As more states pass laws against bullying, research reported by USA Today finds that bullies and their victims are more likely than other children to be victims of crime outside of school. “They’re often victimized in the community,” says Melissa Holt of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. The kids in the study at greatest risk are those who are both bullies and victims of bullies. Of those, 84 percent had been victims of a crime, including burglary and assault, and 32 percent had been sexually abused. The study was based on interviews with 689 fifth-graders in 2005 in an urban, low-income school district in Massachusetts.
The study found that 70 percent of bullies and 66 percent of victims were crime victims, compared with 43 percent of kids who were neither bullies nor victims. Holt says bullies may be less apt to walk away from fights, more likely to be assaulted, and more likely to associate with aggressive kids who would commit crimes against them. A shy or insecure child is vulnerable in and out of school, she says. At least nine states this year have passed laws on bullying or expanded an existing one to address the problem of Internet bullying, says Lamar Baile of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-two states have passed anti-bullying laws, almost all since the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School. About 20 percent of students are bullied at some time, whether it’s teasing, name-calling or hitting. Hertzog says. She says the most vulnerable are those who react by crying, getting mad or fighting back or who are socially isolated.