Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

NYC public schools have been underreporting bullying, report suggests

September 6, 2016

As published in the NY Daily News on August 31, 2016.

The city has failed to accurately tally incidents of bullying in public schools, a report issued Wednesday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman suggests.

Schneiderman’s analysis of state Education Department data from the 2013-14 school year found that 1,257 of 1,792 city schools — or 71 % — reported zero incidents of harassment, bullying or discrimination of students for that entire year. And 1,762 schools — or 98% of the total — reported 10 or fewer incidents.

Those low figures “suggest both significant underreporting of material incidents of harassment and discrimination by schools in New York City, along with some confusion or uncertainty as to how to classify those incidents that are reported,” Schneiderman’s report stated.

The findings highlight the importance of accurately tracking bullying in city classrooms, the AG added.

“It’s vitally important that students feel comfortable coming forward with fears of discrimination or harassment,” said Schneiderman. “And it’s equally important that schools honestly report their responses to these issues.”

The Dignity for All Students Act of 2010 required all city schools — and public schools across the state — to report incidents of bullying to a public database, so that school leaders and education officials could better address the issue.

But the city has been criticized for years for failing to accurately gather and report data on bullying.

A 2014 analysis by the Daily News found that a whopping 1,378 Big Apple schools — or 80% — reported zero incidents of bullying or harassment for the 2012-13 year.

And an audit last year by state Controller Thomas DiNapoli determined that the city Department of Education did not report roughly 400 violent and disruptive incidents that occurred in city schools from 2011 to 2013 to the state Education Department as required by law.

City Education Department spokeswoman Toya Holness said Schneiderman’s report relies on outdated data and doesn’t adequately capture the city’s efforts to fight bullying.

“Our schools are the safest they’ve ever been, and reporting incidents is not an option, it’s a requirement,” said Holness. “Explicit protocols and robust training programs are used in all schools.”