NASHVILLE - Tennessee schools had 7,555 reported cases of bullying last year, according to a new report from the state Department of Education.
Nearly 73 percent or 5,478 of the cases were confirmed after investigation.
Sex or gender-based bullying accounted for the highest number of cases _ 695 instances or 9.2 percent of the total, according to the report. Not far behind were cases involving "use of electronic technology" with 564 instances or 7.47 percent.
In another 168 cases or 2.2 percent of the total bullying involved students with disabilities.
State officials are now required to compile the report under a 2012 law sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta.
Ketron called the numbers "very alarming" in a news release. "Besides the obvious emotional harm bullying does to a student personally, it also hampers the kind of classroom atmosphere that promotes learning."
It's "a systemic problem that we need to address not only in our schools, but in our homes, churches, community organizations, on the ball field and elsewhere," Ketron said.
Curtiss called the situation "so sad." But he said he is pleased "this information is now coming forward so we can do something about it."
The report says that "based on the information available to the Tennessee Department of Education, each local education agency (LEA) in Tennessee satisfied the requirements of the state bullying and harassment laws and submitted bullying compliance information."
Curtiss said he's pleased local school boards are providing the information and training.
"We hope that we will see improvement that will be reflected by statistics in the next report as a result of these efforts," he said.