NEW NOTICES!! (From the top - Scroll down page for older items/links.)
Note: This page contains items especially called to your attention, usually with comment, including some news items and research items which are also concurrently posted on those designated pages (clickables in the far left column).
- NJ School Health and Climate Coalition has now transitioned into SEL4NJ, an affiliate of SEL4US, a national initiative to promote social and emotional learning in all K-12 schools. Participants in NJSHACC, about 40 of whom, representing a wide range of non-profit and governmental organizations, attended the 9/6 meeting, and others who couldn't attend, will be asked to volunteer to participate in various SEL4NJ task forces, so we can move this important work forward. Developing and providing key resources and initiatives is the goal. The next SEL4NJ meeting will be announced shortly.
- A multi-organization effort will soon address the important issue of changing NJ's current opt-in consent law, a significant barrier to collecting accurate information from students about the functioning of NJ schools. More information to follow soon.
- The next meeting of NJSHACC (NJ School Health and Climate Coalition) is next week Thursday 9/6 from 2pm to 4 at Junior Achievement in Edison. If you represent an organization and are interested in attending and have not received an invitation, please contact Liz Warner at email@example.com or call 973-993-1160.
The New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition is a state-wide coalition with membership from a broad spectrum of education, government, community non-profit, and health provider organizations. The organizations share a unified concern for the well-being of children and success of schools through integration and coordination of multiple perspectives.
- The annual "Bullying and the Law" conference I organize for ICLE (Institute for Continuing Legal Education) took place August 7th 2018 at NJ Law Center in New Brunswick. Here are the presenters and topics:
Bullying and the Law, NJ Law Center, New Brunswick, NJ
Welcome – Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
Workplace Bullying - Senator Linda Greenstein
Update on Cases and Rulings – Michael Kaelber, Esq.
NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights: Fundamentals, Changes, and Challenges–Elizabeth Athos, Esq.
The Case for a Private Cause of Action in Bullying Cases – Robert Thurston, Esq.
Steps to a Settlement – Jeffrey Youngman, Esq.
Balancing School Safety and Student Privacy – Mary Moore, Esq.
Disparities in School Resources and Discipline – Deanna Christian, Esq.
What Schools Ought to Do About Bullying: An Expert Witness Perspective – Dr. Green
Although the conference is primarily intended for lawyers, non-lawyers may be invited. The next one will be in August 2019. If interested, contact me at the Coalition email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Each of the conferences produces a book with all of the presentation Powerpoints and related articles/materials. To obtain a copy (there is a cost), contact Lisa Spiegal at ICLE: email@example.com or call 732-214-8554.
- Recent article of interest: BARR model SEL.
- An important new book, How Schools Work, by Arne Duncan, federal education secretary under President Obama. The book is a scathing indictment of the US education system, made all the more powerful given the author of the critique. The book is also yet another endorsement of the positive power of an educational approach which focuses on intensive student support, especially those most vulnerable, including prioritizing and addressing the social and emotional status of each student.
(Previous update: 6/18):
- The bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) from the CDC just came out (last week) and, unsurprisingly, NJ's response rate was too low (below 60%) for NJ-specific statistics to be valid/available. It is unsurprising because NJ has a terrible law which requires signed parental consent for youth to be surveyed about any number of highly important and bullying-relevant issues. This 'affirmative consent' law, as any researcher knows, introduces 'selection bias' to all attempts at meaningful youth data collection, and limits survey responses, as we note. The NJ legislature had passed a law ending affirmative consent and establising the more normal and effective 'passive consent', but the law was vetoed by then-Governor Christie. The current Governor is likely, I believe, to sign such legislation, but the legislation has to once again be passed and make it to his desk. Hopefully, this is happening ... Generally, the YRBS data (Google it for details) indicates that bullying remains a significant (and perhaps rising) national problem.
2/16/18: School Shootings
After another terrible act of violence - this time this week's shooting in a Florida school - much media discussion is focused on America's problem with easy access to guns. That is indeed a critical factor and perhaps the single most important factor. But for a broader, well-reasoned and evidence-based analysis of the problem, the best discussion I've seen is from UCLA's always-valuable School Mental Health Project, directed by the psychologist Howard Adelman. Note their emphasis on school culture and climate, and bullying. Here is their analysis:
(material below is from the School Mental Health Project at UCLA, distributed via email by Prof. Howard Adelman, 2/16/18)
About School Shootings
Once again, a mass shooting at a school. Once again, the country mourns and expresses condolences. Once again, everyone asks why these horrific incidents happen and what to do about them. As with other problems confronting schools, violence using guns is a major societal (and political) problem. Schools can’t solve the problem alone, but they must play a significant role in addressing the problem and its impact.
Here’s what that means.
(A) Going Beyond Security Measures. Schools must implement prevention efforts that go
beyond enhancing security. Schools can do more to help young people develop into
healthy, nonviolent, and positive contributors to society. In particular, schools can
increase efforts to promote positive social and emotional development and address
threats to such development that foster psychological reactance. There is a movement for
a greater focus on social and emotional learning. But too little attention is being paid to
reducing factors that undermine positive mental health. Schools need to examine the way
vulnerable students are inappropriately treated each day at school in classrooms and
school-wide by staff and peers. And then they must act to turn the situation around.
(B) Providing Special Supports as Soon as a Problem Appears. Schools have a range of
student and learning supports. However, these supports are not well designed and
developed to respond quickly and effectively in situations where there are many students
who teachers readily identify as beginning to manifest behavior, learning, and emotional
(C) Ensuring that Students with Severe and Chronic Problems are Connected with Effective
Help. Few schools can provide intensive help, so they need to develop strong connections
with community resources to facilitate appropriate referrals and follow-through.
(2) Aftermath Interventions for Students and Staff in all schools. See the following resources:
>Talking to kids about tragedies (such as shootings and terror attacks) in the news
>Talking to kids about school shootings (from the American Psychology Assoc.)
In our Center's Resource Aid Packet on
>Responding to Crises at a School
>>Crisis Response Checklist
>>Psychological First Aid
>>Major Facets of Crisis Response
>>Responding to a Crisis: A Few General Principles
>>The School's Role in Addressing Psychological Reactions to Loss
>>Planning and Action for the MH Needs of Students and School Staff after a Major Disaster
From more, go to
>the Center's homepage (http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu ) and click on the icon
Responding to a Crisis
>the Quick Find on Crisis Prevention and Response –
And here’s some facets of school shootings to ponder:
The following are excerpts from a Feb 15th article by two psychiatrists; online at
Eric Madfis, an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Washington,
Tacoma, argues that there's a tendency for the mass media to portray school shootings as pointless, random and motiveless tragedies when they are not. Instead, [he] argues in his investigation entitled, "In Search of Meaning: Are School Rampage Shootings Random and Senseless Violence?" that clear patterns emerge.1 ... Eric Madfis dismisses the popular depiction of mass shootings as the result of someone out of the blue "snapping" and committing violence on a spur-of-the-moment. Extensive planning indicates that rampage attacks serve purposes. These also fall into clear repeated patterns, including vengeance, infamy seeking, a need for a sense of macho power, often with a background of long-term internal discord and interpersonal defeats. ... ... a team of academics from Northwestern University, led by Adam Robert Pah and Luis Amaral conclude that increasing uncertainty in the school-to-work transition contributes to school shootings.2 ...While the majority of American school gun violence generally occurs in urban areas, rampage school shootings are much more likely to occur at suburban and rural schools in less populated, less diverse communities, located in more socially and politically conservative neighborhoods. ...
The humiliating closeness and pressure to conform in small towns might therefore be implicated, particularly as attacks tend to take place where the school staff and student body are intolerant of differences, when issues of bullying and marginalization are not addressed by the school culture.
Another possible emerging pattern is an educational environment of punitive zero tolerance which might discourage students from confiding in trusted adults when they hear crucial information about impending threats of violence. ...
That there is something about school culture which needs addressing is further hinted at by a study entitled, "Alone and adrift: The association between mass school shootings, school size, and student support", investigating twenty-two mass school shooting incidents between
January 1995 and June 2014 3 ...
The authors, psychologists Abigail Baird, Emma Roellke and Debra Zeifman from Vassar
College conclude that transitioning from a smaller, more supportive school to a larger, more anonymous school may exacerbate pre-existing psychological difficulties among potential school shooters.
Eric Madfis argues that the huge media attention school rampage attacks inevitably attract, distorts public perception over the true likelihood of these events. For example, he quotes statistics that compared to their homes and the streets, in the USA, schools remain the safest places for young people. ...
1 Madfis, E. (2017). In search of meaning: Are school rampage shootings random and senseless violence? The
Journal of Psychology, 151, 21-35. DOI: 10.1080/00223980.2016.1196161
2 Pah, A. R., Hagan, J., Jennings, A. L., Jain, A., Albrecht, K., Hockenberry, A. J., & Amaral, L. A. N. (2017).
Economic insecurity and the rise in gun violence at US schools. Nature Human Behaviour, 1. DOI:
3 Baird, A.A., Roellke, E.V., & Zeifman, D.M. (2017). Alone and adrift: The association between mass school
shootings, school size, and student support. The Social Science Journal, 54, 261-270.
Relatedly, here’s an excerpt from an early report from the American Psychological Association’s
Commission on Violence and Youth that sought to focus attention on what is and what needs to be done related to anti-violence interventions.
The urgent need to prevent further destruction of young lives by violence has led to a proliferation of anti-violence interventions for children, youth, and their families. Many of these interventions were created primarily for service delivery, without scientific underpinnings or plans for outcome evaluation. Some are targeted at perpetrators of violence, others at their victims, and still others at bystanders who may play a pivotal role in condoning or preventing violence. Some are preventive, and others seek to ameliorate the damage already done. Some are targeted toward changing individuals, and others seek to change the systems and settings that influence behavior, such as the family, peers, schools, and community. Those programs that have been evaluated and show promise include interventions aimed at reducing risk factors or at strengthening families and children to help them resist the effects of detrimental life circumstances.... Effective intervention programs share two primary characteristics: (a) they draw on the understanding of developmental and sociocultural risk factors leading to antisocial behavior,- and (b) they use theory-based intervention strategies with known efficacy in changing behavior, tested program designs, and validated, objective measurement techniques to assess outcomes. Other key criteria that describe the most promising intervention approaches include: They begin as early as possible to interrupt the "trajectory toward violence." Evidence indicates that intervention early in childhood can reduce aggressive and antisocial behavior and can also affect certain risk factors associated with antisocial behavior, such as low educational achievement and inconsistent parenting practices....
Finally, a Note of Caution
Not Another Ad Hoc Set of School Interventions
It is unlikely that a safe and nurturing learning environment will emerge simply by developing a better violence prevention program. Such programs can help, but ultimately what a school needs is a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system for addressing barriers to development and learning and re-engaging disconnected students. The time has come for schools to move away from stand-alone programs for addressing problems such as violence, bullying, substance abuse, and so forth. Just adding another program worsens the marginalized, fragmented, and piecemeal status of student and learning supports. Rather than pursuing yet another discrete program, it is essential to use each concern that rises to a high policy level as an opportunity to catalyze and leverage systemic change. The aim should be to take another step toward transforming how schools go about ensuring that all students are safe, develop fully, and have an equal opportunity to succeed at school and beyond. It is time to embed advocacy for discrete programs into advocacy for unifying and developing a comprehensive and equitable system. Addressing barriers to learning and teaching and re-engaging disconnected students is a school improvement imperative. Developing and implementing a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system of student and learning supports is the next evolutionary stage in meeting this imperative.
(For more on this, see
>Violence Prevention and Safe Schools –
2/2/18: NOTICE OF MEETING
Please see below for notice of an upcoming meeting of NJ School Health and Climate Coalition. If you represent an organization and are interested in attending and have not received an invitation, please see the notice below and reach out. - Stuart Green
Please join us for the first meeting of 2018 of the New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition (NJSHACC).
The New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition is a state-wide coalition with membership from a broad spectrum of education, government, community non-profit, and health provider organizations. The organizations share a unified concern for the well-being of children and success of schools through integration and coordination of multiple perspectives.
Date: Thursday February 22, 2018
Time: 2:30pm - 4:30pm
Place: Principals and Supervisors Association (many thanks to PSA which has very generously offered to host this meeting!)
