Antibullying laws that include statement of scope, a description of prohibited behaviors, and requirements for districts to develop and implement policies have been linked with a decrease in bullying and cyberbullying, results of a study suggest.
“We found evidence that compliance with [Department of Education]–recommended guidelines in antibullying laws was associated with lower rates of being bullied and cyberbullied,” wrote Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D., of Columbia University, New York, and his colleagues.
The researchers analyzed survey responses from 63,635 adolescents in grades 9-12 in schools from 25 states, between September 2010 and December 2011. These states had antibullying laws in place at the time the students were surveyed. The researchers also used the U.S. Department of Education’s review of how closely each law followed the department’s framework for antibullying laws. Using the DOE data and the student’s survey responses, the researchers searched for links between the inclusion of specific parts of the DOE framework in a state’s antibullying law and the prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying in that state.
They evaluated 16 individual components of antibullying legislation. Of these, statement of scope (bullying: adjusted odds ratio, 0.85; cyberbullying: AOR, 0.87), a description of prohibited behaviors (bullying: AOR, 0.83; cyberbullying: AOR, 0.92), and requirements for districts to develop and implement policies (bullying: AOR, 0.76; cyberbullying: AOR, 0.80) were consistently associated with decreased odds of being bullied and cyberbullied, “These three components offer details, specificity, and clarity for school administrators and may therefore increase the likelihood that they feel empowered to act,” wrote the researchers.
Future research on antibullying laws’ effectiveness should include “a larger sample of laws identified from historical reviews of all 49 state antibullying laws,” they added.
The researchers had no disclosures. Read the study in JAMA Pediatrics (doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2411).