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Missouri's School Bullying Problem Is Among the Worst in Nation

It's a startling statistic. In America, every seven minutes, a child is bullied. In 4 percent of the cases, parents intervene; children intervene 11 percent. It's a heartbreaking reality that 85 percent of the time, no one is there to help the victims. In a recently published study on school bullying conducted by Wallethub, Missouri ranked third in the nation for states with the most prevalent bullying. Missouri has been working hard to fix this problem, especially since Megan Meier's death in 2006 after being cyberbullied by fellow students and their parents. Though perhaps Missouri has improved, they still have a long way to go.

The study based its rankings on several factors including percentage of students bullied on school property and online, the rate of truancy due to fear of being bullied, and the stance the state has taken on state anti-bullying laws. The data came from several sources, including the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data was collected from 2015-2017.

Ineffectiveness of School Policies to Punish Bullies

Bullying is generally referred to as verbal, physical, or other acts committed with the intent to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to another individual. Every state, except Montana, has some law regarding bullying.

In Missouri, up until 2017, the only law was that schools needed to have an anti-bullying policy. There's not a lot of bite behind that bark. Combine that with a culture that doesn't take bullying as a crime, and one can see why the issue is so prevalent in Missouri. According to Ann Jarrett, director of teaching and learning at the Missouri National Education Association, "The thing that works is having to change the culture, working with schools, parents and students so that it becomes not socially acceptable among peers." School policies, alone, will not solve the problem.

Missouri Bullying Laws Now Have Some Bite

Time will tell if Jarrett is right. In 2017, Missouri instituted a new law, making it a felony for students in Missouri to bully others at school under the laws of emotional distress, creating liability for both the school and the student-bully. In theory, this law should deter bullying. However, educators fear that criminalizing bullying could draw police into what has been a school-only matter, leading to greater jail time for students, and strengthening the school-to-prison pipeline. It does beg the question, though, that perhaps schools haven't been doing enough and it's time to take matters out of their hands.

If your child, or someone you know, has been a victim of bullying, don't be part of the 96% of the adults that do nothing. Persistent bullying can lead to severe depression, violent tendencies, and even suicide. If you need help with a bullying matter, contact an education law attorney near you.

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