Room: Rooms E/F
Address: 12 Centre Drive, Monroe Township, NJ 08831
Agenda: See below
Please click here to RSVP or via return e-mail. Thank you!
Since the founding of the New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition in 2013, the Coalition has:
- Created a resource: Successful School Climate Guidelines
- Served as an advisory body for the New Jersey School Health Scan.
- Worked with Sustainable New Jersey for Schools to create social-emotional and school climate actions for participating NJS4S schools.
- Launched the Healthy Schools/ Healthy Students Conference Series.
- August 2016 - School Climate and Bullying: Where are We Now/ Where Do We need to Be
- January 2017 - Mental Health and School Success: Building School Capacity to Meet Student Needs
- June 2017 – Fitness as Fuel for Educational Success: Obesity, Nutrition, Physical Fitness and Student Behavior and Learning
At the meeting on February 22 we hope to welcome new faces, continue the work of breaking down silos, and continue to speak with a unified voice in order to have greater impact. A key focus of the meeting will be to begin work on key policy recommendations to the NJ DOE. Below is a very brief agenda.
2:30pm Arrival, coffee and networking - please note the meeting will start promptly at 2:45pmWelcome and introductions
- Up-date on recent developments in state: SEL, NJ DOE, ESSA, Character Development, School Climate, School Health
- Begin work on key policy recommendations
4:15pm Departure and networking – please note we must all be out of the building by 4:30pm.
Please feel free to reach out of you have any questions or require further information.
On behalf of the New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition leadership team*, we hope to see you on February 22nd!
All the very best,
NJSHACC Leadership Team*
- Maurice Elias, Ph.D.
- Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
- Patricia Heindel, Ph.D.
- William Trusheim, Ed.D.
- Liz Warner
Elizabeth Hansen Warner
Director, K-12 Education Initiatives
Co-Director, School Culture and Climate Initiative: a partnership of United Way and College of Saint Elizabeth
New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition (NJSHACC)
United Way of Northern New Jersey
P.O. Box 1948, Morristown, NJ 07962
Ph: 973.993.1160, x107 I Fax: 973.993.5807
Like us on Facebook I Follow us on Twitter
1. The flow of calls to the hotline from parents and schools has definitely decreased over the past year, going from an average of one a day (on some days three) - for the preceding 15-16 years - to only a few (at most) per week in the past year, to present. Hopefully, this reflects the increased, sustained attention to the problem, parents' empowerment by the attention and the law, and an enhanced school response. At the same time, tragedies - especially suicide in which bullying is a factor - have continued to occur. And the broader factors which both underpin and reflect inadequately addressed bullying persist.
2. One of those factors is racially-based institutional neglect and mistreatment. Just this week, for example, a new report by the Center for American Progress analyzing data from the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health's 2016 National Survey of Children's Health, well described by an article in the Washington Post reprinted by the Star Ledger (11/20/17, p21), notes (headline): "250 preschoolers suspended or expelled every school day: Analysis of national data finds significant racial disparity in discipline". A Center analyst (Rasheed Malik) is quoted in the article: "These disciplinary rates are particularly shocking since suspending and expelling young children has not been shown to produce positive behavioral results. Quite the opposite, such practices can often intensify the challenges faced by these children and their parents, and have even been discussed as the first state in a pre-school-to-prison-pipeline." It will surprise no one knowledgeable to learn that it is African-American children who are very disproportionately suspended and expelled, compared to white children. This negative school focus on black children is completely consistent with other research (eg, Anne Gregory's, at Rutgers, as one example) showing that school disciplinary measures (eg, 'zero tolerance' approaches) generally overfocus on children of color.
3. NJ, in particular, has a racial problem in its schools, reflecting in part the de facto segregated nature - and related resource disparities - of NJ communities across the state, but also reflecting the treatment of children of color even in schools which are racially diverse (eg, see the article by Jessica Mazzola in today's - 11/22/17 - NJ Star Ledger about the South Orange Maplewood School District).
4. Of course these are national issues. Nationwide - for just one example - there is a lack of diversity in the teacher population, so that many of our diverse students do not see themselves reflected in their school and classroom leaders.
5. I'm influenced ih thinking about these issues right now by the important voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic magazine essayist, MacArthur Fellowship and National Book Award winner. Reading his essays, and books - "The Beautiful Struggle" "Between the World and Me" and "We Were Eight Years in Power", is a powerful call to action (and understanding, at least) for addressing disparities in our country, certainly including in our schools (though he does not specifically address K-12 education).
6. Planning for the next series of RWJF-United Way school health conferences is underway. The next conference (date not yet set) will focus on early childhood issues.
7. Planning for the next 'bullying and the law' conference, sponsored by NJ State Bar Association's Institute for Continuing Legal Education and held at the NJ Law Center, is also underway. The conference will take place on Tuesday, August 7th. A mix of lawyers and non-lawyer anti-bullying specialists will present, as usual, on topics such as inadequately addressed bullying as institutional child neglect, on school climate, on peer support, on the basics of what schools should do to prevent and address bullying, and our usual review/update on cases and law, among other topics.
8. I continue to do talks (most recently at Bayer corporation, for parent employees), answer the hotline calls (fewer but continuing), and provide expert witness services to lawyers. In development is either a new podcast or a new radio show (the previous show on 920TheVoice - ended two years ago).
___________________________________________________________________________________________ - Dr Green
OPPOSITION TO NEW PROPOSED EDUCATION LAW:
I'm assuming that all anti-bullying advocates would want to register opposition to the proposed new education law. See the attached document for a dramatically phrased but reasonably accurate summary of some of what the proposed law would do, and a specific instruction for how to try to block it (by calling congress). In short, the new law - which would repeal the 1965 civil-rights-based education law - would reduce funding for low-income public schools, support voucher and home-school options, and have negative impacts on vulnerable children in multiple ways (see the document), including in regard to bullying. SG
House Bill 610
See attached news article (HealthDay) re study just published in Journal of Educational Research on link between bullying and academic performance. The study simply reinforces what an already existing line of research - and advocacy understanding - supports: that addressing bullying is critical to improving academics. I'll post a copy of the study itself shortly ...
bullying and academics 1-17
(1) RWJF Conference: Yesterday (1/19) we held the second of this year's (academic year, so July-June), meetings on school health, hosted and sponsored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The meeting focused on youth mental health, and was attended by over 100 leaders and senior staff of non-profit organizations, government agencies and schools. See the attached document for notice of the series and yesterday's meeting agenda. The third meeting, date to be announced, will be held in June and focus on childhood obesity, nutrition and the physical environment (of schools and communities). Information, including for registration, will be posted soon.RWJF conf 1-19-17 Agenda Final
(2) NJSHACC: The planning team for the RWJF meetings is the executive team for New Jersey School Health and Climate Coalition. The team members are Stuart Green (Atlantic Health System, and NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention), Maurice Elias (Rutgers University, Department of Psychology), Patricia Heindel (College of St. Elizabeth), William Trusheim (NJ Alliance for Social Emotional and Character Development) and a colleague and consultant Millicent Kellner (Trustee of NJASECD). The primary function of NJSHACC is to bring ensure that all NJ schools are aware of and have access to the resources and organizations which promote school health, with an emphasis on school culture and climate. To that end, the Coalition brings multiple organizations and perspectives 'to the table'. The next - and open - meeting of the Coalition is March 10, at College of St. Elizabeth, in Madison. For more information, contact Liz Warner of United Way NNJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a difficult two weeks since the election, adjusting to what has to be - for anti-bullying advocates - a huge adjustment to the reality that top leaders of the U.S. government hold views which can be reasonably characterized as racially biased, religiously bigoted, anti-gay and misogynist. Having said that, the fact is that a huge percentage of the population (not the majority nationally, but the majority of voters in a majority of states) found these views acceptable, even if not preferred, even if grudgingly acceptable in exchange for feeling hopeful about having their economic issues addressed. The overall view is really not as simple as Hillary's 'basket of deplorables' comment indicated. That complexity has been further illustrated by post-election reporting and analysis. For me, a key example is the article in today's Times about a heavily minority populated district in Wisconsin in which a huge percentage of eligible voters did not vote. According to the Times article, a common sentiment was a lack of motivation to vote because of disappointment with both candidates and political parties, and even a perceived lack of progress (in terms of an improvemed quality of life in that district) under Obama. As noted above - complex. My own reaction to the current reality was initially depression. In searching for a return to optimism, I've had two helpful perspectives. One - similar to the feeling of the voters described in the Times article on the Wisconsin minority district - is to remind myself that the current situation - the leadership and what their success says about America - is not that much of a sea change from where the country has been at numerous times in our past. After all, this is a country that accepted slavery, that interred American citizens who were also Japanese, that continues to have all kinds of problems adequately supporting populations of difference and need. The other is to find positivity in the work which continues to go on, even in this environment. In that regard, I highly recommend becoming familiar with the work of Bill Strickland, a (well-deserved) MacArthur 'genius' (by reading his book, described below).
In regard to the above, I'm attaching below, two items I recently wrote and distributed to colleagues, and an item which appeared in my email today from the publication 'Education Week'.
SG post-election note 11-16
Education Week 11-21-16 on climate post-election
Strickland message 11-16
(1) There is a new coalition of advocacy organizations, 'Coalition for an Effective ABR' (anti-bullying bill of rights) whose participants include NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention. Education Law Center, GLSEN Northern NJ, Innisfree Foundation, SPAN, Disability Rights NJ, Garden State Equality, ACNJ and others (to be fully listed shortly - apologies for those not named in this note). Contributors to this Coalition collectively endorsed a statement commenting on the recommendations made to the NJ Board of Education by the Commissioner of the DOE (based upon the final report of the Anti-Bullying Task Force), critiquing the recommendations and making new recommendations. That testimony Programs to Support Student Devt Comments FINAL was submitted to the BOE at its hearing on 10/5 in Trenton. Along with the collectively endorsed document, individuals representing Coalition organizations provided individual testimony. Here is a copy of the testimony submitted by Stuart Green. Green 10-5-16 Testimony State BOE re HIB regulations . The Coalition participants agreed to develop further recommendations as advisement to BOE (and DOE), and to pursue an ongoing advocacy-based advisory role toward more effective addressing of HIB by BOE and DOE (and NJ schools, generally).
(2) Planning is underway for the second of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-hosted school health conferences, focusing on mental health, to take place in December (12/16, at RWJF in Princeton). More information to follow shortly.
The conference co-organized with United Way Northern NJ and sponsored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is taking place at RWJF headquarters in Princeton on August 15th. It's a full-day conference on school climate and bullying, featuring keynote talks by Maurice Elias and Anne Gregory (both of Rutgers), and a number of other shorter 'TEDtalks' a number of experts on important bullying-related issues, and including a panel of schools presenting on the challenges of addressing the issues. The conference is free, includes breakfast and lunch, and is an important gathering of state leaders and organizations working to improve school health. The 8/15 conference is part of a series of school health conferences we've organized, which RWJF is sponsoring (and hosting). Details on the other conferences to follow. Please see the attached conference notices. Registration information is on the invite. If you represent an organization which addresses bullying, or school health more broadly, you're invited to register. Some seats are still available, as of this date.
School Climate and Bullying Conference 8-15-16
RWJF School Health Conferences 2016-2017
Stuart Green is also presenting a talk on bullying ('What Schools Should Do') at the conference on domestic violence and sexual violence ('A Safer Garden State') organized by NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault, also in Princeton, on September 15th. See attached notice.
NJCASA conference 9-15-16
We have also organized, with Education Law Center, a group of organizations planning to provide testimony at the state Board of Education hearing in September, about changes in bullying law and regulations, responding to the Anti-Bullying Task Force recommendations. See below (the note of 5/17/16) for more information.
No news yet about the new radio show.
radio show samples
radio show samples
Above are two examples of the radio show on bullying Dr Green hosted in 2014-2015 on 920TheVoice in NJ. Doing the show in Princeton proved to be too difficult on a regular basis, so the show is pending a re-start at a closer site. If any visitors/organizations are interested in sponsoring the show, please contact Dr Green (email@example.com or call 908-522-2581).
