More WSU faculty study bullying

8:46:17 AM CDT - Thursday, March 11, 2004

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Bullying in schools has become such a widespread problem that it's become a major area of study for a number of researchers. 

WSU child psychologist Jim Snyder recently completed a multiyear project in which children in grades kindergarten through second were observed on a school playground to observe the rate of harassment and how it puts kids at risk for antisocial and depressive behavior. 

Two other WSU researchers are also engaged in projects related to the subject.

Ron Matson, associate professor, sociology, has been evaluating a series of programs on sexual harassment and violence used in some Wichita middle schools. The training, for principals and students, has worked well in the schools where it was implemented, he reports. 

Over the past two years, since the 12 lessons on such topics as healthy relationships and handling conflicts have been used, students reported significantly improved attitudes regarding violence, and significantly fewer violent behaviors, according to Matson. And students receiving the interventions report feeling safer at school and that teachers are willing to listen more. 

Joanne Levine, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work who specializes in conflict resolution and violence prevention, is designing a study to gauge teachers' and principals' perceptions of the effectiveness and the challenges of using three early intervention and violence prevention programs that are available to the elementary schools in USD 259. 

According to Debbie McKenna, supervisor with USD 259's Safe and Drug Free Schools, the three programs deal with different components. Second Step addresses violence prevention, the Behavior Improvement Learning Packet System deals with early intervention, while the Crisis Prevention Intervention Program provides training for teachers to address conflicts. 

According to McKenna, the school district has had more than 260 incidents of conflict that were severe enough to be reported in the past two years. The number doesn't include expulsions or suspensions. According to school district data, the district's goal is to reduce reported conflicts by 5 percent. 

Levine will conduct her study in the schools with the highest, medium and lowest reports.  

"They'll get a sense of which of the programs teachers report actually using them, under what conditions they use them and which one or all of these approaches they feel are helpful or useful," says Levine, who's working with McKenna on the project.

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