Based on student surveys, Ybarra calls for a ‘war on bullying’

One in four Idaho high school students reports being a victim of bullying — and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra says the numbers show it’s time to declare war.

Ybarra’s State Department of Education released the results from its 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Tuesday.

The numbers show significant increases in bullying incidents. Twenty-six percent of high school students said they were bullied on school grounds, up from 22 percent in 2009. Twenty-two percent of students said they had seriously considered suicide, up from 15 percent in 2011. Twenty percent of students said they were bullied via text or social media, up from 17 percent in 2011.

These numbers — as reported by students who voluntarily filled out the survey — tell a different story from the state’s own data. School administrators were required to report bullying incidents for the first time in 2015-16. In a state with nearly 300,000 students, schools reported 3,162 bullying incidents.

But with the release of Tuesday’s youth survey results, Ybarra said the state should build on its campaign of anti-bullying public service announcements.

“My vision is to grow this public service announcement into a larger, multi-year statewide effort similar to the successful campaign to reduce teen tobacco use. It was effective. Let’s replicate what works and declare a ‘war on bullying in Idaho,’” she said.

The youth survey appears to bear out Ybarra’s claims on tobacco use. Only 3 percent of students say they smoke regularly, down from 8 percent a decade ago. Today’s high school students also appear less likely to drink alcohol, in comparison to previous studies.

But respondents aren’t necessarily telling the truth.

“Respondents of self-reported surveys may have a tendency to under-report behaviors that are socially undesirable, unhealthy, or illegal (bullying, drug, alcohol and tobacco use, sexual assault, etc.) and overreport behaviors which are socially desirable (exercise frequency, healthy diet, seat belt use, etc.),” the authors said.

Another result seems to be at odds with hard numbers. In all, 78 percent of high school students say they will definitely complete a postsecondary program — be it four- or two-year college, career-technical training or military service.

The latest round of college “go-on” numbers were far lower, with only 48 percent of 2016 high school graduates going straight on to college. That 48 percent figure would not reflect military service, and might not reflect all career-technical programs.

All told, 1,818 students in 53 selected high schools completed this spring’s SDE Youth Risk Behavior Survey.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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