- We are partnering with United Way of Northern NJ and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to present a much-needed statewide conference on bullying, tentatively scheduled for August 15th. The broad theme of the conference is "Bullying in NJ: Where We Are Now." We will ideally have participation from all of the key stakeholder organizations, including legislators and media. Given that the state's anti-bullying task force has finished its work, and DOE has now made suggestions based on the task force's work to the state BOE, and legislators are contemplating new legislation, it's the right time to bring together those interested and influential. More information to follow.
- Overall, the sense at this point is that there is much more work to be done. Dr Green recently published an op-ed in the Star Ledger which captures this sense: Star Ledger Op-Ed - Dr Green 4-16
- You may want to take a look at the Task Force final report, and the Commissioner's submission to the state BOE. Both are attached here. If you're interested in submitting testimony (and perhaps testifying) to BOE for its upcoming September 2nd meeting, here's the relevant information. Task Force Report 1-16
- This summer's 5th annual 'bullying and the law' conference at NJ Law Center in New Brunswick, which Dr Green organizes for ICLE (Institute for Continuing Legal Education), will be on Thursday, August 11th. This year's full-day conference at the Law Center will be focused on hazing. While NJ cases in the past year or so (Sayreville, South Orange) have drawn attention, the unfortunate fact is hazing-related tragedies continuously occur, all over the country (and the world). The problem merits attention. As usual, we have a great line-up of guests. A highlighted guest will be Dr Richard Labbe, Superintendent of the Sayreville School District. Dr Labbe deserves highlighting for the groundbreaking urgency and strength of his response to the reports of hazing in the district. For the framing talk (by a non-lawyer) we've invited Dr Susan Lipkins, a psychologist and author of "Preventing Hazing", while the legal aspects will be covered by attorneys Jeffrey Youngman, Jerry Tanenbaum, Mike Kaelber, Luanne Peterpaul, and Steve Goodell. Mr Goodell's presentation will be especially interesting, as he's the legal advisor to the NJ State Interscholastic Athletics Association. The conference will be well-publicized to NJ lawyers by ICLE, as usual, and we expect great interaction as always between presenters and an audience with its own legal expertise. If you'd like more information about attending the conference, including non-lawyers, contact Lisa Spiegel of ICLE a lspiegel@njsba, or the Coalition, at 908-522-2581 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Coalition hotline (908-522-2581) continues to get calls daily (on average) from parents, and occasionally from school staff seeking talks or other support.
- We continue to do talks on bullying, eg in the past few months, for the state's coordinators of services for children with special needs, and another at the cultural diversity conference organized by SPAN (Statewide Parents Advocacy Network). Most calls for talks come from schools, typically which have no budget allocated to support the effort. If it's convenient and local, we do them, but usually suggest the school staff making the request access their school's own anti-bullying specialist, or the district's anti-bullying coordinator. The feedback we get is that there still seems to be some lack of coordination and connection between those specialists and the wider school community and staff.
- Now that the Anti-Bullying Task Force has issued its final report, and given the continuing problems we see, it seems the right time to have a conference to bring together everyone concerned about the problem, including organizations, legislators, media, community. The conference is tentatively titled "Bullying in NJ: Where We Are Now." Rather than organize it alone, as in the past, we've turned to other partner organizations to help bring all the participants together. The hope is to have the conference and meeting in the fall (2016). More details to follow.
- Dr Green continues to do expert witness work for lawyers advocating for families of children who have been hurt.
- Partly in response to the Task Force report, which recommended some good changes (focusing the law's definition of bullying on a pattern of negative acts) and less good ones (giving school leaders more 'discretion' about looking into reported bullying), the Star Ledger (usually a great ally in the cause) wrote an editorial focusing too much on flaws in the law (easily acknowledged, even by advocates) and not enough on the law's virtues (which advocates appreciate). So we sent in an OpEd to the Star Ledger. If they don't print it, we'll reproduce it here. Waiting to see ...
- Good things still emerging and forthcoming from the state's campaigns and initiatives: Garden State Equality's Teach&Affirm (a bit on hold, pending some reorganization at GSE), Center for Supportive School's Campaign Connect, and United Way Northern NJ's Youth Empowerment Alliance, School Support Network and Culture and Climate Coalition, as well as 'older' organizations such as NJ Alliance for Social Emotional and Character Development, Rutger's Inclusive Schools Climate Initiative, and (even older) NJ Child Assault Prevention's Bullying Prevention Program, and others (apologies to those not mentioned - yet). We are supportive of all, and actively involved in some. Lots more work still to do ...
9/15: A few items ...
Green w Ansary Elias Greene article Bullying 2015
Weight and bullying Times 7-7-15
Pine Bush District anti-semitic bullying 6-15
- There is a new state anti-bullying campaign, in which we are participating. The campaign is led by Garden State Equality. It is called Teach and Affirm Students NJ (www.teachandaffirm.com). See the Trenton Times editorial below for a brief description. There are other good, ongoing, state anti-bullying initiatives, which we have noted and affirmed before, in which we also participate (for example, Center for Supportive School’s Campaign Connect, and United Way Northern NJ’s Culture and Climate Coalition and Supportive Schools Network). But this one is a potential game-changer. That’s because this campaign is the first meaningful step toward creating a state-wide community-based assessment and intervention system for evaluating schools and strengthening school climate. That’s a goal we’ve been pursuing for a long time, and which NJ desperately needs.
As we’ve written before – see the Coalition press release, below (issued last year, but little has changed) – NJ’s existing systems for assessing school violence – are completely inadequate. That’s because the systems are based only on administrator self-report and self-evaluation, and there isn’t an adequate response when schools inadequately address violence issues. But Garden State Equality, which itself has huge membership, including in every area of the state, along with partners such as GLSEN, ACLU, Hi-TOPS and other organizations, has the ability to create a state-wide community-based system capable of assessing and evaluating the actual quality of school efforts to prevent and address bullying, including how well the school supports and protects vulnerable students.
The most interesting feature of the campaign involves the particular elements of school culture/climate and functioning on which schools will be evaluated. One could easily envision a checklist pages long, with fifty or more elements which ought to be in place in every school. In fact, the latest Coalition document (see below) is just that long. And United Way’s CCC, similarly, has an excellent multi-page document (see below) about school climate. And there are survey instruments specifically designed for assessment (such as National School Climate Center’s CSCI), of at least equal length. But these are all impractical for a community-based assessment team (CBAT) to use. So there is an empirical question: Are there a small number of critical school behaviors which, if in place, reliably indicate that the school has a culture/climate which adequately prevents and addresses bullying and supports vulnerable students? As an LGBT-focused organization, Garden State Equality (and its partners) are proposing the following key indicators (there are a few others):
- The school has affinity groups such as GSA’s (gender and sexuality alliances), for minority populations; where affinity groups are not already in place, the school pledges to work with GSE and its community partners to create such groups.
- Cultural competency training for all staff includes LGBT-specific training.
- There is training about the anti-bullying law (ABR), the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IX, and other non-discrimination, bias crime and education laws.
- There is policy that ensures that all students can use facilities and programs that match their gender identity.
- There is nondiscrimination policy with language that matches the LAD, including toward protected classes (e.g., transgender people) in line with NJ and federal law.
- There is a dress code which is not strictly gendered (e.g., cross-dressing is not against school code).
- The health curriculum has inclusive, affirming content about LGBT students, and students with disabilities.
Schools are initially being asked to tell us whether they have such elements in place, or to ask for help with development if not. If they do, schools will be recognized, praised. Going forward, going beyond school self-report to gather information about whether the elements are in place will be the key. And then, there should be a response to schools who do not have or develop the elements through community advocacy. This is a major step forward. We’re excited to be part of it.
- We are again organizing for Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) the annual summer conference on bullying and the law. A detailed notice will follow soon. The conference is Monday, August 10th, at NJ Law Center. Speakers already confirmed include Hany Mawla, JSC, Jeffrey Youngman, Michael Kaelber, Jerry Tanenbaum, Leisa-Anne Smith, Luanne Peterpaul, Ruth Lowenkron, Philip Freeman, Andrea Bowen, and more to come. Especially if you’re a lawyer, or an educator who wants the latest updates on bullying and law, hold the date!
- Want to be on the radio? I’m continuing to host one of the only (or the only?) radio shows in the U.S. focused on bullying: “Let’s Talk About Bullying,” on 920TheVoice, which broadcasts in NJ and Pennsylvania (Mercer, Bucks and Burlington counties). If, as a Coalition participant, you’re interested in being a guest on the show (some of you already have been), just contact me. The show broadcsts every Saturday at 1pm, but I usually record some shows during the week, at the studio in Princeton. You can access over a year of archived shows on the website, www.920thevoice.com. The radio station is of course always interested in sponsorship and sponsors do help guarantee that we can keep getting the message out on the air. So, if you or your organization are interested in supporting the show, contact Tony Henry, marketing manager, at 609-865-2803.
- Obesity is one of the most commonly targeted conditions, although most weight conditions are not covered by bias-based legal protections (e.g., included in the LAD, or as one of the enumerated characteristics in the ABR). So it’s important that an upcoming conference at Rutgers University, on May 1st, is specifically about weight bias, obesity and bullying. Best of all, the conference features a talk by Prof. Maurice Elias, a Coalition colleague and one of the best known (well-merited) experts on school climate and SEL in the U.S. Well worth attending! (see the notice below)
Editorial: 'Teach and Affirm Students in New Jersey' provides important lessons on bullying
olice give anti-bully presentation, Jan. 23, 2015
By Times of Trenton Editorial Board The Star-Ledger
on March 23, 2015 at 9:36 AM
Does your child's school have an affinity group such as a Gender Sexual Alliance, where minority students and their allies serve as a source of social support and advocacy for one another?
Does it have a health curriculum that considers the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students?
What about a dress code that allows transgender students to express themselves comfortably?
These are among the criteria a new statewide coalition will be examining as it looks to identify Garden State schools that provide safe learning spaces for all their students.
The project, initiated by Garden State Equality (GSE) and several high-profile community groups, is called "Teach and Affirm Students in New Jersey." Its purpose is admirable.
Sadly, the reality is that teasing, bullying and violence against minority students are far from rare in a school setting. Several years ago, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that nearly one-third of all students aged 12 to 18 said they had been bullied in the previous year.
Despite safeguards already in place, the vicious e-mails, texts, website posts, face-to-face confrontations and verbal threats continue, particularly aimed against those whose non-conformity marks them as "other."
So we welcome the news that GSE and its partners - including the Central New Jersey Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention - are taking efforts one step further.
Using a set of metrics, their project will reward schools that are especially attuned to the needs of LGBT students, students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities.
"We want to elevate the reputations of schools that are already fulfilling these outcomes, while providing training and our expert support to schools that aren't," GSE Executive Director Andrea Bowen said in a statement announcing the initiative.
Adding muscle to the program is the fact that coalition members, including ACLU-NJ, are making themselves and their resources available to schools whose scores fall short of the ideal.
People who downplay bullying as an unavoidable fact of life, or who claim that those who engage in these behaviors are just having a little innocent fun, miss the point entirely.
Recent studies indicate that fear of bullying causes some 160,000 students nationwide to stay home from school every day. More disturbingly, studies by Yale University show that victims of bullying are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
This is serious stuff. It's appropriate that Garden State Equality and allies are doing something serious about it.
Follow The Times of Trenton on Twitter @TimesofTrenton. Find The Times of Trenton on Facebook.
This is a correction of an oversight in one of the notes below (1/15): I left out the name of one of my colleagues who attended the NJ Senate ceremony in November: Blythe Hinitz. I knew I might leave out a name (the danger of doing such lists) but I'm upset to have left out Blythe. For those who may not know, Prof. Hinitz is one of the earliest and most consistent of our Coalition participants and has been helpful in multiple ways. A national expert in early childhood education, a distinguished professor at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, the author of many important books on early childhood education, including one of the only (and perhaps earliest) of the books specifically addressing bullying in early childhood and pre-school ("The Anti-Bullying and Teasing Book"), she is a member of the Coalition's higher education advisory group (see the Advisory Group documents on our home page), and has been an expert guest on Dr. Green's radio show, "Let's Talk About Bullying." We're very appreciative of her work - and her presence at the November ceremony honoring the work of the Coalition. Thanks Blythe!
For 2015, the work continues (some points below, a mix of updates, announcements and appreciations):
- Hotline calls continuing to come in – as always, very frustrating to hear of parents still struggling to get an adequate response to their child’s plight.
