Zero-tolerance policies are ineffective in combating bullying, which is a “serious public health problem."

A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report said that bullying should no longer be dismissed as merely a matter of kids being kids. “Its prevalence perpetuates its normalization. But bullying is not a normal part of childhood,” the report said.  The report said both bullies and their victims can suffer short and long-term consequences, including poor grades, anxiety and depression. 

"We need to understand that this is a public health problem faced by a third of our children," said Dr. Frederick Rivara, chairman of the committee compiling the report. "It has a major effect on their academic performance as well as their mental and physical health." 
The report also said zero-tolerance policies may lead to an under-reporting of bullying because suspensions are perceived as too punitive. 

Programs that teach children how to get along with one another and what to do if they see kids who are being bullied, are more effective, the report said. Parents, too, can do their part, it said, by encouraging children to tell them if they’re being bullied, reporting it to the school or teacher and making sure their schools have effective anti-bullying programs in place. 

Bullies themselves are negatively impacted by their own behavior, according to the report: they are more likely to be depressed, are at great risk for poor psychological and social outcomes and are more likely to engage in high-risk activities such as vandalism and theft.

According to the report, which cited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's current definition: Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated, and bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social or educational harm.