Background: Bullying is the most common form of youth aggression. Although 49 of all 50 states in the U.S. have an anti-bullying law in place to prevent bullying, little is known about the effectiveness of these laws. Our objective was to measure the effectiveness of Iowa’s anti-bullying law in preventing bullying and improving teacher response to bullying. Methods: Sixth, 8th, and 11th grade children who completed the 2005, 2008 and 2010 Iowa Youth Survey were included in this study (n = 253,000). Students were coded according to exposure to the law: pre-law for 2005 survey data, one year post-law for 2008 data, and three years post-law for 2010 data. The outcome variables were: 1) being bullied (relational, verbal, physical, and cyber) in the last month and 2) extent to which teachers/adults on campus intervened with bullying. Generalized linear mixed models were constructed with random effects. Results: The odds of being bullied increased from pre-law to one year post-law periods, and then decreased from one year to three years post-law but not below 2005 pre-law levels. This pattern was consistent across all bullying types except cyberbullying. The odds of teacher intervention decreased 11 % (OR = 0.89, 95 % CL = 0.88, 0.90) from 2005 (pre-law) to 2010 (post-law). Conclusions: Bullying increased immediately after Iowa’s anti-bullying law was passed, possibly due to improved reporting. Reductions in bullying occurred as the law matured. Teacher response did not improve after the passage of the law.
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