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.