A new report from the Highmark Foundation argues for the worth of the group's bullying prevention program in Pennsylvania schools by outlining the initiative's estimated cost-savings in terms of health care and education.
The Highmark Foundation said its Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) cost about $18.4 million to start up and run over the last five years. That's a cost of about $23.09 per student for the 210,000 kids in the program. However, the new report, "The Cost Benefit of Bullying Prevention," purports that the cost per student is reduced to $2.07 when one considers the health care fees saved when bullying is prevented. For example, the report claims fewer children would be checked in to medical institutions for injuries and mental health issues caused by bullying if the bullying was eliminated.
Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook said that analysis was conducted by St. Vincent University economics professor Carla Zema.
"There's a line item that a doctor can check off that says, okay, this headache and this stomachache was due exactly to bullying," said Cook. "So, Dr. Zema took these models, and then she was able to take data from healthcare systems around headaches and children and begin to extrapolate."
In addition, the report argues that schools can save money by preventing students from transferring due to bullying. Report author Dr. Matthew Masiello of the Windber Research Institute said one district loses roughly $8,000 to another when one student transfers.
"If we are able to prevent just two or three children from leaving a school, that essentially pays for an entire bullying prevention program for the entire school," said Masiello.
Masiello said children who bully others are also three times more likely to have multiple criminal convictions by their early twenties. The researcher said the societal cost of incarceration could be reduced if more children were to be dissuaded from bullying others.
He said the report is a unique fiscal argument for bullying prevention programs, which he said already have been shown to improve kids' behavior in and out of school.