City Connects team member Sarah Backe, a Counseling Psychology graduate student in the Lynch School of Education, presented a poster at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association last week. Her poster, “The Positive Impact of an Evidence-Based Student Support System on Bullying and Victimization” explored the impact that the City Connects intervention is having on students’ social experiences.
Sarah’s study utilized students’ self reports of bullying (picking on other kids) and victimization (being picked on by others) to examine whether time spent in City Connects was having an impact on these experiences. On the whole, students reported that they rarely engaged in bullying behavior toward their peers. However, student reports of victimization indicated that this happens at greater frequency. While exposure to City Connects was not associated with any changes in self-reported bullying behavior, results indicated that greater exposure to City Connects (i.e., more years spent in the intervention) was associated with student reports of less frequent victimization.
This exploratory study indicates that an optimized model of school-wide student support, such as that promoted by the City Connects intervention, may have positive impacts on peer victimization in schools. These findings suggest that prevention and intervention programs don’t need to be exclusively focused on bullying behaviors to have a positive impact on the social experiences of students in schools.
Sarah hopes that future research on optimizing student support will include consideration of the ways in which powerful experiences of the peer group may impact the achievement and thriving of students. She is excited by the results of her study and suggests that primary prevention programs such as City Connects should be utilized to promote the achievement and thriving of individual students while also promoting a supportive school climate.
Co-authors of this poster included Anastasia Raczek, MEd, and Mary E. Walsh, PhD.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, which discussed the link between family violence and bullying, a new paper in the journal Pediatrics shows that both bullies and their victims make more frequent trips to the school nurse than their peers. These visits were not just related to injuries sustained as a result of bullying and indicate that the school nurse may be an effective place to identify cases of bullying. The study, conducted by Eric Vernberg of the University of Kansas, followed 600 students in grades 3 through 5 at six schools for a year.
The report analyzed the 2009 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an anonymous survey given to randomly chosen schools every two years. In 2009, the first year that bullying was included in the questionnaire, 138 public middle schools and high schools participated in the survey.
The results show a striking correlation between family violence and bullying. Compared with students who were neither bullies nor bullying victims, both middle and high school bully-victims reported much higher instances of being physically hurt by a family member (23.2% versus 5.1% for middle school; 20.4% versus 4.7% for high school) or witnessing violence in their family (22.8% versus 6.6% for middle school; 30.6% versus 7.2% for high school).
Key findings from the report include:
More middle school students (26.8%) than high school students (15.6%) were categorized as victims of bullying, with a greater percentage of males (9.9% for middle school and 12.1% for high school) than females (5% for middle school and 4.8% for high school) categorized as bullies.
Compared with students who were neither bullies nor bullying victims, both middle and high school bully-victims were more than three times as likely to report seriously considering suicide (24.9% versus 4.5% for middle school; 22.5% versus 6.2% for high school) or intentionally injuring themselves (40.9% versus 8.4% for middle school; 28.5% versus 8.6% for high school).
Sizable percentages of both bullies and bully-victims acknowledged recent use of alcohol (32.7% and 22.7%, respectively, for middle school students; 63.2% and 56.3%, respectively, for high school) and recent use of drugs (32.0% and 19.9%, respectively, for middle school; 47.2% and 41.0%, respectively, for high school).
Being the targets of traditional (62%) and electronic (11%) bullying than non-victims (30% and 3%, respectively)
Being afraid of attack or harm at school (23%) than non-victims (4%)
Avoiding specific places at school because of fear of attack or harm than non-victims (13% vs. 5%)
Efforts are underway in Massachusetts to prevent all forms of bullying. This past May, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that spells out new anti-bullying measures for teachers, schools, and communities. Also this year, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Public Schools began an anti-cyberbullying awareness campaign and launched a website to educate students, families, and teachers. At City Connects, our New Balance Foundation Health and Wellness Curriculum addresses bullying and teaches students skills to prevent bullying in elementary schools.
Today, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed far-reaching anti-bullying legislation. From the State House press release:
“As Governor and as a parent, I feel very strongly that no child should feel threatened or unsafe in our schools,” said Governor Patrick. “Today, with this new law, we are giving our teachers, parents and kids the tools and protections they need so that every student has a chance to reach their full potential. I am proud to sign this bill and thank the Legislature for delivering on this critical priority.”
The release spells out new anti-bullying measures for teachers, schools, and communities:
All school staff must fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will establish statewide academic standards that include age-appropriate instruction in bullying prevention.
Every school, public and private, must publish detailed bullying prevention, intervention, and notification plans in student handbooks.
Districts must provide all school staff–from bus drivers to athletic coaches–targeted professional development to build the skills necessary to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to bullying incidents.
Rules and penalties apply to incidents that occur outside of school in the community and online (“cyber-bullying”)
You can follow the Governor’s office on Twitter for real-time updates like these: @MassGovernor