Study finds bullying on the decline


Sandra Chapman/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A new national survey out this week says the number of kids being bullied and assaulted by their peers is on the decline.

The new numbers come on the heels of troubling assault allegations at Carmel High School that reportedly happened on the back of a basketball team bus, and in a high school locker room.

"Our first priority is the welfare and safety of the kids in the school," said Carmel Clay School Board Member Jeff Carter responding to the groundswell of concern. It comes at a time when a new study funded by the Department of Justice shows fewer kids nationwide beating each other up, or worse.

"Physical bullying which was the main thing that declined, includes assaults as well as threatening people physically," said Professor David Finklehor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Finklehor is the author of the study.

He found 22 percent of the 2,000 children interviewed reported being bullied in 2003. Five years later in 2008 that number dropped to under 15 percent, even with twice as many children surveyed.

When it comes to youth on youth assaults, the percentages dropped from 45 percent to just over 38 percent of kids reporting they had been victimized. Specifically, sexual assaults declined from 3.3 percent to 2 percent.

Finklehor says it's a strong indication that anti-bullying efforts are working.

"It says we can make a dent in this and we ought to be continuing the kinds of things that we've been doing," he said speaking of programs like the Olweus approach.

According to Finklehor, bullying among kids typically peaks by the age of 14. He says what's alleged in Carmel is much more serious. He heard about similar situations in the studies.

"Oh, yes," he told Eyewitness News. "There is often a sexual component to bullying. We use the term bullying to apply to a lot of stuff among kids that is criminal activity by any other name. I think we need to recognize that these are serious acts that often have serious consequences on victims," he said.

Overall there are significant improvements nationwide, but experts agree there are still too many kids, whether in Carmel or across the country, suffering at the hands of their peers.

Researchers plan to study cyber-bullying later this year.