W.Va. 10th worst in preventing bullying, study says

By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter
Despite having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying laws in the country, West Virginia ranks near the bottom in controlling bullying in public schools among the states studied in a new report released Wednesday by WalletHub
Using a set of metrics, the personal finance social network ranked West Virginia 33rd out of 42 states and Washington, D.C. Due to a lack of data, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington were excluded from the study.

In ranking states, researchers looked at the prevalence of bullying and its impact in each state. In those two categories, WalletHub ranked West Virginia 34th and 17th, respectively.

To determine bullying prevalence, researchers factored in each state’s bullying and cyber-bullying rate and the percentage of high school students involved in a physical fight on school property. To determine the impact of bullying, researchers looked at each state’s anti-bullying laws and policies, the cost of truancy resulting from bullying and the number of high school students who missed school out of fear of being bullied.

According to a recent legislative report compiled by the state Department of Education’s Office of Research, nearly 3,000 public school students in West Virginia were referred for disciplinary action for being involved in a bullying-related incident. About 50 percent of those students were in middle school, while elementary and high school students accounted for 29 and 24 percent of those referrals, respectively.

Despite having a high number of incidents, West Virginia is one of 41 states to have both state laws and school board policies with measures for preventing, reporting and disciplining bullying.

The National Education Association estimates that more than 160,000 students in America miss school each day out of fear of being bullied. Those absences and other bullying-related incidents that lower school attendance, the National Association of Secondary School Principals has found, can cost a school millions in expenses and lost funding.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Education Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WalletHub conducted the study to help bring awareness to the financial implications of student bullying.

While state and federal definitions differ, bullying is generally considered any unwanted and aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

WalletHub’s report was released Wednesday to coincide with next week’s Stop Bullying Day and can be viewed by visiting www.wallethub.com.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.