Nearly Three In Four Americans Say Bullying Is A Serious Problem In Their Local Schools

Public Agenda also finds more than one-third of Americans say they were bullied in school

To learn more about this problem, check out the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration's anti-bullying site, which has resources in English and Spanish for children and teens, and parents, teachers and other adults, including videos and advice for victims, witnesses and others on what kind of behavior is considered to be bullying and what can be done about it.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans consider bullying and harassment a serious problem in their local public schools, though not as serious as illegal drugs and lack of respect for teachers, according to a new survey by the nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization Public Agenda.

More than one-third of Americans (35 percent), including 39 percent of parents, say they were bullied themselves when growing up. But only 8 percent of the public and 10 percent of parents say they were bullied "a lot." These findings are based on a Public Agenda survey of 1,001 people, including 262 parents of children under 18, conducted from April 8 – 11, 2010.

The recent tragedy in South Hadley, Mass., where six teenagers currently face criminal charges in connection with bullying that prosecutors say led to the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, has reopened fresh debate over how pervasive bullying is in American schools and what can be done about it.

Public Agenda found that 74 percent of those surveyed say bullying and harassment are serious problems in their local schools, with 47 percent calling these actions “very serious” problems. Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of the public say illegal drugs and students treating teachers with a lack of respect are serious problems, with 53 percent calling illegal drugs "very serious" and 50 percent saying disrespect for teachers “very serious.”

Parents are actually slightly less concerned about these problems than the public overall. Sixty-nine percent of parents say bullying is a serious problem (40 percent say "very serious"), seventy percent say disrespect for teachers is a serious problem (45 percent say "very serious"), and 68 percent say illegal drugs are a serious problem (39 percent say "very serious").

Physical fighting and cheating in schools are lesser concerns for both the total public (59 percent and 55 percent, respectively) and parents (55 percent for fighting, 48 percent for cheating).

Adults who say they were bullied in school are more likely to say bullying is a "very serious" problem (49 percent versus 42 percent of those who said they weren't bullied). Men are more likely to say they were bullied (41 percent compared with 30 percent of women), but women are more likely to consider bullying a "very serious" problem (53 percent of women compared with 41 percent of men).


The survey was conducted as part of the Princeton Survey Research International (PSRAI) April omnibus conducted from April 8 – April 11, 2010, and 1,001 adults were interviewed. The omnibus included questions on a wide variety of topics. Besides these questions, others were asked on politics/current events and multivitamins. A combination of landline and cellular random digit dial (RDD) samples was used to represent all adults in the continental United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. However, it is higher when comparing subgroups or question items that were not asked of all respondents.

More From Public Agenda On Education, Children And Families

Education and other issues affecting children and families are a major focus for Public Agenda's researchers and our public engagement team. Here are a few other studies and papers which might be of interest to policymakers and others considering the issues examined here:

A Time to Learn, A Time to Grow: California Parents Talk About Summertime And Summer Programs

All Work and No Play? Listening to What Kids and Parents Really Want from Out-of-School Time

A Lot Easier Said Than Done: Parents Talk About Raising Children in Today's America

Play And Public Life

A Matter of Trust: Ten Key Insights From Recent Public Opinion Research on Attitudes About Education Among Hispanic Parents, Students and Young Adults

Can I Get A Little Advice Here? How An Overstretched High School Guidance System Is Undermining Students' College Aspirations

With Their Whole Lives Ahead Of Them

Download the Survey Results

Bullying in Schools - Full Survey Results

Media Type: PDF

The survey was conducted as part of the Princeton Survey Research International (PSRAI) April omnibus conducted from April 8 - April 11, 2010, and 1,001 adults were interviewed.


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