Newly released numbers show increase in bullying incidents being reported in Indiana schools

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Newly released numbers show an increase in bullying incidents are being reported in Indiana schools.

This month, the Indiana Department of Education released its annual bullying report.

After some critics questioned the accuracy of previous bullying report released the state, lawmakers passed a bill to encourage schools to report more honest numbers.

Still, some say the numbers released this month don’t reflect the changing nature of bullying.

From Facebook to Snapchat and more, dealing with cyber-bullying is a scary reality for many kids. It's a problem some say is not always counted in the state's bullying report.

"If they don’t happen on school property, they may not have to be counted in that report. We also know children are less likely to report those incidents," said Anita Thomas with UIndy.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the Indiana Department of Education reported 5,604 bullying incidents. That is nearly 1,000 more than the previous year.

The report also shows fewer schools, 46 percent, reported zero bullying incidents this year. That's compared to 55 percent last year. Still, Anita Thomas with UIndy doesn't think those increases are a bad thing.

"I think it’s an improvement that schools are reporting more incidents, but I think it’s an under estimate of what's happening for children and youth," said Thomas.

"That rise in the numbers indicates more schools are understanding what bullying looks like," said Adam Baker at the Department of Education.

State statute describes bullying as “overt, unwanted, repeated acts or gestures… meant to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm."

That's another reason Baker says many incidents may not meet the legal definition tracked by the state.

Still, because bullying can lead to depression and poor performance in the classroom, everyone agrees it's important to get the most accurate bullying numbers possible.

"We want the community and parents to have a true grasp on how a school is performing how they’re dealing with bullying and open those lines of communication," said Baker.

"Because it has long term consequences I think it's critical we have more programs around cyber-bullying and lots of discussions," said Thomas.