Over 4,200 bullying complaints were reported across the city’s schools in the first half of this school year, with close to half of them substantiated after officials investigated, education department officials said Friday.
The first-of-its-kind report, now required under city law, offers a more up-to-date picture of bullying, harassment, and intimidating behavior in the nation’s largest school system — and appears to show the number of substantiated complaints are on track to increase this school year. (Scroll down for a searchable database of every city high school that filed a bullying complaint.)
“The impetus for this was to put some data behind how extensive and pervasive bullying is in our school system,” said Mark Treyger, who pushed for the new reporting requirements and is the chairman of City Council’s education committee. “We keep hearing about bullying cases without any firm data to inform policymakers.”
The new round of data closely mimics numbers the city already reports to the state’s education department — though the new reports will eventually include more granular information including how long it takes schools to respond to each complaint and whether schools appropriately communicated with parents.
The city’s bullying policies have come under increased scrutiny after a student, who claimed to have been the victim of bullying, stabbed a 15-year-old classmate to death inside their Bronx school in September. A month later, officials unveiled a suite of new anti-bullying initiatives.
“Our schools are safe havens, and we’ve made significant investments to equip school communities with more tools and resources in order to address bullying head-on and provide support to students and families,” said Lois Herrera, CEO of the education department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development.
Here are three takeaways from the new data:
Bullying appears to be on the upswing.
Two years ago, city schools reported 3,281 substantiated incidents of bullying, harassment, or intimidating behavior to the state, according to education department officials. In the first half of this school year, 1,883 such incidents have been reported — which would represent a 15 percent increase over two years and a smaller 3 percent increase compared to last year (assuming the current rate continues through the rest of the school year).
A department spokeswoman, Miranda Barbot, cautioned that this year’s figures have not yet been audited, and said the final number could fluctuate, making it difficult to say for sure if reports of bullying will rise this year. Still, the number of bullying complaints will likely increase as the city begins allowing families to file them through a new online portal next year.
Race was a big factor in many complaints.
In all, schools investigated and confirmed 268 cases of bullying based on race during the first half of the school year. By contrast, 167 cases involved ethnicity or national origin, 163 cases were about gender identity or expression, and 144 had to do with a student’s weight.
Under a new policy announced this year, victims of bullying can request transfers to other schools, but city officials could not say how many students were granted such transfers.
Some high schools are responsible for an outsized share of bullying complaints.
The report only includes school-level data for high schools, and it shows that some report more bullying incidents than others. Not surprisingly, many schools with the largest number of bullying incidents tend to be comprehensive high schools that enroll more students.
John Adams High School, for instance, tops the list — a school that enrolls nearly 2,300 students and reported 21 confirmed instances of bullying in the first half of this school year. At the other end of the spectrum, 102 high schools — or roughly a quarter of them — reported no complaints of bullying.
The city’s statistics are worth taking with a grain of salt, since different educators may file bullying complaints under different circumstances. And a 2016 report by the State Education Department and attorney general found that the city under-reported bullying incidents to the state.
Still, the report offers a new set of data that gives a broad sense of bullying across the city’s 1,800 schools. And below, you can search for how many bullying incidents have been reported across the city’s high schools in the first half of this school year.
An asterisk means that somewhere between one and five incidents were reported, but were suppressed due to privacy laws. “Material incidents” refer to bullying complaints that were investigated and found to have merit by school officials. If your school does not appear, that means it did not report any bullying complaints. You can find the city’s full dataset here.
Sam Park contributed data visualizations.