Kentucky Public School Safety Findings Fail to Make the Grade

Lawmakers learned earlier this week that Kentucky public schools are not making the grade on the subjects of bullying, harassment, and threatening others. A preliminary report from the Office of Education Accountability (OEA) revealed that reports of bullying, harassing or threatening other students or school staff have more than tripled since 2012!

The Office of Education Assessment & Accountability Review Subcommittee, a bipartisan legislative panel convened to study public school safety, suggested the dramatic increase could be due to either stricter reporting requirements, or increased incidents of bullying, harassment or threatening, or both. These questions will be answered in the OEA’s final report concerning school safety.

To give you some perspective of the numbers, there are 1,233 public schools in Kentucky with more than 675,000 students enrolled. Findings in the preliminary OEA report on Kentucky school safety reveal:

  • A steady increase in reports of bullying, harassment and threatening behavior since 2012 with 6,782 incidents reported in 2012, double and triple that number in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and 21,015 reports so far in 2015.
  • Harassment accounted for 49% of all reported violations in 2012, and 2013 saw more than double the number of violations reported in all categories other than threatening a staff member.
  • Threatening another student, a new category created in 2014, had 2,500 incidents reports last school year.
  • The 2014-15 school year found double the number of incident reports of students threatening other students, and incidents of threatening staff also increased last school year with more than 4,000 reports from school staff.
  • Surprisingly perhaps, high schools accounted for the fewest violations during the 2014-15 school year, with a little more than 4,000, while middle schools had the worst tally with almost 10,000 reported incidents. But don’t count out the elementary schools, which recorded almost 6,500 violations. Harassment was the largest reported problem at the middle and high school levels, while bullying was the biggest problem reported at the elementary school level.

The findings from the preliminary report on school safety are obviously disturbing. Bullying, harassment and threatening others is a huge problem in our schools and a barrier to learning. We support the efforts of the Kentucky legislature to study and find solutions to combat the growing safety problem in our schools. Children cannot be expected to learn in a hostile environment, and we must do all we can to return safety to our schools so that children can turn their attention to learning rather than merely daily survival.