State Department of Education: Intervention is slowing down bullying in schools

The State Department of Education released data that shows 1.04% of Idaho students reported taking action against bullying. (AP Photo)

New data on bullying is giving hope to Idaho educators.

"It's hard to have great schools when students don't feel safe," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sherri Ybarra. "It affects their academics, it affects their emotional well being."

Which is why Ybarra says she's made it a top priority to promote bullying awareness. She encourages training parents, staff and students to recognize bullying and provide the tools necessary to stop it.

One of those tools is requiring districts and charter schools to report bullying incidents at the end of each school year. The department hopes this will provide a snap shot of how many students are being bullied, and if intervention is working.

In a preamble to the data report, the SDE defines bullying as "intentional, repeated hurtful acts or words causing fear or harm. Bullying includes the assertion of power over others and can occur electronically."

The State Department of Education says only incidents prompting formal action from administrators are required to be reported.

Data provided by the SDE shows that out of 305,254 Idaho students surveyed, there were 3,162 reports of bullying that required intervention, or 1.04 percent.

Meanwhile, Ybarra says roughly one in four students has been exposed to bullying in some shape or form.

"When you have 25 percent of students saying they've been exposed to some kind of bullying, but only one percent required an action to be taken, that tells me that our intervention is working."

Ybarra says district leaders take a hands-on-approach, working from the ground up so that students know how to take a stand against bullying.

"Their voice is their best defense. Enough is enough. Stand up and say something. Report it, you can remain anonymous, tell a teacher, but your voice is your best defense against bullying."

Boise School District Spokesman Dan Hollar says the district takes a proactive approach to bullying. While he says even one report of bullying is too many, the district provides programs involving staff, parents and students to bring awareness to the issue.

Ybarra says new data regarding the 2016-2017 school year will be released in June.