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Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2011

As antibullying efforts evolve, ‘data drives decisions’

Patricia Hawley participates in a lab meeting with graduate student researchers Dec. 8. Hawley, a Kansas University professor of developmental psychology, is part of a KU team working on KiVa, an anti-bullying program developed in Finland. Hawley and other researchers are translating the program for U.S. use and will be testing it with some fourth- and fifth-graders in Lawrence schools next year.

Patricia Hawley participates in a lab meeting with graduate student researchers Dec. 8. Hawley, a Kansas University professor of developmental psychology, is part of a KU team working on KiVa, an anti-bullying program developed in Finland. Hawley and other researchers are translating the program for U.S. use and will be testing it with some fourth- and fifth-graders in Lawrence schools next year.

December 15, 2011

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Editor’s note: This concludes our three-part series examining efforts to reduce bullying in the Lawrence school district. See the first part, on how schools combat bullying, here, and the second part, on the thin line between coaching and bullying, here.

University researchers test innovative programs. State officials gather data. School administrators train educators, educate students and raise awareness.

For leaders in the Lawrence school district, the ongoing drive to prevent and manage bullying problems means looking to such places and beyond for opportunities that could lead to effective change.

“We’re always trying to improve,” said Rick Ingram, a member of the Lawrence school board.

All schools in the state are required to have anti-bullying plans in place, both to educate students in what to look out for and to train teachers and other employees how to handle bullying problems. Such plans also strive to prevent problems before they can begin.

“It does seem to work pretty well right now,” said Kevin Harrell, who oversees districtwide bullying issues as division director for student intervention services.

Patricia Hawley participates in a lab meeting with graduate student researchers Dec. 8. Hawley, a Kansas University professor of developmental psychology, is part of a KU team working on KiVa, an anti-bullying program developed in Finland. Hawley and other researchers are translating the program for U.S. use and will be testing it with some fourth- and fifth-graders in Lawrence schools next year.

Patricia Hawley participates in a lab meeting with graduate student researchers Dec. 8. Hawley, a Kansas University professor of developmental psychology, is part of a KU team working on KiVa, an anti-bullying program developed in Finland. Hawley and other researchers are translating the program for U.S. use and will be testing it with some fourth- and fifth-graders in Lawrence schools next year.

As district schools administer their own plans, Harrell is among administrators statewide set to receive information intended to help guide decisions about how and where to address bullying problems.

Beginning this academic year, the state is mandating that each school track and report the number of bullying incidents occurring on campus and during school events. Those numbers, in turn, will be reported to the department for use in identifying trends that, potentially, could help spur new rules for dealing with bullying in all its forms in the state’s 283 districts and more than 1,300 schools.

“We’re hoping to collect more information and more data so we can guide decision-making,” said Kent Reed, the department’s program consultant for counseling.

Research shows that anywhere from 25 percent to 35 percent of students nationwide either have been bullied or have bullied someone themselves, said Anne Williford, an assistant professor of social welfare at KU who follows bullying. And with the rise of cyberbullying — students hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet to deliver their abuse, or feeling more comfortable by not having to look at a victim face to face — such numbers could be even higher.

Momentum for collecting more specific data has been building as bullying awareness grows. Schools organize anti-bullying rallies, provide anti-bullying resources and conduct anti-bullying training for students, teachers and administrators.

But schools and, potentially, districts need solid information upon which to decide which efforts or plans might work best.

“What we want to do is help schools to find the best pathways to finding a safe culture and a safe climate,” Reed said. “Data drives decisions. Once we have the data, we can find out what areas of the schools might be susceptible to bullying situations. … And then we can provide them with the resources, the interventions necessary in order to address bullying.”

Innovative, international approach

The Lawrence school district already is preparing to tap into some new resources, through a project being conducted by researchers at Kansas University.

Next year, the KU researchers intend to target fourth- and fifth-graders in Lawrence for assistance through a program established four years ago in Finland. The plan, known as KiVa, already is in use for nearly 90 percent of schools in that country, where studies show that bullying and bullying victimization have been reduced by 50 percent.

The goal: See if such success translates across the Atlantic Ocean, starting around Mount Oread and then expanding, they hope, in Kansas and elsewhere in the United States through the introduction of a proven system backed by research, testing and data.

“It’s way more than a slogan or a zero-tolerance policy,” said Patricia Hawley, an aggression researcher and KU professor of developmental psychology working with Williford on the project. “We’re trying to change norms, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the large population inhabiting a school, in ways that will foster well being, academic achievement and physical and psychological safety.”

Schools no longer can simply respond to incidents and expect to halt bullying, Hawley said.

