Senator Casey Releases New GAO Findings on Bullying in Schools

Report to be Discussed at HELP Committee Field Hearing on Strategies to Prevent Bullying

WASHINGTON—  U.S. Senator Bob Casey, along with other Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, released a new Government Accountability Office report on school bullying, and strategies that federal, state and local governments are using to reduce the incidence of bullying, as well as legal options federal and state governments have in place when bullying leads to allegations of discrimination. 

“Every child deserves a quality education in a safe environment, but too many students face bullying and harassment every day in schools across our Nation.  Unfortunately, those who are most vulnerable also lack adequate protections under the law,” Casey said.  “This report highlights the need for my bipartisan anti-bullying legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which will help schools take steps to reduce incidence of bullying and keep all students safe.”

The study was conducted at the request of Senators Casey, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mark Kirk (R-IL).  Its findings will be examined today at a HELP Committee field hearing in Des Moines, Iowa on how local, state, and federal policies can promote bullying-free environments for students.

The GAO report found:

  • Bullying can have serious impacts on victims. Four surveys from 2005-2009 found that 20-28% of youths reported being bullied in school.
  • 49 states have instituted school bullying laws, but many do not identify any protected classes or demographic groups, such as race and sex or gender.
  • Federal civil rights laws provide limited protection against bulling, since they do not cover certain vulnerable groups (i.e. students who are bullied on the basis of their sexual orientation or socioeconomic status)
  • The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice have established coordinated efforts to research and educate the public about bullying, and distributed information about how federal civil rights laws can be utilized to address bullying of protected classes of students.

The report also included the following recommendations:

  • Federal agencies should acquire more information about state civil rights laws and legal options for victims of bullying, and more data on the demographics of bullied students.
  • Federal agencies should provide more information about state-level protections that exist.
  • More work needs to be done to determine whether legal protections in place for these groups at both the state and federal levels are adequate.