Tennessee Department of Education releases “Bullying and Harassment Compliance Report”

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Late last week the Tennessee Department of Education released their first “Bullying and Harassment Compliance Report.” In 2012, The Tennessee Legislature adopted Public Chapter 992. The anti-bullying legislation was sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), and Rep. Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta). The legislation mandated local school systems to report on the number of bullying incidents that were reported. Chapter 992 requires systems to tell how the cases were handled or why they were listed as pending, according to the report.

According to the data submitted to the department, 7,555 cases of bullying were reported to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) during the 2012-13 school year. Approximately 73 percent of those cases – 5,478 – were confirmed as bullying after investigation. 

Davidson County, Tennessee's second most populous county after Shelby County, leads report with 923 reported bullying cases. After investigation, that number drops to 812- nearly 15% of the statewide total. In comparison, Shelby County schools reported 265 cases, all of which were noted as bullying once investigated.

And these numbers may not be reflective of the actual number of bullying cases in Tennessee. In a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Education, it was indicated only 40 percent of students who are bullied report the incidents.

While many city and county school districts provided a breakdown of bullying cases by sexual/gender identity, use of technology, racial,color or national origin discrimination and disability, Davidson County does not. According to the report's appendix, "Current records do not indicate cause/origin of incidents. Our current Bullying (29-12) coding is broad and non-specific. We are in the process of modifying coding practices to reflect TDOE specified indicators."

For schools that did report, bullying based upon sexual/gender identity discrimination was the largest percentage of cases (9.2%), followed closely by bullying involving the use of electronic technology. 

In a prepared statement, Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said: “We applaud Senator Ketron and Representative Curtiss for their leadership in ensuring that this report came to fruition.  The report is a reminder of the importance of pursuing comprehensive legislation that strengthens anti-bullying protections for groups particularly vulnerable to bias-based bullying, including LGBT students, youth with disabilities, and others.  We will continue leading the charge to ensure that Tennessee’s anti-bullying law extends protection to a wide range of young people in the coming session.”