- The website continues to get a steady flow of hits, mainly from parents.
- Occasional talks, such as one upcoming in Newark this month, for parents.
- Lots of contacts with media, whether initiated by me (published occasionally in the Times and Star Ledger) or (more commonly) reporters.
- There’s definitely been an increase in awareness of the problem, and definitely heightened empowerment for parents of vulnerable and hurt kids, and heightened expectations for addressing the problem on the part of everyone else, including school staff.
- The field is predictably tragedy-driven, driven by media coverage and public interest, as in all the recent attention to hazing, highlighted by the remarkably strong and positive response of Sayreville’s Superintendent Labbe to the problem there.
- Still doing the weekly radio show (920thevoice), with great guests, the audience gradually increasing, and sponsors.
- Still participating in the very well done ongoing efforts of two state initiatives – United Way/Northern NJ’s Culture and Climate Coalition, and Center for Supportive School’s Campaign Connect.
- Participating in Garden State Equality’s youth task force, helping cover their bullying hotline, and appreciative of their continuing great work on multiple fronts, all of which empowers youth and improves the climate, at school and everywhere else.
- Appreciative of the continuing important work of NJ Alliance for Social Emotional and Character Development, and (in the same domain) of CASEL (on the national stage).
- An occasional academic publication, always with great co-authors, the latest just published in Educational Researcher (lead author is Nadia Ansary of Rider U.).
- Very appreciative of honor conferred in November 2015 by NJ State Senate (Senators Weinberg, Vitale and Allen) recognizing the Coalition work. While the ceremony and certificate were directed to me, all colleagues should feel recognized, and special appreciation to those who attended with me - Blythe Hinitz, Faith Rice, Liz Warner, Trish Heindel, Joan Rivitz, colleagues from the radio station and Atlantic Health System, and my family (and in case I'm forgetting anyone who was there with me, please accept my great, great apology - and remind me, and I'll add your name here and my thanks!)!
- Still hoping there’s eventually an understanding that inadequately addressed violence in school is institutional child neglect, a presentation Michael Greene and I have taken on the road a few times, and which needs more time and energy invested (difficult commodities to generate).
- On the legal front, still doing expert witness work, appreciating the great continuing work and leadership of Education Law Center, and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, and the private lawyers who participate in the Anti-Bullying Lawyers Group and advocate for families so well, and, as always, appreciative that NJ State Bar Foundation and Leisa-Anne Smith continue to be so central to anti-bullying work. Also glad for the Bar Association’s Institute for Continuing Legal Education continuing support of our annual summer conference. And glad the year started off with a boost for disability rights in schools – the settlement of the least restrictive environment case brought by ELC, SPAN, Disability Rights NJ, Arc of NJ, and its lawyers (Todd Wilson; Lowenstein, Sandler; Freeman Carolla Reisman and Gran).
- Glad the Coalition’s main convening activity in Fall 2014 was the great Stan Davis intensive, in partnership with Kean University (thanks Prof. Barry Mascari, and Kamika Samms), highlighting Stan’s (and his colleague Charisse Nixon’s) great continuing work, the Youth Voice Project.
- The Coalition’s Spring 2015 gathering will focus on hazing. Hoping to get Hank Nuwer and Elizabeth Allan, the country’s leading experts, to participate.
- Awaiting the final work of the anti-bullying task force, and hopefully a legislative response that strengthens the current (strong) law. A Coalition wish list would include a shift in definition to emphasize pattern over incident, endorsement of a private cause of action, specific disciplinary and other measures for school leaders and schools which inadequately address the problem, more specification of minimum baseline measures schools should be taking (especially on behalf of minority/vulnerable populations), and a mandatory assessment process for school climate and violence which doesn’t only rely on administrator self-report, including a recommendation to repeal the current law requiring parental consent for assessment.
Last, see below for a copy of the latest email from the great organization National School Climate Center (if you don’t get it, you should sign up). One of the documents they highlight is especially worth distributing widely (excerpted link below). It’s helpful work.
“What is bullying? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Education, and the Health Resources and Services Administration have outlined a uniform definition acknowledging two modes and four types of bullying.”
Thanks to everyone for all the efforts made. Wishing for a Happy New Year!
Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
www.njbullying.org / email@example.com / (908) 522-2581
Associate Director, Overlook Family Medicine
#103, 33 Overlook Rd.
(908) 522-5283 / cell: 973-270-6503
Summit, NJ 07901
'All Stan Davis' conference in NJ: See the attached flyer for full detail on this important event - October 23rd and 24th at Kean University in Union, NJ. (See below for brief notice about it.) There are still seats available on the Day One (10/23), while Day Two (10/24) is almost full. (Discounted admission is available for those for whom that would be helpful - call 908-522-2581 if needed.)
Davis Conference Flyer 9-14
1. We announce with some excitement that the Coalition is co-sponsoring (with Kean University's Counselor Education Department) on October 23rd and 24th, at Kean University in Union, NJ, New Jersey's first conference focused entirely on the work of Stan Davis, one of the country's most important anti-bullying advocates! Davis has done keynotes and presentations in NJ before - in fact a Coalition meeting last year featured a dialogue between Davis and Maurice Elias, and Davis was a presenter (with Dan Olweus) at the very first Coalition conference a decade ago, at NJ Law Center. But this will be the first time a NJ conference has been 'All Davis!'. On Thursday, October 23rd, Davis will present his work at a full day meeting at Kean University to an audience of 200. The next day, Friday, October 24th, Davis will conduct an intensive full-day workshop for 30 people (of those who also attended the first day). Attendees may either register for Oct. 23rd only, or for the two-day event. Registration information will be available shortly, emailed to the education and counseling communities, and posted on the web. For any pre-registration questions or information, contact the Coalition at 908-522-2581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davis conf save date
2. Another upcoming Coalition-organized conference is the annual 'bullying and the law' meeting at NJ Law Center, which Dr Green organizes for ICLE (Institute for Continuing Legal Education). This year's full-day conference, on Tuesday, August 19th at the Law Center, has a great line-up of presenters (and topics) as usual, featuring lawyers associated with the Education Law Center (and Coalition)'s anti-bullying lawyer group, as well as other presenters. If you're a lawyer in NJ, you've already received notice of this (and will receive more). If you'd like more information about the conference, contact Lisa Spiegel of ICLE a lspiegel@njsba, or the Coalition, at 908-522-2581 or email@example.com
3. In early May, the Coalition's director Stuart Green and research advisor Michael Greene co-presented at the annual NASW-NJ conference in Atlantic City, their proposal that inadequately addressed bullying in school be considered child neglect, to a large and very interested audience of social workers. The issue continues to be raised and pursued. There is some 'pushback' to our effort. Some natural allies (e.g., Garden State Equality) are expressing concern (unwarranted, we believe) that this effort, if successful, would 'criminalize' bullying issues. In contrast, we see construing inadequately addressed bullying as child neglect working to increase attention, expectations and resources, as well as a commensurate sense of urgency, to the need for schools to more adequately address the issue and do an even better job protecting and supporting vulnerable children). For a look at our argument, visit the 'Presentations' page of this website.
4. Stuart Green did a recent presentation (at the annual Miller Institute Anti-Bullying Conference, this year at Stockton College) on 'reducing liability by addressing bullying'. The presentation was a combination of Dr Green's usual (though continually updated) coverage of 'what schools should do to address bullying' with points gleaned from his work as an expert witness in bullying-related lawsuits. For a look at the presentation, visit the 'Presentations' page (of course) on this website.
5. The Coalition meeting on April 1st at NJ Law Center was a great success. Lots of attendees and organizations (about 50), with great feedback all around. (See below document, 'Coalition meeting April 1 2014' for a description.)
6. On the afternoon of the Coalition meeting April 1st, there was a first-ever in-person meeting of the Education Law Center's (and Coalition-initiated) NJ Anti-Bullying Lawyers Group, facilitated by Elizabeth Athos of ELC. The discussion was lively and very informative. The group is small but growing. Attendees already include a number of the most important private attorneys (and some public) working as advocates for bullied children and their families. One point worth emphasizing is that while the main goal of the group is to allow such attorneys (usually communicating on-line, confidentially, via a listserv) to share expertise and so inform and strengthen their work, another goal of establishing the group is to have a legal advisory voice in NJ which has a purely child and family advocacy-oriented perspective. I have constrasted this perspective with other established legal voices on bullying in NJ, associated with various education organizations. While such organizations also see themselves as advocates for children, their association with the state's education associations inevitably attunes them to school and institutional perspectives and needs. Those perspectives and needs are never identical with what children and families - especially those most vulnerable or already hurt - want and require. I was therefore very heartened by the quality of discussion which took place at the NJ ABL group meeting, and by the potential of the new group!
Update (documents, etc.) 3/28/14:
For the Coalition meeting April 1st, see the agenda below, and then links to various revelant documents, including the agenda, already sent out to confirmed participants (about 40 organizations):
Workplace Bullying Flyer
Task Force 1st interim report 2013
NJCCC Successful School Guidelines FINAL 2014
Davis summary per Frank DiLallo 2-14
920 The Voice Show Flyer
ABTF Final Report 1-14
Coalition press release EVVRS 1-14
Coalition meeting April 1 2014
1. The Coalition meeting scheduled for February 18th was cancelled because of the snow on that date. The meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 9am-12:30pm (there is a networking breakfast from 8:30am to 9, and a networking lunch from 12:30pm to 1:30). See item "2." below (Update 1/28/14) for details. If you represent an organization concerned about childhood bullying and would like to attend, RSVP is required (limited attendance); contact Stuart Green at firstname.lastname@example.org interested.
After the Coalition meeting ends, there will be second Coalition-sponsored meeting at the Law Center, from 2pm-3:30pm, of lawyers who advocate for children and families impacted by bullying. The meeting extends from a new advocacy lawyers list-serv recently begun. If you are interested in the list-serv and the meeting, contact the convener, Elizabeth Athos, of Education Law Center in Newark. In regard to these meetings, we again express our appreciation to Leisa-Anne Smith and NJ Bar Foundation, for their continuing support.
2. The Coalition is co-sponsoring a workplace bullying conference with the Workplace Bullying Coalition. The conference will take place on April 4th at Rutgers Law School. If you are interested in attending, contact the Convention Chair, Judge (ret.) Sue Yang at email@example.com or call 908-200-2034.
3. One of the Coalition's missions is to increase awareness of effective approaches to childhood bullying. While there are a number of persons doing significant work on bullying, the one person we have repeatedly highlighted is Stan Davis, the counselor from Maine, whose work is simply special. He captures the heart of the anti-bullying movement and advances the cause like no one else. His seminal website, stopbullyingnow.com was the earliest and best resource we had. He wrote the best guide to the issue, Schools Where Everyone Belongs. His creation of the Youth Voice Project survey (with Charisse Nixon of Penn State) has been a tremendous contribution, focusing attention on youth perspectives in a convincing, data-driven manner. (Their new book about the survey, Youth Voice Project, is highly recommended - the introduction alone is worth the price of admission.) He is also a founder of the International Bullying Prevention Association. And so on ... Addressing the Coalition's mission to increase awareness of effective approaches to childhood bullying is fulfilled in part by highlighting Davis' work and bring it to maximal attention. To this end, we are organizing the first 'All Davis' conference in NJ - a full day (and possibly two) featuring Stan and his work. While Davis has keynoted and presented at other conferences, the point of this meeting is to allow for adequate time for a fuller immersion is his work and perspectives. Details to follow on this page and via email.
4. Stuart Green continues to do the radio show, "Let's Talk About Bullying," on 920AM, Saturdays at 1pm. For an archive of the shows, visit the station's website, www.920thevoice.com. Each show (to this point) has featured a guest expert, discussing bullying issues with Dr Green. Guests have included Stan Davis, Michael B. Greene, Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Cohen, Paula Rodriguez-Rust, Nancy Willard, Randy Ross and others.
1. Stuart Green has done about 10 broadcasts of "Let's Talk About Bullying," a weekly radio show on
www.920thevoice.com . Each show has featured a guest expert and a discussion of key issues. Podcasts of the show are available at the station website.
