LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John

Bullying- Proven Program?


As a victim of bullying a long time ago I know it is no fun. This was in the sedate 1950s before youth became so sophisticated and have so many more bullying weapons. I would not like to relive those years in today's schools or internet environment. There are many bullying stories out there. Feel free to share yours.As a former victim and child welfare advocate I was delighted to read in today's JW that Lawrence schools are expanding a bullying prevention program. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is identified as the "Cadillac" of such programs. The next sentence says that this program has "proven to reduce disciplinary referrals and conflict among students." I recall reading a press release (http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/07/0810bully.html) entitled "Bully-prevention options for schools too narrow and untested." This statement came from Dorothy Espelage a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is an expert in bullying. This is what she says about the program adopted by the Lawrence School District.The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, "is being presented as a model, as being effective in decreasing bullying, and it has not been rigorously evaluated with U.S. samples," she said.Who to believe? I checked the Olweus website (http://www.clemson.edu/olweus/content.html) and they do have a link to a section on evidence of effectiveness. This includes 3 research studies conducted in Norway and 2 in the US. These appear to be reasonably well done studies but not ones that can establish cause and effect. They are not studies that use random assignment to two groups one receiving the Olweus Program and one that does not. This is the way to establish cause and effect or proven effectiveness.The Olweus Program has not "proven" to be effective. Perhaps the Olweus research suggests that the program reduces conflict or is associated with reduced conflict but it cannot be said that it is "proven" to reduce conflict. It is not uncommon for people who are advocating a program to overstate its benefits. It is likely that I have been guilty of that. However it is better for all of us to be careful of our language. Overstatement raises expectations and when they are not fulfilled the public becomes disillusioned.


kansascrone 10 years ago


I feel for anyone who has gone through bullying as a child. Not until after an incident in which one of my five children was the victim of a bully did I understand the devastating effects it has on a child.

We live in a rural district not far from Lawrence and the school's attitude was to stay out of it and let the kids work it out for themselves. Wrong! If I had known then what I know now I would have taken them to task.

Sadly, for my daughter, I was taught to respect authority and I did, even at my own daughter's expense. Even more sadly, I wondered what my daughter had done to bring it on.

I understand the need to get it right. From my point of view (for what it's worth) the fact that schools are, not just admitting that bullying is a problem, but also addressing the problem is amazing.

mom_of_three 10 years ago

It's not parents teaching them that defending themselves is wrong, it is the schools that tell them not to fight back.

mom_of_three 10 years ago

One of my kids was picked on for a number of years in grade school. One teacher did a great job at trying to prevent it, and another said "work it out." It wasn't going to work itself out. I talked to the teacher until I was blue. I finally stood up to the teacher, told him he was wrong, and went to the principal, and it was finally worked out between the kids.
I am glad the schools are trying to do something about bullying, and I know how miserable my kid was.

Left_handed 10 years ago

The reason that bullying continues is the inaction of teachers and adminstrators who choose to bury their heads in the sand (or part of their anatomy) when they are presented with it. Another triumph of the NEA.

Paul R Getto 10 years ago

25 February 2008 at 5:45 p.m.

Suggest removal

Permalink been_there (Anonymous) says:

I have also found that sending the police to the school when they're in junior high or high school works good. Telling the office to tell parents that I would file charges or sue them works good. Amazing how many parents that say they can't stop their kid can all of a sudden control them when they might have to pay a lawyer.

