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Only half of adults say schools should take action when kids bully with social isolation

Most adults say schools should take action when bullies threaten physical safety, embarrass others, according to U-M's National Poll on Children's Health

U.S. adults repeatedly rate bullying as a major health problem for U.S. children. But a new poll from the University of Michigan shows adults have different views about what bullying behaviors should prompt schools to take action.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health recently asked a nationwide sample of adults what behaviors should be considered bullying and what behaviors should spur school officials to intervene.

The vast majority of adults (95 percent) say schools should take action if a student makes another student afraid for his/her physical safety. Eighty-one percent said schools should intervene when someone humiliates or embarrasses another student and 76 percent call for intervention when someone spreads rumors.

But only 56 percent said isolating a student socially should prompt school intervention.

"The key finding from this poll is that adults don't see behaviors across the bullying spectrum as equivalent," says Matthew M. Davis M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"This is concerning because isolating a student socially is considered to be a form of bullying, and a dangerous one," says Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

"Isolating a student socially may be linked to episodes of school violence and also teen suicide."

Since year 2000, 46 states have passed laws related to bullying and 45 of them require schools to have bullying policies. But not all states have the same definition of what constitutes bullying, and the poll indicates that adults don't agree on this either.

In the poll, nearly all adults (90 percent) say threatening another student's physical safety is bullying and 62 percent also say embarrassing or humiliating a student is definitely bullying.

But just 59 percent say spreading rumors about a student is bullying and only 48 percent say isolating a student socially should be considered bullying.

Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, and with subsequent school shootings and teen suicides linked to bullying, public concern about bullying has grown considerably in the U.S. In the last several years of the Poll's 'Top 10' list of greatest child health concerns, bullying has been rated by the public as a major problem for kids. The latest national data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011, reported by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that 20% of high school students report that they have been the victims of bullying.

"As school starts, this is the perfect time of year to have conversations about how each school can find solutions to the problems of bullying and address this important childhood health problem," says Davis.

Broadcast-quality video is available on request. See the video here:

Full report:

Website: Check out the Poll's new website: You can search and browse over 60 NPCH Reports, suggest topics for future polls, share your opinion in a quick poll, and view information on popular topics. The National Poll on Children's Health team welcomes feedback on the new website, including features you'd like to see added. To share feedback, e-mail


Twitter: @MottNPCH

Additional resources:

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK), for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in May 2012 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 and older (n=2,144) from GfK's web-enabled KnowledgePanel® that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 62% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 2 to 4 percentage points.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit
Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.

Mary F. Masson | EurekAlert!
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