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ASU center initiates bully prevention efforts


December 18, 2008

The prevalence of bullying in the United States is overwhelming. Almost 30 percent of students – more than 5.7 million - in grades six through ten are involved in some type of bullying.

In a recent national survey of students in grades six through 10, 13 percent reported bullying others, 11 percent reported being the target of bullies, and 6 percent said they bullied others and were bullied themselves. The true figure is almost certainly higher, since experts believe most instances of bullying are not reported. 

Impacts of bullying are widespread from poor academic scores to taking valuable time and resources from a classroom environment. Those who are bullies as children often grow up to be adult bullies who are more likely to be convicted of crimes. 

Arizona has responded to this issue through the Arizona Bully Prevention Initiative, a public-private partnership established in 2003 that includes the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families/Parents Commission, Arizona State University’s Arizona Prevention Resource Center and the Men’s Anti-Violence Network. Arizona also requires school governing boards by law to adopt and enforce procedures that prohibit the harassment, bullying and intimidation of pupils. 

“The Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families/Parents Commission provided the bulk of funding to supply bully prevention training and materials, and the Men’s Anti-Violence Network provided corporate and private sponsorships for specific components of the project. Private partners also provided marketing and public relations services,” said Cassandra Larsen, Arizona Prevention Resource Center director.

Through the efforts of the partnership led by the Arizona Prevention Resource Center, part of ASU’s Vice President for Education Partnerships office, bully prevention has come to the forefront of safety interventions in Arizona’s schools. During the 2003-2004 school year, 13 schools from eight districts participated in an evidence-based bully prevention program. In the five years since, the Arizona Prevention Resource Center has taken the program to more than 160 schools serving almost 115,000 students. The purpose of the Arizona Prevention Resource Center, which serves as project administrator and evaluator, is to provide a catalyst to promote prevention techniques through evidence-based practices that improve social outcomes through training, planning and evaluation services.  

“The (Olweus Bully Prevention) program has made the kids more aware of what bullying is,” wrote Trina Howard, Mary Griffin, Mike Hohmam and Ginger Baron, teachers at Lowell Elementary School in the Phoenix Elementary School District. “The students are now more comfortable and more likely to come to teachers when they witness a bullying incident”.

Early results from the program are promising. Schools that implement the program have experienced from 26 to 44 percent decrease in bullying behavior. Most sites that have implemented the program have reported a decrease in disciplinary referrals with one school reporting a 30 percent decrease. Although some schools saw a moderate decrease in absenteeism, one school in particular reported a 20 percent decrease. School climate has changed too with an increased sense of community established within classrooms. Schools have also reported a favorable response from parents.

For more information, contact Ruby Alvarado Hernandez Ruby.Alvarado@asu.edu