Good point. All Kansas school personnel are bound to file a report with law enforcement any time a crime happens in school. Many acts of bullying are, technically, criminal. I'm mildly amused that the legislature has essentially made teaching the golden rule mandatory. Bullying is a serious issue in some places, and enlightened schools have been working on the problem for years.

salad 10 years ago

Not sure how you made the jump from defending oneself to kids carrying guns, Warmer, but that's not what Marion had in mind. I think Marion and several others are all right on the mark: the NEA, school administrators, and namby-pamby's have created a culture in which ALL physical conflict is wrong, but if the bullies go unpunished. The helpless (and mentally weak) then turn to guns, knowing that there's no one on earth tougher than a bullet. Quite frankly, your mouth is your most potent and effective weapon, but it's the hardest to master, especially for kids, so ya know, sometimes things just gotta end with a dust-up. I'm totally against guns and weapons, but a fair fist fight is often an effective problem solver, especially with boys. Heck, if both parties agree it's a fair fight and it's done with honor, the enemies often end up becoming good friends afterwards, even if one of em gets creamed. Guys are wierd that way.

ksdivakat 10 years ago

This program is a joke in my humble opinion.....just last week my child and several of her friends sat down at the lunch table to find that the "mean" girls were picking on someone, so my daughter told an adult, and she was told to basically mind her own business...this was at swjh, but I will tell you that last year she had endured 2 yrs of bullying by these 2 girls and the school simply would not do anything, so I took matters in my hand, I called these mothers, and I told them that I couldnt do anything to their daughters because they were minors, but I could sure kick their a$$, it was amazing as how fast the "bullying" stopped for my child....not something i would recommend, but i was at the end of my rope!

adriennerm 10 years ago

I had a bully in the 5th grade. I don't know why this girl was picking on me...one day she said she wanted to fight me. My mother told me to ignore her and tell a teacher. I told the teacher and the teacher spoke to the girl. That made the situation worst. One day I was walking home with a few of my friends. This girl was behind me with some of her friends. They followed us and the girl kept saying her was going to beat me up. My friend told me to walk to her house. Her mother was home and she would give me a ride. So we ignored her and I went to my friends house. We went inside and my friend's mother wasn't home. So we sat there...then two of my friends said they had to leave so I walked out with them. She was there and hit me, right in the stomach. It was on and I gave her a black eye and a scratch on her cheek. I am not condoning violence, but I would laugh whenever I saw her. That scratched left a permanent mark on the right side of her face. After that she was my buddy, and I saw her about 5 years ago and my scratch was still there-LOL

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years ago

I was a book nerd in school and don't really remember being bullied. I do remember not caring if I was not part of the "cool" crowd. I just didn't have anything in common, but I don't remember them doing anything more than ignore me.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

snap writes:

like most bullies, Nick can dish it out, but can't take it.

kugrad 10 years ago

Excellent letter raising valid points. The "research" about the effectiveness of this program is quite lacking and consists of student responses to surveys about the amount of bullying. To the best of my knowledge, there was no actual observation and counting of actual bullying behaviors. This program is very time consuming. If you ask teachers (privately at least) at the schools trying this program, they will tell you that it has not been particularly effective. Some will praise it, some won't; about the same as any program of this sort. I do not favor forced implementation of a "one-size-fits-all" bully prevention program.

KU_cynic 10 years ago

I believe that the "sanitize and secularize" trend in the public schools have left a void in values.

For me and my children, emphasizing that we are all brothers and sisters in Christand that whatever we do to even the least among us we do to Him is about the most effective anti-bullying message there is. But take away shared faith and values ii in fact banish them from public discourse -- and it becomes impossible to recast the message in an effective manner.

Maintaining the schools as a value-free, faith-free zone will always tend to lead to selfish, hurtful behavior.

salad 10 years ago

"Maintaining the schools as a value-free, faith-free zone will always tend to lead to selfish, hurtful behavior."

Complete BS. Public schools have plenty of values; maybe not the values KU_cynic would bend us all toward, and as I recall, there's no prohibition on praying or having faith anywhere in the US: including schools. I just don't want you or anyone else rubbing it in our faces. I see MORE selfish and hurtful behavior from self-proclaimed "christians" than pretty much anywhere else. Isn't there something about being humble in your owners manual? The excellent point (mired and lost in your religious propaganda),is that there's lots of good messages about how to deal effectivly with oppressors in the bible, without trying to indoctrinate others or show the supperiority of your "truth".

been_there 10 years ago

Had a school counselor tell my 5th grader that kids that bullied, hit, and teased had problems at home and he should be more understanding when they did these things and turn the other cheek. I told him to start hitting back and if he got suspended, oh well. After being repeatedly hit one day he complained and the substitute teacher told him "they're just playing" and when I picked my child up he had red marks on his face. I told the principle that in the future if a teacher did not help my child he was to go to the office and call me and I would come get him, and lord help them if they didn't let him call.

