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The Sound of Ideas

Fighting Bullying

Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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Fighting Bullying The start of school is a time of excitement and optimism for many. But then there's the anxiety of anyone who has ever felt the unwanted attention of a bully. In recent years, bullying has moved from the schoolyard to the cell phone, and schools are searching for new ways to teach empathy and conflict resolution. Wednesday morning at 9, how to help those being bullied, the bystanders, and even the bullies themselves.

Tags

Education, Health, Children's Health, Other, Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement

Guests

Alana Garrett, Senior, Shaw High School
Dr. Marlene Snyder, Director of Development, Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, Clemson University
Dr. Ann Bauer, Associate Professor and Chair of the Counseling, Administration, Supervision & Adult Learning Department at Cleveland State University

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Colleen 8:35 AM 8/26/09

Went thru 4 year ordeal when my gifted son was bullied by other gifted students. Ultimately homeschooled him for one year, got couseling.  Found out most other homeschoolers had pulled their children out for same reason.
The School never informed the bullies parents until the very bitter end, after an internal investigation that I had to initiate, meetings w teachers and principals, to no real solution.  They all acted like I was creating the problem and told me my son was staying home because of me.

Kate Biddle 8:53 AM 8/26/09

I work for Beech Brook which is an agency that provides mental health services in many of the schools in this area.  I strongly agree that we need to address the entire school culture to address bullying and also we need to focus on a preventative level.  Schools pay way too much attention to putting into place external means of behavior control such as metal detectors or more security guards.  What we really need is to be teaching children about social emotional intelligence using curriculums like the highly recognized evidence base practice of PATHS that promote children learning about how to handle their feelings and behaviors in ways that promote internal motivation and skills to use self control over how they handle their feelings and behaviors.

Fran Skalak 8:59 AM 8/26/09

This question is for Dr. Bauer.  What are some effective “bullying” programs, especially at the middle school level? I am a guidance counselor at a middle school and my assistant principal and I are constantly dealing with this issue.

Jodi Bubenik 9:06 AM 8/26/09

Dan,
I was disappointed this morning when listening to the show on bullying and you were trying to talk about the spectrum between conflict and bullying. Your example was a kid who gets called a nerd everyday and your conclusion was that this is not bullying.  If it only happened once or twice, that would probably be true, but the repetitive belittling of someone can be very isolating, and hurtful, which is bullying.

Heather 9:06 AM 8/26/09

I am an actor in the Cleveland area, 19 years old, and gay. Thankfully, I was never bullied too much. What did happen, especially in middle and high school, I’ve already forgotten because I was so disinterested in my schools’ communities. But I am happy right now to be helping make a difference in other schools where bullying is more prevalent. I am involved in a program and play created by the Magical Theatre Company in Barberton called “Bullying Bytes” which targets middle schools in preventing bullying before it begins. The program is being brought back from last year, as it had lots of positive feedback and results. So, I suppose my point is, don’t fear, there are groups putting lots of effort in to stopping bullying!

Ann L. Bauer, Ph.D. 11:03 AM 8/26/09

Response to Fran Skalak

First, the fact that you are dealing with it as opposed to ignoring it is a step in the right direction. Responses can be simple or complex, and vary from expensive to free. The Olweus Program, for example, is excellent, comprehensive, and based on research. It is also expensive and requires buy in from the system as a whole. Two simple and free beginning points are Students Against Violence Everywhere, and making sure each student is connected to at least one caring adult. SAVE is accessible on the web, a national organization with chapters in many places, and research to back up results. This is an example of using students to create solutions, like Alana spoke about. Another simple, free solution that helps to create a caring school climate is to take a complete list of students enrolled in a school, ask all adults (including lunch room aides, secretaries, and bus drivers) to select a student with whom they feel a connection. Pay particular attention to those students that no one chooses and find someone to form a connection. Each adult makes a commitment to have some contact with the chosen student each day, creating relationship and diminishing isolation. There needs to be adult presence in unstructured spaces, such as hallways, lunch rooms, playgrounds, and buses. You might think about having a trained person riding the bus, because that might be where the problem starts. You can ask other students to identify bullies and victims. Create a supportive environment for students to be upstanders instead of bystanders.

