Anti-bullying laws and youth violence in the United States: A longitudinal evaluation of efficacy and implementation
Bullying is the most common form of youth violence in the United States and is associated with numerous adverse outcomes for youth. While all 50 states have enacted anti-bullying legislation, there is a lack of research that evaluates whether these laws are effective in preventing bullying and other forms of youth violence.
This project pursues three aims:
- First, we will use national survey data to evaluate if anti-bullying laws reduce multiple forms of violent behaviors among youth, including bullying, cyberbullying, peer-to-peer fighting and assaults at school, and weapons carrying. We will also examine whether improved school climate is impacted by anti-bullying legislation.
- Second, we will evaluate whether anti-bullying policies are effective in protecting groups that are known to be at risk of bullying and other forms of youth violence.
To address these first two aims, our team will conduct an analysis of anti-bullying laws (and amendments) from their inception in 1999 through 2017. We will link this legal data to reports of bullying and violence from several national surveys of youth.
- Third, we will evaluate whether the implementation of anti-bullying laws impacts youth violence outcomes.
To address this third aim, we are collaborating with the Maine Department of Education to carry out surveys with school administrators, counselors, and teachers to measure their implementation of anti-bullying laws. These implementation data will be linked to youth violence outcomes from several data sources in Maine to determine whether implementation is related to the effectiveness of the anti-bullying policy.
Maine recently passed a comprehensive anti-bullying law with new school requirements, including the implementation of a bullying incident reporting system. Maine is just one of four states that require the state Department of Education (DOE) to provide a model policy to schools. The Maine DOE is a valuable partner in this project, granting researchers a unique opportunity to conduct surveys with school administrators, counselors, and teachers across the state, learning how schools are adopting the state’s model policies and whether these implementation factors affect youth violence outcomes.
Findings will potentially provide actionable evidence for diverse actors, including legislators involved in amending anti-bullying laws; state and local agencies responsible for carrying out provisions of the laws; and students and families who are directly affected by the strategies implemented by their schools to adhere to the law.