2. The next meeting of the Coalition is on February 18th. The meeting will feature a discussion of the Anti-Bullying Task Force's latest report, just issued this week and available at:
http://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/behavior/hib/task/. Leaders of current state campaigns on school climate will describe their initiatives, updates will be provided on Coalition-supported law projects, there will be a discussion of confidentiality issues in schools, and an analysis of data from the EVVRS will be presented. Attendance is by invitation and RSVP - if you represent an organization concerned about childhood bullying and would like to attend the meeting, please contact Stuart Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. As of November 2, 2013, Stuart Green will be hosting a radio show about bullying on 920AM, a station which covers NJ from Princeton and south, into Pennsylvania, on Saturdays, weekly at 1pm. One of the first radio shows in the country specifically about bullying, the format will feature interviews with guests and some commentary about bullying-related issues. Doing the show will take tons of preparation, so the show will become a primary focus, with less time and energy available for other Coalition activities.
2. However, an effort will still be made to reconvene the Coalition's higher-education-based expert advisory group, and begin again the process of generating freely available, widely distributed and reliable short information briefs on various key bullying-related issues.
3. SG will continue to participate in the two current statewide school climate campaigns, one conducted by Center for Supportive Schools (still transitioning its name and focus from Princeton Center for Leadership Training), the other conducted by United Way of Northern NJ. Within the United Way campaign, we've developed a set of school climate guidelines, and a definitional statement about school climate, both of which are pending release and will be posted here shortly.
4. Phone calls are still coming in at the usual rate, one or two a day, almost all from parents of children who have been hurt in school, seeking information.
5. Public interest in bullying is still running high, with regular calls from reporters, another letter by SG published in the NY Times recently, and the request to do the radio show, as mentioned above, all reflective of this continuing attention.
6. Anti-bullying advocates are of course thrilled about the great new civil rights development in NJ, with marriage equality having finally been achieved. Congratulations to all the communities who worked so long and so well to accomplish this tremendous positive change, especially Garden State Equality and its members. Hopefully this court-ordered change will be followed by new legislation.
7. SG and a small number of other advocates (Michael Greene, Paula Rodriguez-Rust, among others) continue to be asked by lawyers to function as expert witnesses to advise on cases brought by families of bullied children. Private lawyers bringing such cases continue to play an important role in advancing protections for children.
8. The Anti-Bullying Task Force continues its work, with further and final reports and recommendations still to be issued.
9. NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome has developed an important youth advocacy model, in which youth with Tourette Syndrome (TS) give presentations about the condition to students and educators. This intervention seems to have a dramatic positive impact on the subsequent experiences of youth with TS and similar conditions in the schools, with reductions in harsh treatment by peers, and increased acceptance and understanding. The youth also conduct a parallel project, using a model developed by SG, in which presentations about TS and the youths' experiences are made to physicians, to increase understanding of the perspectives, stresses and needs of people with TS. The project was recently presented to an audience of child specialists at Yale University, and enthusiastically received. This work needs to grow and spread, to encompass other conditions.
More news items, research items, and more detail on activities will be posted shortly.
Previously posted items:
1. We continue to make the argument that when schools inadequately prevent and address the situation of a vulnerable child repeatedly hurt in school, that is child neglect (or if hurt by an adult, child abuse). See the Coalition statement, below.
Coalition statement on bullying as abuse 1-13
Here is support for the assertion above, from Stuart Green and Michael B. Greene:
Child Neglect cites for bullying presentation SG MBG 4-13
2. A new and wonderful report on bullying from American Educational Research Association.
I've been following this and I'm excited about it. It's one of the best reports I've seen, no surprise w the folks involved,
espec Espelage as lead, and such as our own Matthew Mayer (Rutgers) involved. It's very high quality, with great clarity
and usefulness, evidence-based and expertly analyzed. It's so good!
April 30, 2013 – The American Educational Research Association (AERA) today issued a new report titled Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges, and Universities: Research Report and Recommendations. http://www.aera.net/Portals/38/docs/News%20Release/Prevention%20of%20Bullying%20in%20Schools,%20Colleges%20and%20Universities.pdf
The report results from the work of a blue-ribbon AERA task force mandated to prepare and present practical short-term and long-term recommendations to address bullying of children and youth. The report’s release coincides with the association’s 94th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
3. Recent items by SG in the Star Ledger - an interview and a letter:
(if the links below aren't 'clickable' just paste the url's in your browser)
Making the anti-bullying law work: Q&A | NJ.com
Apr 12, 2013 ... Clearly, there's been some confusion over the law, acknowledges Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey
Coalition for Bullying Awareness ...
Anti-bullying law misunderstood
4. The summer conference we organize for ICLE on "bullying and the law" is now scheduled for August 15th,
at NJ Law Center in New Brunswick and has a tremendous line-up of topics and presenters. The 'ad' will be
posted shortly but meanwhile here's an advance peak: Steven Goldstein on bullying on campus (college)! Louis White
speaking for the first time at a conference about his experiences and perspectives from 'inside' the groundbreaking
"LW vs Toms River" case! Frank Vespa-Papaleo on bias-based bullying! and much more! All all-day conference
aimed at lawyers but open to all. Worth driving up even if you're at the shore!
5. Another essential conference - in July - from the National School Climate Center.
The National School Climate Center
will hold their 16th annual Summer Institute -- School Climate Renewal – Promoting Moral-Ethical
Learning, Democratically-informed and High Achieving K-12 Schools -- from July 9-11th in New York City with a one day (optional)
workshop that is focused on students who are learning disabled. To
learn about the Institute as well as a linked School Climate Certificate
Leadership program, see: http://www.schoolclimate.org/programs/si.php
A Statement from NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, 4/15/13
Bullying in School is Child Abuse
Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW, Director, NJ Coalition
Michael Greene, PhD
Principal, Greene Consulting
Bullying involves a child being intentionally and repeatedly hurt, physically or psychologically, by others in a relationship characterized by an imbalance of power between the targeted child and those doing harm. The power imbalance may be a function of actual or perceived membership in a minority group, differences in physical or psychological strength, or popularity, or across a wide range of other characteristics and disparities. The power imbalance renders bullying a form of abuse rather than a conflict. Evidence from cross-sectional as well as longitudinal studies indicates that the experience of being chronically bullied as a child - generally defined as bullying occurring at least two to three times per month - causes significant harm, often lasting into adulthood.
Bullying in school occurs over extended time periods - the typical pattern is months or even years - and therefore provides multiple opportunities for educators and other school staff to be aware it is occurring. Schools have custodial responsibility for students, i.e., in loco parentis. Staff and administrators can facilitate bullying through inaction, indirect encouragement, establishing or permitting a “bullying culture,” and modeling bullying-like behavior. Alternatively, staff and administrators can establish effective reporting and investigatory procedures, create a culture of caring and responsiveness to vulnerable and hurt children, and can establish evidence-based and systematic approaches to bullying. Indeed, 48 states in the United States have established anti-bullying laws that require proactive and strong responses to bullying in school. Nevertheless, these laws have remained separate and apart from regulations and laws in the child welfare system.
We argue that bullying is indeed a child welfare matter. If staff and administrators ignore or facilitate peer bullying, the criteria for accepted standards of child neglect are fulfilled, albeit on an institutional level. By permitting peer bullying through inaction or direct actions the school is guilty of failing to provide adequate supervision, failure to attend to the child’s psychological and emotional needs, and failure to protect the child from harm. Moreover, when staff and administrators directly bully children through ‘put-downs’, grade deflation, ostracizing or isolating, this behavior should be characterized as child abuse. We suggest that school bullying should therefore be seen as an instance of (institutional) child abuse and neglect, and the phenomenon brought within the purview and structures used to address child abuse and neglect, including corresponding laws and regulations. That is, there should be a duty to report, and the involvement of social service agencies and child advocates. Construing childhood bullying in this way will lead to more effective prevention and addressing of bullying, and safer, better lives for children. //
4/15/13: An important new study of long-term effects (into adulthood) of bullying.
This study of several thousand North Carolina children is the strongest evidence yet that the experiencing of bullying in childhood, whether as the child who bullies, the child who is bullied, or the child in both roles with different children, has long-term negative effects, comparable to the experience in childhood of other forms of violence, including abuse. This is especially so for children who are so-called 'bully-victims' but the negative impact extends to all children involved. Here is the abstract. The article appeared in JAMA Psychiatry this month.
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013 Apr 1;70(4):419-26. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504.
Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence.
Copeland WE, Wolke D, Angold A, Costello EJ.
IMPORTANCE Both bullies and victims of bullying are at risk for psychiatric problems in childhood, but it is unclear if this elevated risk extends into early adulthood. OBJECTIVE To test whether bullying and/or being bullied in childhood predicts psychiatric problems and suicidality in young adulthood after accounting for childhood psychiatric problems and family hardships. DESIGN Prospective, population-based study. SETTING Community sample from 11 counties in Western North Carolina. PARTICIPANTS A total of 1420 participants who had being bullied and bullying assessed 4 to 6 times between the ages of 9 and 16 years. Participants were categorized as bullies only, victims only, bullies and victims (hereafter referred to as bullies/victims), or neither. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE Psychiatric outcomes, which included depression, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, substance use disorders, and suicidality (including recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or a suicide attempt), were assessed in young adulthood (19, 21, and 24-26 years) by use of structured diagnostic interviews. RESULTS Victims and bullies/victims had elevated rates of young adult psychiatric disorders, but also elevated rates of childhood psychiatric disorders and family hardships. After controlling for childhood psychiatric problems or family hardships, we found that victims continued to have a higher prevalence of agoraphobia (odds ratio [OR], 4.6 [95% CI, 1.7-12.5]; P < .01), generalized anxiety (OR, 2.7 [95% CI, 1.1-6.3]; P < .001), and panic disorder (OR, 3.1 [95% CI, 1.5-6.5]; P < .01) and that bullies/victims were at increased risk of young adult depression (OR, 4.8 [95% CI, 1.2-19.4]; P < .05), panic disorder (OR, 14.5 [95% CI, 5.7-36.6]; P < .001), agoraphobia (females only; OR, 26.7 [95% CI, 4.3-52.5]; P < .001), and suicidality (males only; OR, 18.5 [95% CI, 6.2-55.1]; P < .001). Bullies were at risk for antisocial personality disorder only (OR, 4.1 [95% CI, 1.1-15.8]; P < .04). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The effects of being bullied are direct, pleiotropic, and long-lasting, with the worst effects for those who are both victims and bullies.
-A presentation on "Bullying in School as Child Abuse" by Coalition director Dr Stuart Green and Coalition Research Advisor Dr Michael B. Greene will be given at the 8th Annual National Child Advocacy Conference at Montclair State University on April 19th.
-SG is participating as an advisor to the Center for Responsive School's (formerly Princeton Center for Leadership Training) "Campaign Connect", the goal of which is to create criteria for improving school climate which schools can meet to obtain certification. The statewide campaign (funded) has the participation and support of state DOE.
-Preparations are under way for another "bullying and the law" conference we're organizing for ICLE at the NJ Law Center, to take place Thursday, August 15th, 2013. Details to follow shortly.
-Also this summer, the Coalition plans to host a conference entirely focused on the consideration of bullying in school as child abuse/neglect.
-Another summer conference, highly recommended, is the annual National School Climate Center gathering in July (information is on their website, at www.schoolclimate.org). NSCC has also just launched their new School Climate Resource Center, a comprehensive on-line resource (info on the website).
-SG is also participating in another Coalition of multiple non-profit and governmental organizations, this time called together by United Way - Northern NJ. Significantly, the new Coalition has the involvement of state DOE, of Rutgers experts Dr Maurice Elias and Dr Brad Lerman, and a large health system, Atlantic (Overlook and Morristown Medical Centers, in this part of NJ).
-Calls continue to come in from parents, at least once daily, on average, as well as contacts from the media, and Coalition colleagues (SG, MBG, others) continue to give talks on bullying (SG was recently at William Patterson University's school of education) and receive requests to be expert witnesses in cases in which children and families take legal action based on the claim that the child has suffered greatly in a school setting without enough having been done to prevent or address it.
