- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Nearly half of student bullying incidents in West Virginia’s public schools occur in middle schools, a state study shows.

The study found that 47 percent of school discipline referrals for bullying, harassment or intimidation in the current academic year have occurred in middle schools. Another 29 percent of such incidents occurred in high schools and 24 percent occurred in elementary schools.

Of the middle school referrals, 17 percent were from seventh grade, 16 percent were from eighth grade and 14 percent were from sixth grade.

Andy Whisman with the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Research presented the study’s findings to a legislative interim committee on Sunday, The Register-Herald (https://bit.ly/1Ijewbf) reported.

Whisman told the committee that 2,957 students were referred for disciplinary action for bullying or harassment behavior, and 86 percent of the referrals were for a single offense.

These students were more likely to have other disciplinary problems such as truancy, tardiness and a failure to obey rules, Whisman said.

Seventy-five percent of the students referred for disciplinary action are male, and 87 percent are white. Ten percent of the students involved in such incidents are black, a rate higher than their population, which is 5 percent. Other nonwhite races and ethnic groups were referred for disciplinary action at about the same rate as their population. The white student population is 91 percent, the report said.

This is the first year that school districts were required to report discipline behaviors under a new management term that defines bullying, harassment and intimidation in the same way that legislation does, Whisman said.

The federal definition of bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time,” the report said.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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