ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — More than half of students in Minnesota schools reported they had been bullied or had bullied someone else at least once in the past year, according to an analysis of 2010 survey data of the state’s students.
The analysis by the Departments of Health and Education covered more than 130,000 students’ responses to the Minnesota Student Survey, which is administered every three years to students in sixth, ninth and 12th grades.
The analysis found that nearly 43 percent of students had not experienced or been involved in bullying. But 13 percent were bullied once a week or more. Bullying was defined as being made fun of, teased in a way that hurt, or excluded from friends or activities by others.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, told Minnesota Public Radio News (http://bit.ly/jMlTgl) the analysis released in March was proof that school officials must do more to address bullying.
“We want welcoming, engaging, supportive environments in all our schools,” she said. “But we have to help children and teach them the skills so that when conflict arises, they’re able to deal with it in a healthy way.”
Education specialist Nancy Riestenberg said students regularly involved in mistreatment, either as a bully or as a victim, are less likely to earn As or Bs. They skip school more often and have higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
“The kids who said they’ve never really been bullied, their life is pretty stable and looks pretty healthy,” said Riestenberg. “But the kids who have experiences with bullying — whether victims or offenders — that’s not true for them.”
The analysis found that about 9 percent of students bullied their peers at least once a week, and they shouldn’t be forgotten, said Jennifer O’Brien, adolescent health coordinator at the state Department of Health.
“I think often when we look at this issue, we think just about the victim’s side of it,” O’Brien said. “We think `what can we do to protect this young person who’s the victim of bullying?’ And while that’s so important, I think this report really charges us as professionals to be looking at the experiences and needs of those that are bullying.”
The student survey asked a wide range of questions, such as whether students wear seat belts, have smoked or had sex. It also asked about their grades, home life and suicidal thoughts.
According to the report, more than a quarter of Minnesota students who have been a frequent bully or victim also thought of suicide in the past year.
But the link between bullying and suicide isn’t simple and there’s rarely a single reason why young people kill themselves, said Maureen Underwood, a social worker who works with the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. But, she said, bullying might make youth who are already vulnerable more susceptible to thoughts of suicide.
“Lots of kids are depressed and lots of kids are bullied, and all of these kids are not suicidal,” she said. “So there’s something that separates the kids who choose suicide from all the rest of the kids who come up with healthier ways to cope with being victimized.”
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