Monitor on Psychology - February 2012 - (Page 57)
Help for victims Though some 40 percent of teachers report observing bullying once a week or more, according to a 2010 survey by the National Education Association, plenty of harassment happens outside school officials’ sights. To identify the hidden victims of bullying, Cornell and his colleagues helped start the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Albemarle/Charlottesville Project, in Virginia. The project uses anonymous surveys that ask students to list classmates who are regularly bullied. “What we’ve found in a number of schools are students who get listed 10 or 15 or 20 or more times. Almost invariably, these are students who are in serious trouble, and often not known to be victims by guidance counselors,” he says. School counselors use this information to help victims by learning what type of bullying is taking place and investigating possible sources of conflict. They often identify perpetrators and may discipline them. School counselors also talk to bystanders and encourage them to intervene on behalf of the victim and not egg on the bully, he says. According to the project’s annual report, published in August, the number of high school students who reported experiencing bullying dropped by 22 percent and the number of middle school students decreased by almost 16 percent since the project started in 2009. School-wide change Perhaps the most effective way to reduce bullying is to band students together against bullying. Two such programs, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program developed by Norwegian psychologist Dan Olweus, PhD, and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, are being tested by Bradshaw through a $13.3 million study of 60 public high schools in Maryland. The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Supportive School grant program. The Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports program works by asking students to discuss and adopt positive behavioral goals, such as being “ready, responsible and respectful” in their interactions with peers and teachers, Bradshaw says. In the classroom, respecting yourself can mean doing your best, being honest and using appropriate language, while being responsible can mean being on time to class, coming prepared and completing assignments, Bradshaw says. Students who behave positively are eligible for rewards such as a ticket to a special school dance, or permission not to wear the school uniform for a day, she says. Although the results of the high school study aren’t yet in, another randomized trial of PBIS in 37 Maryland elementary schools showed that it resulted in less bullying and lower levels of social rejection (in press, Archives of Child and Adolescent Medicine). Another effective way to galvanize students against bullying is to teach them ways they can intervene as bystanders, says
F e b ru a ry 2 0 1 2 • M o n i t o r o n p s y c h o l o g y
Helping students help their peers
Video: Learn more about how schools in Charlottesville, Va. use anonymous student surveys to identify bullying victims. Click here for a transcript of the video.
developmental psychologist Ron Slaby, PhD, a senior scientist with the Education Development Center Inc., a non-profit organization based in Newton, Mass., that develops programs for education, health and economic opportunity. Empowering students to speak out and stand up for victimized students greatly reduces bullying, according to research on Slaby’s Aggressors, Victims and Bystanders curriculum. An expert panel that reviewed Aggressors, Victims and Bystanders for a 2001 U.S. Department of Education report said students who received the curriculum showed significant decreases in their belief that violence is OK. The program teaches students to stop and size up a bullying situation and to try to intervene if possible — perhaps by defusing the situation by making a joke or distracting the bully. If it’s not safe to intervene, students are encouraged to report bullying to an adult and console a bullied peer afterward and say something supportive. “A friendly response from a peer, for a kid who’s falling into despair, can be enormously effective,” Slaby says. Doing nothing, and saying nothing, only encourages continued bullying. Whichever evidence-based program schools use, the most important thing is that, as a society, we are finally taking bullying seriously, says Cornell. “The attention to bullying is going to be highly beneficial for the millions of students who experience it, and for that proportion of students for whom it’s a very serious problem,” he says. n To see APA’s resources on bullying, go to www.apa.org/ education/k12/bullying.aspx.
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