Pulling a bully aside and delivering a “stern talking-to” isn’t all that effective, she said. And helping the victim — while necessary — also isn’t likely to address core problems.

Another complication: People who might otherwise be able to stop bullying as it occurs, such as students on a playground or teachers in a hallway, oftentimes choose not to do so because they worry about the repercussions.

“You and I both know the cost of standing up to a bully: That means we’re next,” Hawley said. “It’s a costly behavior.”

Changing school ‘ecology’

That’s why the KiVa system aims to change the “ecology” of a school community, so that everyone inside or outside the building — students, teachers, employees, parents, volunteers — not only understands that bullying is not OK, but that doing something to prevent or halt problems is a worthwhile thing to do.

Supported by training, lessons and materials provided through the KiVa plan, Hawley said, such “bystanders” should find it easier to step in and make a difference because the community’s overall fears are reduced.

“If you change everyone’s norms and attitudes, you change their behavior,” Hawley said. “You give them support and foster their advocacy.”

Harrell, who as an administrator helps mediate bullying problems and ensures that the district’s antibullying policy is followed, isn’t ready to expect the KiVa plan to solve all bullying issues. But he acknowledges that the search for improvement continues, whether it’s through individual school plans, state data collection or an international translation effort.

“If one thing’s working really well in one building, and there are zero incidents, then let’s see what they’re doing and see if we can replicate it,” Harrell said. “Let’s see what’s working well, and see if we can duplicate it.”

Schools reporter Mark Fagan can be reached at 832-7188. Follow him on Twitter @MarkFaganLJW.

Comments

woodlawn 2 years, 4 months ago

One might use some of the LJWorld Saturday columns as good examples of bullying. A recent one regarding the Vice Chancellor at the KU Medical Center comes to mind.

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tange 2 years, 4 months ago

Bullying reflects a lack of awareness. Lack of awareness of others. Lack of awareness of self. Little-bubble spheres of consciousness. Hard, little, non-floating bubbles of unconsciousness.

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catfishturkeyhunter 2 years, 4 months ago

Bullying is animalistic behavoir and is actually a naturaly occuring phenomena. Wild animals do it all the time. Why should we be any different. If you don't like it, either put a helmet on or start fighting back. What would have happened if the United States caved in to the Japanese and German bullying? What would have happened if we just let the British push us around before the birth of our country? Just sayin.

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sportzfan21 2 years, 4 months ago

stutler has done horrible things to the girls who are the reason she won state title. I'm so glad she got fired its about time Eudora Admin. screws their heads on right! Thank the lord she's outta here!!! Haha We should have fired her long time ago! Shes a terrible person!

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cowboy 2 years, 4 months ago

Gotta teach your children how to be tough folks. Its not a pretty world out there nor is it fair. Its part of your parental duties. That means being involved on a daily basis with your child so you know how their day was and you can deal with it. Its sad to hear the stories of these events going on for months. In raising my kids i can recall times where we had to help them deal with the cruelty kids can toss at each other.

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Apollo Hernandez 2 years, 4 months ago

As much as I detest bullying, what happens when all of our kids are sheltered from bullying and they enter the real work force or go out of state to colleges in which others have not been exempt from it? How will our students cope with it then? "Bully" is such a subjective term. I would rather see or Douglas County utilize its resources to better serve the students academically, bring back art programs, or keep schools which have outdated computer equipment and materials up-to-date. The whole "God-forbid if all public school students have an equal chance at an education-but bullying are simply out of the question" mentality really is archaic. Let's get ALL the students educated first, and then worry about the incidentals second.

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begin60 2 years, 4 months ago

Alll the sick, sad people in Lawrence who seem too thick to realize strangers hardly appreciate their sense of entitlement for invading strangers' personal space are really too much. In this way bullying is almost an accepted cultural norm in KS. People are trained up to be offensive and prejudiced busybodies.

Yesterday my taxi driver wore a jacket that said "Don't bother me!" It could become a trend. I think I need one! My sense of feeling safe in public has been totally undermined by people I never wanted to deal with and have nothing to give that I want. Quite the opposite-- I'm on a nut diet. Please mind your business, aggressive , f-tards and handsy, bigoted molesters.

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consumer1 2 years, 4 months ago

Great now begins the next salem witch trials. Hunting down "bullies". I am so glad my daughter is out of this school system.

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Alceste 2 years, 4 months ago

Bullying is disgusting, abhorrent behavior and requires a unified policy that is zero tolerance.

In tandem with the above reality is the other reality that the feminization of boys in the public school system has got to be brought to a halt.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years, 4 months ago

Ironic to the content of the article is the "No Whining" sign behind Professor Hawley in the photo.

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