Ronda Miller 10 years ago

John, this is an excellent topic and I thank you for bringing it out into light for discussion.

My son had a bullying problem in junior high (west) and when I spoke about it to several male friends I was given the advice to not step in or that would make it worse. I finally spoke to a male friend who works with children and he said to absolutely speak to the authorities - that as a child he had also been bullied and he would have loved someone to have helped him.

I contacted the school counselors and told them the situation, asked them not let my son know I had contacted them, gave the names of the bullies and the classes that my son was being bullied in, and I was thrilled at how quickly the school acted. The bully, who sat directly behind my son (no wonder he hated math!), was moved to the front of the room beside the teacher, the Physical Ed. teacher gave all of the children a lecture about what bullying is and what they would do if they caught someone bullying another, etc. It was with relief that I saw the change in my son's attitude about himself and school.

As a parent, we can never thank someone enough who has helped our child out of a tough situation. Now my son is 6' 5" and looks forward, without weapons, to seeing any of the small fry who used to give him trouble.

Wow, thanks for letting me unload! :)

been_there 10 years ago

I have also found that sending the police to the school when they're in junior high or high school works good. Telling the office to tell parents that I would file charges or sue them works good. Amazing how many parents that say they can't stop their kid can all of a sudden control them when they might have to pay a lawyer.

workinghard 10 years ago

After years of dealing with bullies, I found the perfect answer, homeschool, no bullies there. And this was before the virtual school made it so easy.

workinghard 10 years ago

For those parents who can't homeschool, here is something that might help. Your child, no matter what grade, is allowed to leave for lunch. He/she can sign out in the office and walk home for lunch, or you can pick them up, signing out first, for lunch. I would pick up my child and go to some picnice tables a couple of blocks away. Some principles of elementary schools do not know this and will tell you they can't. Insist that they call the district office and check. You can do it every day or as much as you can, it can be the little thing that helps them make it through the day. You can also homeschool part-time for subjects you would prefer they do at school.

Dixie Jones 10 years ago

my son was being bullied by a kid that was 4 yrs older than he and came home one day with chain link fence marks on his face from morning recess at 10 am i went to the school the princ told me to go do recess duty myself if i didnt like what the older kid was doing to my 5 yr old.... Now hows that for a school

workinghard 10 years ago

When my daughter was in second grade, a boy kept pinching her on the bottom and the teacher just said he didn't understand what he was doing. I went to the principal and told her that if a guy pinched her bottom, she would slap him in the face and that is what I was telling my daughter to do. The principal just nodded her head and said nothing. Why do the schools expect children to put up with things at school that grownups would not put up with in the workplace?

Calliope877 10 years ago

Bullies, from my experience, are idiot children who grow up to be idiot adults.

Yeah, every once in a great while a person who was a bully as a child will see the error of their ways and become a productive and kind individual -- but that seems to be an exception and not the rule.

I personally believe bullies do what they do because deep down they know that they are worthless wastes of flesh. They target those who may appear weaker than them (and usually their victims are smarter or more attractive than they are) and this victimization makes them feel more powerful and secure with themselves.

Just because a kid has a bad home life doesn't give them any entitlement to be a little b!@tch or a jack@$$ -- some of the nicest people I knew in school were those who had to endure a crappy homelife. And some of the meanest people I knew were the kids that drove a BMW or a Jaguar to school -- most of THEM didn't amount to crap once they got out into the real world.

mom_of_three 10 years ago

I don't care what the schools do to stop the bullies, but it seems as in all these stories, that the people in charge need to take charge.
In relating to the story about the little girl and the pinching, my daughter was also harrassed at school by a little boy, who really didn't know better, and was just repeating what he had heard from others. But the teacher and the principal took it seriously, as it greatly upset my daughter.
They took steps to keep the kids apart and my daughter felt safe. We have always told our kids to stand up and protect themselves, but sometimes the schools tell them differently, and not to fight back.

