WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bullying in U.S. schools fell to a record low in 2013, with 22 percent of students reporting being bullied, the U.S. Education Department said on Friday.
The figure had hovered at 28 percent or higher in biennial student surveys since 2005, the department said in a statement. The number is based on school crime data for students ages 12 to 18 compiled for the Justice Department.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell called the drop welcome news after campaigns in recent years to tackle the problem.
“Parents, teachers, health providers, community members and young people are clearly making a difference by taking action and sending the message that bullying is not acceptable," Burwell said in a statement.
The drop in bullying was seen across various groups. In 2013, about 24 percent of female students reported being bullied at school, down from as high as a third previously.
Nineteen percent of male students said they had been bullied, down from a high of about 32 percent in 2007, the report said.
Bullying is more common in lower grades, with 28 percent of sixth-graders and 23 percent of ninth-graders reporting being bullied. The figure drops to 14 percent for 12th-graders.
The figures are based on a poll of 4,942 students done for the School Crime Supplement to the Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey.
The Education Department said there were three types of bullying: physical, social and verbal. Types of bullying surveyed included the most common ones of being insulted or made fun of, being spat upon and cyberbullying.
Students who are bullied are more likely to struggle in school and skip class. They are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed, and are at higher risk of suicide, it said.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Beech