-Recent media attention in NJ has focused on how schools are implementing the law, most recently on whether schools are over-identifying bullying. And today's news (and yesterday's) has focused on the serious misbehavior (bullying) of a Rutgers university coach. According to today's Times (we will post the article in the 'News' section shortly), the coach has now been fired (long after the behavior first occurred and was well known to those in charge - the firing is obviously related to the new wider publicity about the behavior), and in part as a response, Sen. Lautenberg and Congressman Holt have introduced new legislation addressing the bullying behavior of adults (such as coaches ... ). It always seems to take a new incident to spur this type of (positive) attention and response. The response, while welcome, is a reminder that we need to get to a point at which we don't need new incidents to move us forward but can be more proactive in our attention to the issue. Bullying hasn't gone away, even in the intervals when there is no well-publicized incident to rivet us.
-Two new books, which will be reviewed for the books section of this site shortly: one by Emily Bazelon, a Slate reporter who did a series of stories on the bullying and death of Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts - the book is called "Sticks and Stones", Just to anticipate the review, the book does two very different and somewhat contradictory things, while overall being supportive of the importance of addressing bullying. On the one hand, Bazelon emphasizes (wrongly, in our view) the psychological problems and family issues she finds in the stories of targets of bullying (using her study of Prince as an example), as well as in the perpetrators of school shootings (eg, the youth who killed at Columbine). On the other hand, she does a good job of reporting the lack of adequate attention to bullying (and implicit facilitation of bullying) by social media sites, focusing especially on Facebook. The book is well-written, interesting to read, and overall is good reporting. The other newest book is a short volume (60 pages or so, available for $3.99 on Kindle) of guidance for parents, written by two important Canadian researchers (Wendy Craig and Debra Pepler) and a psychologist colleague, Joanne Cummings, simply titled "Bullying Prevention: What Parents Need to Know." The book is solid in hewing to the evidence, written clearly and very accessibly for the non-professional audience, concise and useful, generally. However, there is not enough emphasis on the responsibility of educators and schools. And the framing (and strong emphasis) on bullying as a relationship problem, which arguably has some validity, is also problematic as a concept and may be confusing to parents. In most cases, bullying is an assault, and we don't usually (for good reason) analyze assault as a 'relationship problem' between the target and the perpetrator. The book also, unfortunately, provides some advice which is meant to be practical but - as we know from Stan Davis' youth voice project and our own experience - puts too much responsibility on the targets (eg, advice to avoid those who are bullying - easy to say, but ... ).
1. NJ's most important anti-bullying ally - Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality - moves to Rutgers-Newark.
As we repeatedly note, the fortunes of the nation's anti-bullying movement are inextricably tied to the fights for full gender equality, disability rights, child rights, and all other rights movements. In NJ, the most active force in anti-bullying efforts has been the LGBT community, and Garden State Equality, the state's most active civil rights organization (certainly as measured by success in generating legislation) has been the leading edge. GSE's founder (amazingly, only eight years ago) and leader, Steven Goldstein, while remaining GSE active and involved (as 'emiritus' chair, eg) is moving on to take an associate chancellor position at Rutgers University-Newark. In that position, he's certainly still in a leadership role in an important institution for diversity efforts, and hopefully full marriage equality in NJ is imminent, so he's left things in good shape (and good hands - more on that later). From one movement to another, we wish him very well!
2. Gender equality (for all gender identity and expression)
As noted above, the more equality for the LGBT community, the better the prospects for schools and all other institutions in society adequately preventing and addressing bullying. In that regard, the continuing movement toward full gender equality (including full and open support for all gender identity and expression, and marriage equality of course) is critical. In that sense, two recent events - the continuing evolution of the country's political culture and institutions, marked most recently by the election of a half-dozen openly gay, lesbian and bisexual U.S. legislators, and by the President's positive comments in his inaugural address, as well as the decision announced this week to open all military combat positions to women - are notable, long-awaited and welcome. What needs to happen next is for these positive developments to now lend real force to necessary efforts to curb sexual harassment and assaults in the military and its institutions. News reports indicate the military establishment's awareness of the problem, at least at its high leadership levels, and genuine efforts seem to be underway. Having legislators who 'get it' (the importance of the issue) in place, and a growing engagement and influence of women in all areas ought to help. We're hopeful.
3. Disability rights
For the differently-abled community, the most important recent development is this week's decision by federal DOE that students with disabilities must be provided full access to athletics in schools. This is new and remains to be seen how schools will respond. But journalists and experts are comparing this decision to Title IX's impact on opening access for women. Schools have a long way to go in all areas in terms of providing adequate support for students with special needs, and not only in athletics. Just as one small, very important example - we get calls almost every day from parents of students with special needs seeking help for their children hurt (typically for months of years) in school. The number one source of support for those parents should be a strong association with other parents of students with special needs. Yet rarely are these parents aware of such peer support organizations in their children's schools. This is a case of institutional neglect. Few parents of a child with special needs can function adequately without the active support of a parents' special needs organization. (Having said that, few parents of any child can function adequately without such peer support.) Knowing this, a school has an educator's moral and professional responsibility to ensure that such supportive structures exist, are robust and sustained, and that every parent of a child with special needs is aware and the organization and has every opportunity to be engaged.
4. School bullying as child abuse and neglect?
I have asked Coalition experts, such as Dr Michael B. Greene, our primary research advisor, Leisa-Anne Smith of NJ State Bar Foundation, and Elizabeth Athos of Education Law Center, among others, to join with me in considering this issue. It is not a completely new idea but the fact is to this point none of the child welfare and child advocacy structures, including legally, which we routintely apply as a society to situations in which a child has suffered avoidable harm through the action or inaction of caregivers, are applied to the suffering children experience in schools, at the hands of peers or -worse, though less commonly, thankfully - at the hands of teachers or other staff. Yet almost all bullying - and especially the most egregiouis and lasting forms - can be prevented or ended by actions the adults who run and staff schools can and should take. The argument is that bullying in school is institutional neglect - or abuse. It's at least an argument worth considering. To that end, we plan to hold a conferfence this year, which brings together the state's leading experts on these issues. More information to follow.
-Stuart Green, 1/26/13
12/31/12: NEW! Updated news items (several months' worth) on 'News' page (click list at left).
12/31/12: NEW! Updated bullying-related studies from the academic literature, from June 2011 through the present (a year and half worth of studies)! Click on 'Research' in list at left.
11/12/12: New: On the 'News' page (link at left) are several months of items mainly from the Times, with comments ...
10/9/12: The annual Department of Education report on bullying in NJ - a comment!
So here we are again - another year and another inadequate assessment of bullying in NJ, courtesy of the state's Department of Education (DOE). On the positive side, the report this year reflects, to a great extent, the influence of the now one-year-old Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. The strength of that law, and its success in its core mission - increasing attention by school administrators and staff (and public and media) to the critical issue of bullying in schools - has undoubtedly resulted in increasing reports of bullying. This is indeed reflected in this year's state report. Another positive which should be recognized is the state's new breakdown of bullying information, most importantly by categorizing the characteristics targeted for bullying (eg, gender) and the nature of the bullying (e.g., verbal, etc.), albeit in very general terms. However, the main problem which continues unchanged is the inadequate assessment process and method. The report remains reliant on a single means of data collection, an electronic self-reporting system, infamous for the under-reporting by schools of violence. (E.g., in past years we have noted as many as half of all school districts reporting 0-2 incidents of all violence in the reporting year.) DOE continues to avoid collaborating with the many interested non-profit organizations, and school communities to create a more meaningful (multi-modal) assessment process, as well as a process which specifically assesses school climate. It is therefore still difficult to take the annual report as seriously as the many media headlines indicate we should. To their credit, the media (e.g., NJ's newspapers) are including in their coverage more critiques of the assessment. We are somewhat hopeful that the new NJ Task Force on bullying will address the assessment issue, and make specific recommendations for DOE to enact. Meanwhile, we urge DOE to consult with experts and organizations outside of DOE to develop a better assessment process.
For an additional authoritative word on the annual report, here is a statement from Dr. Michael Greene, an expert on violence and its assessment, a primary research consultant to the Coalition, released today:
New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABR) has substantially increased the identification, reporting, and investigation of alleged acts of bullying in New Jersey's schools. More importantly, the reports generated as a result of ABR have revealed the bullying types and motivational bases for the bullying, a necessary first step for schools to target corrective action. While the reports generated for the 2011-12 school year represent a giant step forward, there is much room for improvement. Fifteen school districts reported zero instances of bullying (excluding districts that did not report any type of violence or vandalism, presumably because they did not participate in the data collection system) and another 13 districts reported only one bullying incident. Included in the zero tallies were Morristown (4,067 students) and Bloomfield (6,059 students). Moreover, the 13,101 students who were found to have perpetrated acts of bullying represent less than 1 percent of the New Jersey student body. To provide some perspective: in a representative survey of New Jersey High School students in 2010, 20 percent reported that they had been bullied in the prior year. National statistics for 6th to 10th graders reveal that more than one-third of students bullied others during at least once during the past couple of months. The New Jersey Department of Education needs to focus on those schools and school districts that clearly under-report and stay vigilant to ensure that reporting requirements and enforced throughout the system.
10/4/12: New item on legal page - summary of cases back to Jan 2012
The National School Boards Association provides a tremendous on-line service, Legal Clips (address just above), which posts summaries of school-related legal cases from across the nation. The summaries are expert commentaries, very well written (and therefore very clear), with links to other information (original articles from media, etc.), references to other cases, etc. The site is searchable (e.g., 'bullying' or 'New Jersey') and a tremendous resource, for which we're grateful. Here's a document which contains the bullying-related summaries, nationally, from today back through January 2012 (with further back available on the site). Reading through the (admittedly long) document provides a very good view of what's going on legally in regard to bullying in school. - SG
from National School Boards Association 10-3-12
9/4/12: New Study - Bullying of Children with Autism
A newly published (by Sterzing et al in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine), an analysis of data from a national sample of kids in middle school and high school, finds an incredibly high percentage of children with autistic disorders who are bullied. That 46% of the approximately 900 kids with autism were bullied would come as no surprise to parents of children with special needs (of all kinds) and to the organizations which advocate for them, such as (in NJ) Statewide Parents Advocacy Network (SPAN) and NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS), among others. But having the evidence to support personal experience is very important. So here it is (part of a long line of such evidence, but this is the latest and best so far). There are several especially critical points to note. First, the 46% is as compared to the approximately 10% of all children who are bullied. Second, these are children who are obviously especially vulnerable and for whom it should be obvious that the typical misguided advice that children being bullied should 'defend themselves' is especially wrenching, as well as useless. Third, it should also be evident that even before this particular study was published, any reasonable and responsible educator and school should have been expected to be aware of the suffering of this population and to be taking steps to prevent that suffering by preventing and addressing bullying. The only possible 'out' one could find in this study is - being extremely optimistic - to note that the data is from 2001. The optimism would consist of believing that in the years since then, educators and schools have been very 'on the case', doing their utmost to support and protect children with autism and other special needs in their schools. Is such optimism warranted? What's your experience?
bullying and autism Times 9-4-12
8/8/12 New Advisory Document!
Here is the Coalition's newest document from our Expert Advisory Group, along with an accompanying press release about the group. The document is about bullying and LGBT issues, including bullying of gay, lesbian and transgender students, or those perceived as gay, or those not meeting stereotypical gender role expectations. These students are among those most targeted for peer (and sometimes adult) mistreatment. The document's primary author is Paula Rodriguez-Rust, PhD, an Advisory Group member. The document is the third issued by the Group: the other two documents are an overview of bullying issues, and about bullying of students with special needs ('disabilities'), whose primary author is Millicent Kellner, PhD. The documents are initially edited by Coalition director Stuart Green, with further review, input and editing by the other Advisory Group members. The Group's coordinator is Prof. Maurice Elias of Rutgers.
Advisory Group Document 3
Press release - Advisory Group
Here also are the other Advisory Group documents, and an explanatory note copied from an earlier posting on this site:
Advisory on Bullying - from the Coalition's new Expert Advisory Group
See the attached documents: an advisory for school leaders and staff, and a second document providing more detail about the Group. The document is now being widely distributed through NJ education and community organizations, and shortly via media. While guidance is coming to schools from many sources, including DOE, we felt it important to create a series of documents which provide evidence-based, bedrock guidance for schools. The Advisory Group consists of college and university experts on school climate, bullying and related issues, along with various other (Coalition) experts. The first document is an overall guide to the issue, all in a neat two pages, easy to reproduce. Subsequent documents will address multiple aspects of the problem (and its solutions) in even more detail, released over the coming weeks and months. The Group is led (Coordinated) by Dr. Maurice Elias, of Rutgers University, a widely known and highly acclaimed NJ (and national) expert on in issues of school climate, and bullying.
