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Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools Newsletter

January 2007

Stop Bullying Behavior     «»     Results from the Field     «»     Upcoming Events

 

Stop Bullying Behavior

Bullying is a pervasive problem in schools today. Defined as a form of aggression, it is offensive behavior, carried out repeatedly and over time, that is directed at another person with intent to do harm. It usually occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power. Bullying can manifest as physical, verbal, emotional, or exclusionary behavior.

Bullying has indisputable negative ramifications for children. Studies show that bullies are more prone to delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, and are more at risk for dropping out of school. Both bullies and victims tend to be more depressed, and this depression affects their academic achievement, their social development, and their self-esteem. Even witnesses to bullying behavior suffer from feelings of powerlessness and can develop poor coping and problem-solving skills.

Involvement in bullying activity for both bullies and victims doesnít end with graduation. As young adults, former bullies are 25 percent more likely to be involved in criminal activity. Former victims are more likely to suffer from depression and poor self-esteem as adults, even though they are no longer harassed or socially isolated.

Many adults feel that bullying is just a part of growing up—that children have to learn to deal with it, or take it, or fight back in their own way. But since the 1970ís, when Dan Olweus began to study the problem in Scandinavian schools, a multitude of research has shown that bullying is seriously harmful to everyone involved, that it occurs in almost every school, and that when schools do something about it, they can successfully curtail it.

Research indicates that schools with safe, nurturing environments can dramatically reduce incidents of bullying. Schools must create and foster a climate and culture where respect is a value held by all, where differences are honored, where children feel safe enough to tell an adult when they are involved in a bullying incident, and where they trust that adults will do something to help them.

These are a few things you can do to prevent bullying:

  • Assess the nature of the problem.

    Use surveys to investigate student perception of safety, their understanding of expectations, the degree to which they perceive teasing/bullying to be a problem within the school, and to assess student connectedness to the school.

  • Increase school connectedness.

    By creating more positive classroom environments, staff can foster a student's connection to the school community.

    "Strong scientific evidence demonstrates that increased student connection to school decreases absenteeism, fighting, bullying, and vandalism while promoting educational motivation, classroom engagement, academic performance, school attendance, and completion rates.
    School Connnectedness: Improving Students' Lives

    Note: For more information about school connectedness, see our August Newsletter.

  • Insure active supervision.

    In the absence of the civilizing presence of adults, children set their own rules—remember The Lord of the Flies? Thus, bullying can (and will) occur in those places on campus where adults do not go.

Strategies and procedures outlined in Safe & Civil Schools programs can sharply curtail bullying behavior by contributing to staff efforts to create safe, civil, and respectful school climates and cultures. Read more about what Safe & Civil Schools programs do to help prevent bullying and how these practices are firmly grounded in research.

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Results from the Field

Several months ago, we heard from Dr. Buck Ford, principal of Blanco Middle School in rural Blanco, Texas. He had encouraging words about the sustainability of Foundations.

"We began the Foundations program in the fall of 1999. We were one of the first 10 schools that Region 13 brought on board. We're still going strong Randy. We've done a lot of things, and last year was probably one of the best years we've had."


Blanco Middle Sustainability Data

Judging from the graph they sent, 2006-2007 may be even better!

The graph shows the total number of referrals incurred during the first half of the school year (August through December) since the 1998-1999 school year, one year prior to the implementation of Blanco Middle's Foundations project.

As you can see, before implementation, there were over 300 referrals—318 to be exact. After the implementation of the Foundations program in the fall of 1999, the referral count dropped by over 50 percent to 123. And, it has remained steadily low since then—in spite of the fact that the student population has increased by 25% since 1998.

This year, there have been only 40 referrals since school began in August, the lowest count ever!

How do they sustain these low referral levels?

According to Dr. Buck Ford, Principal of Blanco Middle, the trick is to keep things, "fresh and challenging" by coming up with new ideas—like, for instance, the competition between grades that staff initiated last year. Points are assigned for things like the number of referrals incurred (0 referrals gets you 10 points) and attendance rates. At the end of the six-week grading period, the grade level with the most points gets a reward determined by grade-level teams with input from students. Things like pizza parties and karaoke nights are popular.

And, as the graph shows, their strategies are working!

At Safe & Civil Schools, we appreciate the work that staff and students at Blanco Middle have done to lower their referral count and improve their school climate. Congratulations to you all! We wish you the best in sustaining these results into the future. And, thanks for sharing your successes with us!

 

More Information About Bullying...

The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsors a website worth a visit. The site works primarily to educate children about bullying and what they can do to help prevent it, but it also contains information for adults. Visit the Stop Bullying Now site soon and tell others about it as well!

Periodically, the Middle School Journal publishes an article about the prevention of bullying in Middle Schools. In January, 2006, Amy Milsom and Laura L. Gallo wrote one such article. Titled Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention, the article delves into the causes and consequences of bullying behavior and offers suggestions to middle school staff on the prevention of bullying. A second article, Young Adult Literature as the Centerpiece of an Anti-Bullying Program in Middle School, by Carol Hillsberg and Helene Spak, tells how one school staff anchored its schoolwide anti-bulling campaign with young adult literature.

Another webpage to find information about statistics and studies about bullying — the Anti-Defamation Leagues Words that Heal. This page identifies studies conducted on the prevalence of bullying, student attitudes about it, consequences of bullying behavior, and strategies to combat it.

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Mark your calendars for the 11th Annual Train the Trainer workshop July 15-19, 2007. We are offering new classes in Interventions, Coaching, and Highly Structured Classrooms. Download a brochure from our website!

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The new Coaching Classroom Management book is now available! For more information, visit the Pacific Northwest Publishing website.

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SCS in the News!  The NASP Communiqué published an article by Randy about behavior support and Response to Intervention (RTI). Read the article in their December issue.

At White River School District, staff is making excellent progress in creating safer, more civil schools. Read the article, by Mike Jacobsen and Marcie Polin, in the December issue of Principal Leadership.

Please note that membership is required to access these articles online.

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On March 30, Randy will be presenting at NASP's 39th Annual Convention in New York.

The day before his presention, he will be at the NASP Publication booth in the Exhibit Hall to sign copies of his new book, Coaching Classroom Management. Come by, meet Randy, and get your copy of the book signed!

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Come see us! We will be at these national conventions this spring:

NASSP
ASCD
NASP

Please stop by our booth – we would love to visit with you!

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Randy Sprick and Safe & Civil Schools consultants continue to provide presentations across the country. Some of these include open registration. Registration may be limited and/or may involve a fee. Contact information is provided for each on our website.

 

As we return from the holidays, the staff at Safe & Civil Schools wish you a positive and productive new year!

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