Post-Columbine report: Less bullying leads to higher school test scores

Next April 20 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold forever altered the definition of school shootings after their rampage at Columbine High School. And how much a culture of bullying at the school, as was alleged as a motivator, was a factor may never completely be known. But after three years and $9 million, a new study shows that — not a big shock — healthy relationships between teens and adults reduces the prevalence of peer bullying.

The study, completed by the Colorado Trust, found that bullying — which had been prevalent when they launched the initiative three years ago — was still prevalent in participating schools and organizations, particularly in middle schools.

“Bullying decreased when adults and students were willing to intervene, treat each other fairly and show they care,” according to the report. In addition, the Colorado Trust, which works to advance the health and well-being of Coloradans, determined that schools with less bullying had higher scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) in reading, writing and math combined.

In all, 54 schools across Colorado participated in the three-year Bullying Prevention Initiative. The Colorado Trust, which released the findings this week, reports that almost one-third of schools that experienced less bullying in year one had higher-than-average CSAP scores. In year two, that number increased to almost half of schools — 47 percent.

According to the findings:

The majority of students involved in the evaluation in fifth through 12th grades throughout Colorado said they had experienced physical, verbal or Internet bullying. And students from elementary through high school reported that they had bullied others that year. However, the frequency of bullying was low. Students reported bullying others once or twice in a year.

Boys were 75 percent more likely to use physical bullying than girls and 22 percent more likely to bully others verbally. The evaluators found no difference between boys and girls for cyberbullying. Bullying incidents did appear to be higher in rural than urban areas.

Physical and Internet bullying also increased in middle school, but dropped off in high school. Verbal bullying rose significantly in middle school and remained elevated in high school. Almost 80 percent of middle and high school youths reported that they had verbally bullied others.

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