Advisory Group Document 1
Cover Note for Advisory Document 1
Advisory Group Document 2
7/16/12 NEW ITEMS!
1. A Comment on Penn State (and similar) ...
Is there a relationship between the child sexual abuse outrage at Penn State and childhood bullying in school? See the attached (below) by Coalition Director Stuart Green, published in the Times in July. The Times editorial, to which this was a response, is also attached below.
letter re penn state - times 7-13-12
Penn State editorial Times 7-12
2. Bullying and the Law: A Conference on August 8th
We've organized the 2nd annual conference on bullying and the law, for NJ Institute for Continuing Legal Education, of the NJ State Bar Association, being held at NJ Law Center in New Brunswick, on August 8th. The all-day (9am-3pm) conference for lawyers includes expert presenters on a wide range of bullying-related legal issues. A highlight is a talk by Jeffrey Youngman, Esq., who recently won a $4.2M settlement from Ramsey School District. For more information, contact ICLE at www.njicle.com.
3. An All-Day Workshop for Social Workers on August 9th
SG is doing a full-day presentation on bullying for NASW-NJ (for social workers). For information, contact NASW-NJ at www.naswnj.org.
IMPORTANT - SEE BELOW (6/16/12, ITEM #2) FOR A NOTE ABOUT THE NEW STATE TASK FORCE!
6/20/12: Involving the community
We regularly get calls from community organizations (e.g., faith communities, civic organizations, etc.) who want to arrange a talk about bullying for their constituents/members. Those of us who are advocates have provided many such talks. But now that the ABBR (the new NJ law) has mandated the establishment of new roles - the designated anti-bullying coordinator in the school district, and the designated anti-bullying specialist in the school, there is a new and important option. The staff in those roles should be the ones providing (or arranging for members of their mandated school safety - climate, really - teams to provide) such talks. Lack of school/community relations, not only in regard to bullying, is a common gap in the functioning of schools. In most communities in NJ, there is no ongoing meeting or communication between school staff (e.g., the district superintendent and staff, schools and their staff) and such community entities are the interfaith clergy council, or the town recreation department, or the local business organizations. Such relations - ongoing - are an important source of support for anti-bullying efforts in schools. At the least, this is because parents can be reached and engaged through their involvement with these community organizations. At the most, town organizations can provide many forms of concrete help and other support to school-wide school climate and anti-bullying initiatives and strategies. In fact, it should be a routine 'part of the job' for the safety teams, specialists and coordinators to reach out to community organizations and be engaged with them. This would include providing updates and talks about bullying and related issues. Now that there are designated staff at the district and school levels, such community organizations should routinely be receiving outreach from the school or district. In fact, either because it is only the first year of the law's implementation, or - less optimistically - because districts and schools are still not motivated enough to form such relationships, those calls do not often occur, we believe. And instead we - Coalition - get the calls. I have begun advising organizations which call to give their districts and schools the 'gift' of reaching out to them for help engaging and raising awareness about bullying. If schools and districts take on this responsibility more actively, good things will happen. At the least, there should be town-wide bullying awareness days (and related ongoing activities) taking place in every town in NJ, reflecting a collaboration between the school district, the interfaith clergy council and other town-specific civic organizations.
6/16/12: Updated items:
1. Pro bono law project
As a reminder for site visitors: a year ago, Education Law Center of Newark, and staffer Elizabeth Athos, Esq. in particular, with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, began a program we had first talked about a decade ago - a project to provide legal representation for families of children bullied in school who would otherwise not be able to afford a private attorney. We provided training for about 40 lawyers interested in childhood bullying who agreed in return for the free training to provide pro bono representation for families. At this point, there have been a number of such cases, with favorable settlements reached in each one resolved to this point. The strength of the new law is an important (critical) background factor, with the law - as law does - expressing society's strengthened attitude (negative) toward bullying in school. At this point, finance-limited families of children terribly mistreated can not yet obtain representation on a contingency basis (or it is certainly uncommon, if it occurs at all), so the only realistic chance of obtaining legal advocacy from a private attorney is through this project. (Government legal services can sometimes be obtained from the state's Divsion on Civil Rights, if the bullying is bias-based, and some assistance has been available from Legal Services of NJ - though such government and funded services have been severely cut back in the last several years.)
2. The new task force!
In reponse to the challenge shamefully posed to the new law (Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights) by two school districts essentially demanding to be paid to do things which ought to be basic and essential to what it means to be an educator and to have a school - that is, protecting and supporting vulnerable children in their schools, and strengthening school culture and creating a welcoming, engaging school climate - the Governor and Legislature revised the new law in two main ways. One change was to put $1M into the law's Bullying Prevention Fund, with the money designated for 'paying back' schools for expenses associated with the new law. (As an aside, one of the two districts which brought the 'unfunded mandate' complaint to the Council on Local Mandates, was complaining that obeying the new law cost them a huge $12,000, and - by implication - that it was too much to ask them to protect children adequately going forward unless the state provided that money. The other change was to create a new Task Force, with seven members, and a three-year mission to meet regularly and provide guidance for training and implementation of the law, and any recommended changes in the law, and to start by submitting a written report to the Governor and Legislature by 180 days from the first meeting, which is scheduled for July. Of note is that three of the members - I won't name them - are likely to be solid advocates for mistreated children and families, and we're very happy with their appointments. One of the other four is a strong advocate for the interests of schools and administrators - a perspective which is often problematic for truly helping the children and families most affected by violence and lack of support in schools. The remaining three are not well known to us. So it remains to be seen whether the Task Force can effectively maintain and carry forward the intent of what is presently the strongest anti-bullying law in the country (not that it's perfect). Good Task Force work will be very welcome. Let's see ...
See the Governor's April 25th announcement (below) for additional background. His four appointments are Rutgers University’s Bullying Prevention Institute Director Bradford C. Lerman, Psy.D.; Bancroft President and CEO Toni Pergolin, CPA; East Hanover Township Public Schools Superintendent Joseph L. Ricca, Jr., Ed.D.; and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Patricia Wright, Ed.M..The other three appointments (by the Legislature) include Luanne Peterpaul, Esq., a private attorney in Springfield and a leader of Garden State Equality; Phillip Meisner, Esq., former aide to Senator Loretta Weinberg and other helpful legislators; and former Montclair Councilwoman Jessica deKoninck, previously the Legislative Director for the New Jersey Department of Education, and now in-house counsel to the South Orange-Maplewood school district. In my view, the priority for anti-bullying work is the plight and pain of vulnerable, hurt, isolated and disengaged children. Understanding and prioritizing this results in the intensity of advocacy needed to make things better. Alternatively, one can be very understanding and supportive of the plight of the adults who run and staff schools and our institutional systems of education and care. Ideally both perspectives could co-exist. In my experience, they rarely do. I am concerned ...
The full text of the law and revision is in the link, below.
Revision 2012 to ABBR
Task Force Part of Bipartisan Legislation Signed in March Aimed at Strengthening Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (4/24/12)
Trenton, NJ – Acting on his commitment to ensure schools provide safe learning environments for children, free from harassment, intimidation and bullying, Governor Chris Christie today named his four members to the state’s Anti-Bullying Task Force called for in the Anti-Bullying Law of Rights. Originally signed into law in January 2011, portions of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights were found by the Council on Local Mandates to pose an unfunded mandate for school districts. Working in a bipartisan manner with the legislature, Governor Christie signed a legislative fix in March 2012 to address concerns cited by the Council. In addition to the creation of the Task Force, the measure also appropriates $1 million into the “Bullying Prevention Fund,” to financially support school districts as they implement the law.
The Governor’s four appointments are: Rutgers University’s Bullying Prevention Institute Director Bradford C. Lerman, Psy.D. (Westfield, Union); Bancroft President and CEO Toni Pergolin, CPA (Penn Valley, Pennsylvania); East Hanover Township Public Schools Superintendent Joseph L. Ricca, Jr., Ed.D. (Morristown, Morris); and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Patricia Wright, Ed.M.(Spring Lake, Monmouth). These direct appointments do not require Senate confirmation and members will serve without compensation.
The Anti-Bullying Task Force is composed of seven members with experience or expertise in issues related to school bullying who will review and assist with the law’s implementation. The Governor appoints four members with the remaining three individuals appointed one each by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly, as well as one appointed jointly by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly.
4/18/12: 4.2 MILLION DOLLAR SETTLEMENT IN RAMSEY, NJ BULLYING CASE!
It's probably the "4.2 million dollar" figure that catches the eye, and that's ok. The amount is actually very meaningful. It's large enough to signal by itself that bullying cases can now not only be won by advocates for the bullied child, but that the level of school district risk is very high. Sometimes only lawsuits can produce the level of change needed beyond what social movements alone can do. This settlement is notable for reasons beyond the amount. For one thing, the fact that we're hearing about the case at all is notable. What it means (I believe - but I'm not a lawyer) is that a confidentiality agreement was not part of the settlement. There have been a number of other settlements in NJ over the years, but every one of them was covered by a confidentiality agreement. That meant the public wasn't allowed to hear about the outcome of the cases and the victim's voices were essentially - wrongly - silenced. So here's the other remarkable and laudable element of this case - that the child who was hurt - Sawyer Rosenstein - chose to speak up and share his story. It's a remarkable, inspiring story, the progress he's made - and meaning he continues to make - out of tragedy. He almost died as a result of the bullying incident - and in fact he is paralyzed (the incident occurred when he was 12 - he is now 18). He has had the strength and family support to move forward, in notable ways - as a college student, a journalist, and now as someone helping draw attention to the problem of bullying in school. Attached below is an article about the case from msnbc.com. I chose this article (by Miranda Leitsinger) from all the other coverage because it does the best job of conveying Sawyer's own perspective. The lawyer on the case, Jeffrey Youngman, deserves appreciation for his work, in addition to the monetary compensation. This is a helpful achievement. What is frustrating about the case, and the response to it, is that the Ramsey School District is taking such pains to take no responsibility for the bullying or the outcome. According to the school district, the insurance company insisted on settling, implying that Ramsey - in its virtuous view of itself - would have fought on and did nothing wrong. In fact, statements by Ramsey officials proclaim the school district's sense of pride in its anti-bullying work. While it's true that this harm occurred six years ago, and things are presumably (and hopefully) somewhat better in Ramsey, it's an outrage for them to take that stance at this point in regard to this case. They could at least acknowledge that there were problems back then. And no district of which we're aware is functioning perfectly in regard to this issue, though Ramsey apparently feels it is. Read the article ...
Ramsey case 4-19-12
4-17-12: More on "Bully" - a caution!
While the movie "Bully" is undeniably powerful and is helping to increase awareness of the problem, we've previously expressed concern about the plans to show the movie in schools or - an even wider impulse - to ensure that all children (including of younger ages) see it. There are two risks: that the movie ends up functioning as a "one-shot" approach to bullying, in which kids are hyped about the issue without having good measures in place to address the problem, and the risk of copycat suicides. Attached below is a very helpful, solid set of points about the movie, along similar lines, with resources, written by Beth Reis, an anti-bullying advocate from Seattle's very good and longstanding Safe Schools Coalition.