Godot 10 years ago

Bullying is proof that evolution is at work.

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

I was in a situation when I was in junior high where I was one comment away from clocking a kid. Maybe he sensed I was getting fed up because he never targeted me again.

Bullies pick on kids who are usually too helpless to turn the situation around, and I don't mean completely in a physical way. Many times, they are outcasts or "peripheral" kind of folks who most people wouldn't stick up for anyway. No wonder some of them totally lose it; they're stuck in a situation where they're made to feel like a fool every day and no one really gives a crap. Yeah, I would say that bullies have problems of their own, but they tend to make themselves feel better by picking on people who they know won't put up a fight or people who are so socially out of the loop that no one really cares.

Calliope877 10 years ago

That's another thing -- sometimes the teachers can be just as bad as the students. It's like the teachers themselves want to fit in with the "in-crowd" by either turning the other cheek, or actually engaging in such bullying behavior themselves. Idiots...

acoupstick 10 years ago

I teach at a religious school with a high level of parental involvement and bullying occurs here like everywhere. I think that part of the problem is that educators tend view themselves as only responsible for teaching academic subject matter (English, science, social studies). In reality, teachers and parents share responsibility for teaching students to act like decent people. Just because kids look and sometimes act like young adults doesn't mean they are. From a biological standpoint, their brains are developing until their early 20's and recent studies have suggested that the underlying cause of ADHD is immature brain development that kids eventually outgrow. Educators need to be patient and firm and stay "in kids business." The best defense is a good offense and educators need to be proactive. Regardless of which anti-bullying approach a school chooses, the key is consistency. Regardless of how much they whine and moan kids require structure, stability and consistency to thrive.

ksdivakat 10 years ago

Peachesncream....please take the suggestions that have been given and help your child... send the police to the school, or since you have went to the principal, go to the superintendant....tell weissman that you will obtain an attorney and sue the district. Remind him of the boy in TOnganoxie 2 years ago who sued the school district and WON, because they wouldnt do anything about him being bullied, and as a result he dropped out of school....so remind weissman of that story and i think you will see the next day that the principal has taken a different look at things....then there is the last resort....my Dad threw my HS principal ou tof a window when i was in school over me being bullied...this was a long time ago.....but i never got bullied again!

MarilynLaCourt 10 years ago

Our nation's obsession with competition and winning is a major contributor to the violence of our young people.

Survival of the fittest is not the same as survival of the fit. Survival of the fittest seems to mean the biggest and strongest will obliterate the weak, the small and the victims of bullying.

Survival of the fit, on the other hand means the fit between us and our environment. A gerund, if you will.

Cooperation in terms of the ultimate survival of our species means, those who learn how to make peace with their environment, that means the earth, other species, and each other, will survive best, and they will pass on their genes to more who come after us. In short that means those who cooperate will ultimately survive better than those who compete.

There are two less frequently cited theories to explain why our youth have become so violent: our system's failure to adequately promote cooperation and our children's prolonged adolescence and dependence on authority.

Teenagers-not quite adults, not quite kids, and not quite jaded by the reality that life is not quite fair-might have an important edge for keeping minor altercations from escalating into violence. Given the opportunity, the skills, the encouragement to be self- reliant, and a culture that promotes and nurtures cooperation, they may be able to break the bully/victim cycle, at least in the simple context within which they live their everyday lives.

respectfully submitted, Marilyn LaCourt

hardnut 10 years ago

im a kid i was bullied tonight on the way home from school 1 kid takin the mik cmon fatty even tho i aint and tryin to trip me up and another kid filmin it on his mobile. I laughed and 2moz in form time in school when i see him i will rip his heart out! (metaphorically of cause. its wot u need to do dont let these *** bully u ok!

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