If Teachers Squashed Bullying, Maybe Schools Wouldn’t Be So Broke

Schools are missing out on millions in funding because harassed kids stay home.

Image via Flickr user USAG Livorno PAO

It doesn’t take a viewing of “Revenge of the Nerds” to know that bullying is so common in schools that Hollywood flicks about tweens and teens frequently feature characters that are being harassed. From being called names because of their skin color to being made fun of due to their race, ethnicity, weight, sexual orientation, or religion, kids who are different from their peers often end up being bullied at school.

As we sometimes see in both movies and real life, beyond holding a one-off assembly condemning verbal and physical abuse, teachers and other staff members don’t always do enough to stop the behavior. And sometimes, as we saw this spring with the educator who gave a student with ADHD a “Most Likely to Not Pay Attention” award, the teacher is the person being the bully.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]We see that it is worth the investment to do something about bullying.[/quote]

So if keeping students safe isn’t reason enough to squash harassment, perhaps there’s another motivation financially strapped school districts will be compelled by: cold hard cash.

At least, that’s one of the implications of a new study released last week by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. They found that school districts lose millions of dollars in funding every year because bullied kids are afraid to show up to class.

“We found a strong link between all types of bullying and school absence,” one of the study’s authors, postdoctoral scholar Laura Baams, said in a statement. “Once school districts and boards realize how much funding is lost — especially in those districts that are struggling for funds — we see that it is worth the investment to do something about bullying.”

Schools feel the economic impact of bullying because districts across the nation get funding from their state through a formula called the “Average Daily Attendance.” If a student doesn’t come to school, for whatever reason, the school doesn’t get money for that child for that day.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on bullying in middle and high schools from the 2011-2013 California Healthy Kids Survey and from the California Department of Education. They found that just over 10% of students said they’d stayed home because they didn’t feel safe at school. That translates to an “estimated 301,000 students missing school because of feeling unsafe and $276 million in lost revenue each year in California public schools.”

Just as racial inequality is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $2 trillion per year, bullying specifically due to racial or ethnic bias costs our schools the most money. The researchers found that California schools lost up to $78 million per year due to kids staying home because they’re being harassed over their race or ethnicity. Schools in California “also lose much as $54 million based on a religion bias, up to $54 million for gender bias, as high as $62 million for bias related to sexual orientation and as much as $49 million for disability-related bias,” according to the release.

Of course, the Golden State isn’t the only place where harassed kids opt out of going to class. It’s estimated that 160,000 K-12 children stay home from school every day nationwide because they’re too scared they’ll be verbally or physically abused.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Professional anti-bullying training and decreasing racism are cheaper than leaving the system as it is.[/quote]

The financial implications of all those kids skipping class can’t be ignored at a time when most state education budgets haven’t recovered from the Great-Recession-induced financial slash and burn — and more budget cuts are coming at the federal level. So what should schools do?

Well, other recent research shows that racially integrating classrooms is a key to ending bullying. But people keep coming up with new ways to segregate schools, so we probably can’t count on integration tactics like busing or magnet schools to squash harassement in the short term.

"There are clear steps that schools can take to create a safe environment,” said Stephen Russell, professor and chair of human development and family sciences at UT Austin. “Professional anti-bullying training and decreasing racism are not only cheaper than leaving the system as it is, but would also promote an inclusive climate for everyone.”

Essentially, that means if the adults in charge stop being bystanders, kids will show up to class, and there will be more money to educate them. No, it’s not enough to compensate for the billions of dollars that could be cut next year from the proposed federal budget. But healthier, happier kids and a few hundred million more dollars to spend on supplies and field trips sure seems like a win-win.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less