WASHINGTON – An estimated 61,000 Maryland schoolchildren in grades six to nine are bullies, according to a new report, which said that such children are nearly three times more likely than other kids to commit crime as adults.
The report, released Thursday by the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, based its claim on a national estimate that about one-third of students in those grades were either bullies or bullied during the 1998-99 school year.
By that estimate, 3.7 million middle school students were bullies and 3.2 million middle school students were victims nationwide during that year. In Maryland, the report estimates, there were almost 54,000 bullying victims in addition to the 61,000 bullies in those grades.
“One in six kids is a victim of bullying, and even more kids are bullies,” said Sanford Newman, president of the anti-crime group. “Together, about one in three kids is involved in bullying.”
The report said that about 60 percent of students who were bullies in grades six to nine ended up committing crime by age 24, compared to 23 percent for other students.
Maryland school officials did not challenge the group’s numbers, but agreed that bullying can be a serious problem, one that they said the state is aggressively dealing with.
“Baltimore County has actually been at the head of bullying prevention programs,” in the state, said Charles Herndon, a spokesman for that county’s schools. He said the county has implemented “several programs that proactively address the issue.”
The Maryland State Department of Education enacted a regulation three months ago that ensures that every student has a right to an educational environment free of harassment.
“I think we have some very strong programs, but like other states, we’d like to see lower incidences of bullying,” said Deputy State Superintendent Ron Peiffer.
Despite the state’s confidence in the effectiveness of its bully-prevention programs, many of the programs in Maryland rely on peer mediation techniques. The Fight Kids report argued that those techniques do not make for effective prevention programs.
The organization claims that anti-bullying programs such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, developed in Norway, and Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT), can prevent as much as half of all bullying incidences. Currently, however, such programs have not been widely implemented in public schools across the country.
On hand for the release of the report was Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, a former victim of bullying who has become an advocate of bullying-prevention programs. Also on hand were all 51 Miss America state titleholders, including the current Miss Maryland, Marina Harrison.
“People know bullying exists. Now what they need to see are the results,” of that bullying and possible solutions to the problem, Harrison said. “This report presents solutions to these problems.”