wanted to move that around and basically turn it into software that made sure we were getting the right kind of data,” he says.
The state made the switch about three years ago and began breaking down incidents of bullying by type, such as verbal or written, shortly thereafter. Baker says reporting the types of bullying gives the state a clearer picture of what’s going on in schools:
“What is really going on, what is it that triggers these [incidents] and how do we make sure that, you know, we can work to stop them from moving forward, ”he says
The state only requires schools to report instances where a student exhibits repeated bullying behavior. This year, lawmakers passed legislation to further improve the way bullying data is collected by the state.
Part of the new law requires the ministry to remind schools of their obligation to report this information. It also requires the ministry to survey schools on how they plan to improve bullying reporting and share the results of that survey with lawmakers by November.