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The National Institute Of Justice Grant To Train Principals About Bullying Mizzou Researchers To Study Bullying

The National Institute Of Justice Grant To Train Principals About Bullying Mizzou Researchers To Study Bullying

By Susan E. Sagarra, Urban News Service

With a $4.1 million grant to research bullying, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) may be better equipped to help principals battle the age-old scourge of schools.

The grant is controversial because some scholars believe that some anti-bullying programs actually can go too far.

“Bullying was undeniably a problem that needed to be brought out of obscurity, but the issue has arguably now gotten too much attention,” Christopher Ferguson, an associate professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida, wrote.

“Such hype can lead to other problems such as the use of bullying accusations themselves as weapons in peer conflicts and overly harsh ‘zero tolerance’ policies that over punish minor infractions and may exacerbate the isolation that can lead to bullying in the first place.”

The National Institute of Justice, a federal agency, awarded the grant so the Mizzou researchers can study  Safe and Civil Schools. a widely used anti-bullying program. The program was created more than 15 years ago, and currently is in use in schools in Dallas and Houston, Texas, Jacksonville, Fla., and other cities. The grant will allow the program to be implemented and analyzed in 60 middle and high schools in the Puget Sound region of Washington state over the next four years. 

Keith Herman, co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center and a professor in the Mizzou department of educational, school and counseling psychology, will lead a team of five researchers.

If proven successful, the program could be recommended to the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and individual state education departments as a standard model of anti-bullying training for principals across the country.

“Training for principals and educators varies across the country,” Herman said. “Some receive a three-hour class while others have ongoing training. There are a lot of training programs for principals, but as far as I know, they have never been evaluated beyond people’s perception of how well the programs work.”

More than 22 percent of children from ages 12-18 say they have been bullied in school within the last month, while 17 percent of high school students say they have seriously considered attempting suicide within the last year, according to a Nov. 14 University of Missouri press release.

“The education system hasn’t done a great job of training principals to manage all aspects of school safety,” Herman said. “Our goal is to identify a program that improves school safety. By applying scientific methods, we can determine if this program is effective and worth implementing in schools across the country.”

The researchers will conduct an efficacy study of Safe and Civil School Leadership plus START, a professional development program designed to equip school principals with the actual skills for fostering positive school climate and safety.

Sixty principals from secondary schools in the Puget Sound (Washington) Educational Service District with high rates of disruptive behaviors will be recruited to participate. The PSESD includes 35 school districts in King and Pierce counties, with 397,000 students from rural, suburban, and urban settings with a wide range of socio-demographic characteristics.

The team will collect school records and principal, teacher, and student ratings of school safety, climate, student compliance, and leadership behavior. The researchers will gather baseline data about each school’s safety climate, such as physical safety, emotional safety, the rate of bully victimization, and other factors.

Herman said he does not anticipate getting the program mandated via federal and state education laws. Rather, he said he hopes the program can be presented to educators as a best practices model.

“I want to make the information from the study widely available for others to make decisions in terms of education policy, whether it proves to be good or bad,” Herman said. “I don’t think we would ever try to legislate it and say that all public schools have to use this program. But I would love to be able to show that it works and why it does and show how to get it implemented. If it makes a positive impact on students, and we give adults and students the skills and tools to make good decisions, it’s a win-win for society.”

An email and four voicemail messages to the National Association of Secondary School Principals were not returned.

Still, even critics acknowledge the harms that bullying can do, and credit the intentions of anti-bullying efforts.

One such, the St. Louis-based Megan Meier Foundation, was founded in 2007 by Tina Meier, whose daughter took her own life after being cyber-bullied by classmates. Meier and the foundation have spent the last decade trying to create positive change around the country to end bullying, cyber-bullying and suicide among students.

The foundation also works to tighten state laws addressing bullying and cyber-bullying in the educational setting. There is no federal law, but all 50 states have some kind of anti-bullying law. Some of the commonalities include procedures for administrators, teachers, parents and students to follow in identifying, reporting and punishing bullying.

Alex King, program manager for the foundation, said she could not comment specifically about the Mizzou study. However, she said anti-bullying programs need to take a comprehensive approach to the problem.

“Any prevention program needs to take a comprehensive approach,” King said. “It needs to involve the youths, parents, educators, counselors, school nurses, the janitor and cafeteria monitors. It’s a community approach. A janitor or cafeteria monitor might see more than others so they need to be trained. Whether it’s cyber or physical, bully prevention requires a comprehensive effort.”

Local Poet and Teacher Reaches Important Milestone

Christopher Kirkpatrick

Christopher Kirkpatrick

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- Christopher Kirkpatrick, a local San Bernardino poet and English teacher at the PAL Charter Academy, recently published his 5th collection of poetry, In Case You Were Wondering. This new book includes selections from his other previously published works written over the past decade: Learning To See From The BlindMixed Metaphors, and I Don’t Know What To Tell You. His work has also previously appeared in various other magazines and literary journals such as AleolaChaffNourishment NotesClever Copywriting, and Time of Singing. His books are available on Amazon.com and from America Star Books.

Letter to the Editor: MLK Statue Ceremony

By Frances Grice

 Please join area children at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. statue ceremony Monday, January 16, 2017, starting at 10:30 a.m. at San Bernardino City Hall, 300 North D Street.

The Martin Luther King Restoration and Maintenance Committee is inviting the area youth, parents, and businesses to participate in the MLK Annual birthday celebration in downtown San Bernardino. The area youth elementary children will conduct the “Laying of the Wreath” program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The statue is the first bigger than life statue in the world, the vision of Dr. Gertrude Whetzel. Funding for the construction of the statue was spearheaded in 1971 by Mayor Bob Holcomb with donations by area residents from various races, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For many years, the statue served as the focal point in bringing together all cultures as a testament to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy.

As you are aware, the City of San Bernardino entered into financial challenges that have prohibited the City from providing the statue with proper maintenance and repair for years. To address the need for annual maintenance of the statue, community residents came together and raised the needed resources to restore the statue which stands as a beacon of hope for area residents.

We are trying to reach out to as many elementary schools as we can to participate in this year’s event. Dr. King’s greatest motivation was to make the world better for our children. It would be an honor for the children to be the main focus on the program. If you have any further questions you may contact Frances Grice at fnetwrk@aol.com or Faye Pointer at fpoint1122@sbcglobal.net.