HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina schools reported 1,319 instances of intimidation, 1,375 instances of bullying and 228 instances of cyberbullying during the 2019-20 academic year, according to a report from the state department of education.
The report, obtained by News13 through a Freedom of Information request, outlines the number of bullying instances in about 1,250 South Carolina schools. Of the schools listed, a little less than half reported no bullying incidents that year.
The South Carolina Department of Education is required under both federal and state law to track bullying numbers, according to Ryan Brown, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Education.
The numbers are used to identify if interventions are needed at specific schools.
“I think the biggest way it is used is to show students, parents and school communities what is happening in their local communities by putting it on the school report cards,” he said.
He hasn’t heard anecdotally from schools to see if they’ve seen any changes in bullying numbers during the 2020-21 year, when remote learning shifted many schools online.
While cyberbullying isn’t new, it does present additional challenges for schools to track, because it doesn’t always happen on school grounds, and isn’t necessarily reported to them.
Schools also can only track what they know about, which Brown said makes reporting crucial.
When schools input data, he said they are immediately able to view and utilize the information.
“Someone at a big district, like Horry, can track this in real time, so if they see a spike in stances, they can reach out to a school and say, ‘What’s going on? What’s causing this?’” Brown said.
Cayce Elementary in Lexington School District Two had the highest number of bullying reports in the state, with 93 total reports. Myrtle Beach Middle School in Horry County was the second highest, with 40, and Lakeview Middle School in Greenville County Schools had 35.
Carolina Forest High School in Horry County had the second-highest amount of intimidation cases, with 21 reports.
Wilson High School in Florence 1 Schools had the highest amount of reported cyberbullying cases in the state, with nine.
Numbers tended to be higher in middle and high schools, which typically have a larger student body than elementary schools.
The 2019-20 data shows a dramatic decrease in the number of reports at Florence 1 Schools, which had five schools with more than 10 bully reports during the 2017-18 academic year. That year, there were 54 reports of bullying at Williams Middle School.
A spokesperson for Florence 1 Schools did not respond to a request for comment.
The number of bullying incidents reported to Horry County Schools dipped this year, with 26 bullying incidents and 15 cyberbullying incidents, as of June 1, according to Lisa Bourcier, a spokeswoman for the district.
Bourcier said each school in the district has a team that addresses bullying. Each of those teams then has a lead representative who has a handful of responsibilities, including investigating, documenting findings, doing conflict resolutions and following up to make sure that anti-bullying initiatives are successful.
Each school also has a bullying plan, which includes outlining the behaviors that count as direct and indirect bullying, the punishments for bullying and visible leadership and commitment to anti-bullying efforts. She said there are also direct and anonymous ways to report bullying. Those include a tip line, a reporting tool in the “Horry Mobile” app and an online reporting form.
Schools provide support for bullying victims, along with social skills behavior training for bullies.
Bourcier said that schools can use counseling services such as group, individual and family psychotherapy to help change a bully’s behavior. Family support, crisis management, and counseling from the Waccamaw Center for Mental Health are also available.
“The overall goals of services to students are to help them understand the meaning of their behavior to begin to address emotional needs and responses, make positive changes, and teach them to channel anxiety and aggression or other negative emotions appropriately constructively,” Bourcier said in emailed information sent to News13.
Use the database below to search for 2019-20 bullying data for South Carolina schools. Data can be searched by both district and school name.