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Arizona Bullying Prevention Partnership


June 04, 2006
This feature is the third and final feature in a series highlighting the recipients of the 2006 President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness.

Every year, children in schools across Arizona live in fear of bullies who torment them on the playground, in the cafeteria, and even in the classroom. While bullying can take many forms, from name-calling to malicious rumors to physical abuse, the consequences of unchecked bullying remain the same. Bullies learn to be more hurtful, making their victims withdraw from school activities and even suffer academically and socially.

This year, however, things will be different for students at over one hundred Arizona schools. Thanks to the Arizona Bullying Prevention Partnership, an alliance of ASU’s Arizona Prevention Resource Center, the Governor’s Office, and the Men’s Anti-Violence Network, twenty-six Arizona school districts can now implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, an internationally recognized anti-bullying system, in their elementary, middle, and junior high schools. The program strengthens the school community by making students and faculty accountable for recognizing, reporting, and developing consequences for different types of school bullying.

“In the past we’ve had this sense that bullying is just something you go through,” reports Olweus trainer Ellen McCandless. “So we have a lot of people who ignore the problem or tell kids ‘if you ignore the problem it’ll go away.’” Under the Olweus Program, however, reports of school bullying actually increase initially, letting faculty and students realize how bad their school’s bullying problem is – and what steps they must take to combat it.

Yet this program could have never reached the eighty-two schools and over 55,000 students it now aids without the Prevention Center. For the last three years, the Prevention Center has analyzed thousands of anonymous surveys completed by students on their school bullying problems. This data is then organized into reports showing faculty what types of bullying to expect at their schools and where bullying occurs, providing the foundation for schools to build their anti-bullying strategies.

Creating these reports is a massive undertaking. “Large statistical samples are usually considered to be two or three thousand,” explains Prevention Center Program Coordinator Ruby Alvarado. “We regularly look at statistical samples of over thirty-thousand [Olweus surveys].” Alvarado credits ASU student workers with being the “backbone” of this project, noting that the time students spend scanning and compiling the data will allow faculty from sixteen schools to undergo Olweus training this spring. These faculty members will then train their entire schools in the Olweus Program, building the capacity to sustain this anti-bullying program on their own.

Schools that adopt the Olweus Program praise their trainers. “Other training sessions only tell us what to do,” reflects Perry Mason, assistant principal of Mountain Sky Junior High. “[Olweus] lets us digest the information and gives us time to plan how to use it.” This planning is evident in the school-wide Olweus kick-off events participating schools host each fall to introduce parents and students to the anti-bullying program. The event encourages community involvement and enjoys presentations by sports celebrities, police, and fire departments, as well as donations from grocery stores and businesses connected to the Men’s Anti-Violence Network (MAN), a partner of the Bullying Prevention Program. Since many school bullies grow up to be adult bullies, MAN feels promoting the Olweus Program benefits its own mission of preventing domestic violence.

ASU also benefits strongly from its association with the Bullying Prevention Partnership. Thanks to funding from the Governor’s Office, four Prevention Center staff members are now Olweus district trainers, able to instruct schools other trainers cannot reach – including charter schools and public schools in smaller districts. Since the Olweus Program has not been used in many high schools, adapting its training methods for high school-level charter schools may lead ASU researchers to new insights on the program’s use. These findings, along with Prevention Center’s statistical survey of bullying in school districts, will be added to Prevention Center’s library and eventually be written for publication on behalf of ASU.

Ultimately, the biggest beneficiary of the Bullying Prevention Partnership is the community itself. In the coming years, the partnership aims to impact over 70,000 students, making schools a safer environment. As more students learn to engage in acceptable behavior, school communities will enjoy a decrease in bullying, which can lead to a reduction in domestic violence as students grow older. Likewise, living without the fear of being bullied helps students apply themselves to school activities and excel academically and socially. Such long-range benefits make the Bullying Prevention Partnership and Olweus Program an excellent example of how academic and community organizations can work together for mutual benefit.

 

ASU Team Members:

Ruby R. Alvarado Hernandez, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Gail Chadwick, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Chris Emge, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Rachel Forgey, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Kathryn Hamm, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Lynn Katz, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Cassandra Larsen, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

Jackie Minero, Arizona Prevention Resource Center

 

Community Partners:

Nancy A. Dean, Arizona Foundation for Women, Men’s Anti-Violence Network

Jodi Beckley Liggett, Arizona Foundation for Women, Men’s Anti-Violence Network

Sanzanna C. Lolis, Arizona Parents Commission on Drug Education and Prevention

Rob Evans, Governor’s Division for Substance Abuse Policy