(To recap some of what we’ve written before about Columbine: Almost immediately after the shooting, in which two seniors killed 12 other students and one teacher, media reports focused on the idea that the perpetrators were social outcasts who were taking revenge for being bullied. That narrative, however, has been challenged: in his book, “Columbine,” for instance, author David Cullen unravelled the bullied-versus-bully story line, which he found to be almost entirely a media creation.)
The laws spread rapidly across the country. Between 1999 and 2010, according to the US Department of Education, 120 bills were enacted by state legislatures either introducing or amending laws to address bullying and related behaviors in schools.
“To go from zero to every state in that amount of time is unusual,” Ms. Silbaugh says.
While the scope and nature of these laws vary, supporters say they almost always force schools to take bullying seriously, usually requiring some sort of anti-bullying policy and bullying investigation procedures. Too often in the past, anti-bullying advocates say, schools simply ignored this sort of student-to-student harassment and violence, or claimed there was nothing they could do about it. Moreover, by adopting anti-bullying policies, which often include some sort of anti-bullying curricula, many schools end up going through a bullying self-audit. This is important, advocates say, because it forces administrators to recognize just how big a problem bullying is in their communities.
But critics say there are some big question marks here. There’s no evidence that anti-bullying laws actually work. They just haven’t been around long enough for researchers to collect that data.