Research says that the most effective method of intervening is to have a coordinated whole school approach. Create a bullying prevention committee with a designated coordinator. That committee selects an assessment, collects data, and chooses the intervention methods. Train all the staff and have several refresher date, create school-wide policies and enforce them. Monitor the success of your interventions and adjust. Expect resistance from the system, there is no quick fix.

There are many programs available, it’s important for you to select an approach that is supported by research and fits your school situation. I am aware of 2 whole school approaches with research support: Bully Proofing Your School and The Olweus Bullying Prevention approach. I suggest looking at the SafeYouth.org website to choose the approach that best fits your school.

Bill Mohat 11:17 AM 8/26/09

On your show, Dr. Snyder and Dr. Bauer indicated that students should be more responsible for stopping bullying.  Yet, the most recent publications from Dr. Olweus himself have stated that the responsibity for stopping bullying rests completely on the teachers and school administrators.  More often than not, when students try and intervene, they either make the bullying situation worse, or become targets themselves.  (Ask ANY student about this!)

My own local school system adoped the Olweus program over 2 years ago.  Yet, I get contacted once or twice a month by families whose children are being violently bullied, and they cannot get the local school system to do anything about it.  The last family that contacted me did so last weekend.  They were forced to pull their son out of the local high school and put him in an online “e-school” for his own safety.  They stated that the teachers just didn’t care, and did nothing even when they personally wittnessed violent assaults.

Documentation from the Olweus program itself indicates that getting “buy-in” from teachers and administrators is absolutly critical in the program being successful.  Yet, this very often doesn’t happen.

The reason is simple.... nobody has to.

“Child abuse” is legally prohibited....in most states in the USA, professionals like Teachers, Doctors, Police, (etc) can face prosecution if they do not report suspected child abuse cases.  But, there is NO similar legal requirement for reporting or dealing with bullying.

MANY states have anti-bullying laws on the books.  (In Ohio, it’s House Bill 276.) But, NONE of these state laws has any penalties for non-compliance.  They are at most merely “suggestions” for local school boards to follow.  All other state laws are the same.  Check this for yourself.

Dr. Snyder metioned that bullying was “a type of child abuse”.  I agree.  And, the statistics on bullying-induced suicides in the USA point out how much harm this is causing.  Yet, there are no legal penalties anywhere in the USA for ignoring bullying.....despite all of the state-level anti-bullying laws.  In the USA, bullying is not legally considered abuse.  This has to change.

Check this for yourself.

Ann L. Bauer, Ph.D. 11:31 AM 8/26/09

D’Augelli, A. R., Pilkington, N. W., & Hershberger, S. L. (2002). Incidence and Mental Health Impact of Sexual Orientation Victimization of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths in High School. School Psychology Quarterly, 17, 2, 148–167.
Article Abstract
“This study examined victimization during high school based on sexual orientation of 350
lesbian, gay, or bisexual (lgb) youths aged 21 and younger. Experiences of direct victimization as well as knowledge of other lgb youths’ victimization were assessed. Over half reported verbal abuse in high school because of their sexual orientation, and 11% said they had been physically assaulted. Youths who were more open in high school about their sexual orientation and who had a history of more gender atypical behavior were victimized more often. Male youths were targeted significantly more often than females. Youths’ current mental health symptoms, especially traumatic stress reactions, were associated with having experienced more verbal abuse in high school.” p.148.

Summary of data
“Direct Sexual Orientation Victimization
Table 1 shows direct SOV (Sexual Orientation Victimization) in high school. More than half (59%) experienced verbal abuse in high school, 24% were threatened with violence, 11% had objects thrown at them, 11% had been physically attacked, 2% were threatened with weapons, 5% were sexually assaulted, and 20% had been threatened with the disclosure of their sexual orientation. Over half (54%) experienced three or
more instances of verbal abuse in high school. Males reported significantly more verbal attacks, threats of violence, and objects being thrown at them. Males were also physically attacked more often: 15% of males and 7% of females had been assaulted. Few youths were threatened with weapons (2%) or sexually assaulted
(5%); however, 20% were threatened with the disclosure of their sexual orientation.” p.156

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