Bully the movie - a caution
3/30/12: "Bully" (the film)
You have probably seen the vast media coverage of the pending release to theaters (and schools) of the documentary "Bully", by all reports a compelling and motivating telling of the stories of several targeted youth. The documentary was assigned an 'R' rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a rating which most believe would keep it from ever been shown to students in schools, a widely projected use of the film. So there have been very active attempts to get the MPAA to reverse (lower) its rating (e.g., to PG), some of those attempts led by students (one in particular, in California). One issue the wide coverage doesn't address is whether the film is good for students to see. Our (Coalition) position on schools' use of various media (e.g., theater productions, or what we call 'auditorium programs') to address bullying is to question whether it is always appropriate to do so. We've generally felt that unless the school adults (e.g., staff, admin) have first done strong work to strengthen school culture and prepare to support targeted students, bringing in outside media or presenters to dramatically highlight the issue of bullying can be problematic. If the issue of bullying is highlighted, but in fact the school is not prepared to adequately address the issue, we've felt that students who are vulnerable or hurt may actually be harmed to some degree by the combination or the focus on them and their own heightened expectations and the school's inadequate response. We anticipate that the documentary will be widely deployed. Let's see what happens and whether it helps ... Meanwhile, here's a good article about the situation from the LA Times.
the "Bully" documentary
Now that the film "Bully" has opened, to very, very wide publicity, with some (e.g., AO Scott in the Times) saying that its release is a significant step in the growth of anti-bullying work as a "social movement", the initial feedback (e.g., reviews, viewer response) has been so far extremely positive. The headline on today's NY Times review (by Scott) is especially pleasing, from an advocate's point of view: The emphasis on adults (called "clueless" in the headline) who run and staff schools, as well as other authority figures, is exactly right. In fact, we (adults) are all responsible for what we allow to happen to kids, and I distinctly don't mean parents. The primary responsibility actually belongs to us when we are in our 'work' or 'community' roles, and our responsibility extends to all the kids who aren't 'ours' (as well as our own, at home). Anyway, here's the Scott/Times review.
Times review of Bully 3-30-12
3/12 (new items on 'News' page - see link at left)
3/10/12: A concern about suicide.
It is hard to dispute - and I wish it were not so - that in these past decades of increasing awareness about bullying, we have seen an increase in school shootings linked to bullying, and an increase in suicides in which bullying has been identified (including by some of those who died by suicide) as a factor. In fact, in the U.S., that increased awareness of bullying is primarily post-Columbine, which means only since 1999, or 13 years as of next month - April 20th. Fortunately, both school shootings and youth suicide remain uncommon events. But each one is still a huge event, not only for the families, but for all of us. The field of bullying prevention is, in fact, notoriously tragedy-driven. If it were not for the close-in-time suicides of three youth about 40 years ago, Dan Olweus - the founder of the field - would not have had the necessary support to do his groundbreaking work. And in the U.S., it is arguably only because of Columbine that we have had an adequate focus on this problem. Each new tragedy - including the suicides - spurs a new wave of focus and effort to address the problem.
It has been pointed out by multiple writers - it is widely believed - that it was the 2009 suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi that led to the 2010-2011 enactment and signing of NJ's new anti-bullying law. That law was passed with the widest bipartisan legislative support of almost any bill in NJ history (only one 'no' vote), passed by a Democratic party majority legislature and signed into law by a Republican Governor. In the two years since Tyler Clementi's death, we have seen - all over the U.S. - a number of new suicides (as well as a few more school shootings). We must consider these deaths, not only in relation to efforts to address bullying, but fully. A full consideration would lead us to think about the context for these acts, and the responses to them, and confront fully the issue of whether the attention being part to those acts - both the quality and the intensity of that attention - is leading to so-called 'copycat' homicides and suicides.
To start, we know that the phenomenon of suicides spurred by attention paid to suicides is real. When celebrity suicides occur, for example, there is often an increased rate of suicides which follow. When suicides attract positive attention, the effect is increased. When one can identify with the suicidal act and person, the effect is increased. Especially when suicide seems to accomplish a desired outcome, such as a Tibetan monk suicide making a well-noticed protest statement against Chinese occupation of Tibet, or the suicide which seemed to be a starting point for the 'Arab Spring' protests, other suicides follow. Suicides which attract major positive (however tragic) attention to bullying would seem poised to engage the same dynamic. When a huge celebrity such as Lady Gaga focuses the world's attention on the death by suicide of a teenage fan, honors the youth and cites the death, among other factors, as a spur to powerful (and helpful) ensuing acts, and when the suicide of a Rutgers University student is commonly cited as a spur to the development of a great new anti-bullying law, one risks capturing the attention of others who may think of emulating the suicidal act.
In reality, suicide is typically multi-determined. That is, most suicide is an outcome of multiple factors, commonly including a history of depression, and multiple stressors. Having said this, there is also no doubt that bullying as one of those stressful factors can be a spur to suicide. See the linked article, below, for the very latest (March 2012) study to show a strong link between bullying and suicide. From a social norms theory perspective, one could argue that it is critical, when apparently bullying-related youth suicides occur, that the information conveyed to the public, and especially to other students, should clearly convey the facts mentioned above, prominent among them being that suicide is uncommon and that suicide is multi-determined.
So ... this is a complex issue to raise. And it is not clear that even if we are right to have concern about a link between shootings and suicides and the attention we in the anti-bullying movement pay to such tragedies, what, if anything we can and should change in our approach. The ideal, of course, would be to address bullying so thoroughly and effectively that we remove bullying as a stressor capable of contributing to youth homicide or suicide, or at least that we identify the stressor of bullying so early in a target's experience that the bullying is ended and the youth supported long before suicidal thoughts arise. In the meanwhile, it could be argued that responding to a tragic bullying-related death by helping those still living, in the name of those who have died, is a way of giving meaning to the death. It is mainly for the families of youth who have died to decide whether this is so, of course, but some indeed have already said so.
I write this mainly to make the issue visible. It is worth thinking about.
bullying and suicide study 3-12
3/7/12: A month's worth of items (catching up ... ).
1. GREAT NEWS!! (We need more details, but a great development ... )
As the attached article describes, there was an announcement yesterday that Governor Christie and Legislators (bi-partisan, we're told), have decided to provide initial funding (a million dollars, as a start) for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and reaffirmed their commitment to the law. This is a wonderful development (and a fine response to the recent Council on Local Mandates ruling). Not surprisingly, the press conference featured Governor Christie standing next to Steven Goldstein, Director of Garden State Equality, who has played a critical role in every aspect of the law's development (and now preservation and extension). GSE is NJ's largest civil rights organization, and has had numerous legislative successes in NJ. Bullying in schools is a severe threat to the quality of life, and life itself, of young members of the lgbt community, and it is a very welcome sight to see such public acknowledgement of Steven's work and influence on this issue. The announcement indicated that a Task Force will be formed to address the further implementation of the law, including any changes that may be desirable. Our hope is that any such changes will only strengthen the law. Here's an article about the agreement.
announcement on the law 3-7-12
2. DOE recommends an anti-bullying program:
Last month, Assistant Commission Cerf of DOE sent out a letter to all schools (public and charter) suggesting the schools consider using an anti-bullying program called "Roots", the work of a Princeton University psychology professor, Betsy Paluck, who has expertise in approaches to public health issues using a social norms approach. Simply (perhaps too simply) put, such approaches attempt to influence behavior by providing messages to specific groups (eg students) about what behaviors are normative (e.g., commonly occurring) for people in the group (and what are not). Social norms interventions for bullying have included, for example, conveying to students messages (eg thru posters, etc.) indicating that most students do not bully peers. Social norms advocates believe, for example, that the widespread and increasing attention paid to bullying inevitably conveys to students that bullying is common (more common than it actually is, such advocates believe) and that such beliefs lead to more bullying occurring. This is not to say that Dr Paluck specifically has any of those beliefs - I'm just trying to explain the general approach. Dr Paluck indeed has a project which addresses bullying, called "Roots", and this is the program Commissioner Cerf is encouraging schools to explore/bring in. It's not clear how Dr Paluck would be able to respond to multiple requests, if many came - for example in terms of funding, staffing, supporting, etc. But it's still striking that DOE seemed to be outright endorsing a particular approach - among the many available - which, while reasonable, would not yet be considered by most to have established efficacy for addressing bullying. The other issue has to do with how DOE makes use of available resources. That is, there are a number of key experts on bullying who would be willing to help DOE ramp up its efforts to strengthen schools to address bullying, whether involving specific pre-designed approaches embedded in research programs (as "Roots" is), or providing technical support and guidance to organize and focus bullying-relevant and school climate-relevant aspects of schoool functioning. Such experts were taken by surprise seeing the Cerf letter. Nonetheless, we appreciate the intent of any DOE efforts to help schools address bullying, and Dr Paluck is certainly an expert who could contribute much. Anyway, here is the letter and some material about Paluck's work.
Roots and the DOE letter
3. "Bully" the documentary:
You have probably seen the vast media coverage of the pending release to theaters (and schools) of the documentary "Bully", by all reports a compelling and motivating telling of the stories of several targeted youth. The documentary was assigned an 'R' rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a rating which most believe would keep it from ever been shown to students in schools, a widely projected use of the film. So there have been very active attempts to get the MPAA to reverse (lower) its rating (e.g., to PG), some of those attempts led by students (one in particular, in California). One issue the wide coverage doesn't address is whether the film is good for students to see. Our (Coalition) position on schools' use of various media (e.g., theater productions, or what we call 'auditorium programs') to address bullying is to question whether it is always appropriate to do so. We've generally felt that unless the school adults (e.g., staff, admin) have first done strong work to strengthen school culture and prepare to support targeted students, bringing in outside media or presenters to dramatically highlight the issue of bullying can be problematic. If the issue of bullying is highlighted, but in fact the school is not prepared to adequately address the issue, we've felt that students who are vulnerable or hurt may actually be harmed to some degree by the combination or the focus on them and their own heightened expectations and the school's inadequate response. While of course the enactment of the new law in NJ has increased the likelihood of an adequate school response, no law can ensure that is the case. So, looking ahead, we anticipate that the 'R' rating will be changed and that the documentary will be widely deployed. Let's see what happens and whether it helps ... Meanwhile, here's a good article about the situation from the LA Times.
the "Bully" documentary
4. Minnesota settlement in bullying case:
The story of what happened in Anoka-Hennepin school district (near Minneapolis, Minnesota) is both strange and sad. Giving in to misguided (and biased) pressures, the district took stances which seemed to justify inadequate support of lgbt youth. Six families sued, and an expensive (for the district) settlement ($270,000) was reached. It took a federal investigation (Departments of Education, and Justice) but the district agreed to strengthen its approach to bullying, with a specific focus on lgbt students, and to hire a f/t staffer to work on bullying prevention. Here's an article about the settlement, from the NY Times.
Minnesota settlement - Times
5. A great! new book: "The Bully Society"
I'm midway through reading a brand new book I wish I'd written but I'm thrilled Jessie Klein, the author, did: "The Bully Society." The author, a sociologist and social worker from Adelphi University, with K-12 in-school experience, convincingly argues (with data, interviews and analysis) the case we've repeatedly made here - that childhood bullying is both a marker and cause of a host of societal problems. She presents an interesting review of school shootings, suggesting that the problem is rapidly increasing. The author clearly 'gets it' and consequently the book is strong on all issues: She points out the relation between homophobia and inadequate addressing of bullying by school staff, talks about hazing and its relation to the culture of all sports, describes the wide range of ways in which bullying exists and the subtleties of its expression, and never loses her focus on the responsibility adults have - and especially those who direct and staff schools and other youth settings - have for children's violence. She's especially strong on gender issues, the impact of bullying and its antecedent conditions on gender identity and the role bullying plays in the lives of both boys and girls. Klein's sociologist perspectives allows her to make sense of a complex phenomenon, and integrate a wide range of theories and views, while her clear writing lights up every point for the reader. She is definitely an advocate, but the passion is anchored by the quality of her reporting - the details of her interviews and research. This is a great book! We should promote wide readership of it - it's directly helpful to the cause. In addition to the praise I render here, here (linked below) is a good interview with the author, from Salon, that also makes clear why the book is so good:
Salon interview with Klein
6. NJDOE training materials:
This is a very belated posting, but it seems evident that parents and professionals would benefit from access to the attached Powerpoint (100+ pages!) which DOE used in its anti-bullying coordinator trainings conducted back in September. The materials are reasonably comprehensive, starting with a breakdown of what's required (from DOE pov) b/o the new law, but including attention to the critical underlying issue of strengthening school climate. The material has some oddities and inadequacies in places, and conveys a very legalistic feel, but on the whole is a helpful, exceedingly detailed overview (as DOE documents tend to be). For a parent who feels unclear about what is 'officially' expected of schools, this document will answer some questions. One point parents may find striking is to compare the elements officially required to what their school actually has in place. One concrete but important example of a common discrepancy is the law's and DOE's clarity about schools being required to post on their websites (on the home page, no less) the anti-bullying policy (which posting should also - by any reasonable standard - include the contact information for the school's anti-bullying specialist and the anti-bullying coordinator at the district level). Any scan of several school and district web pages will easily identify schools (and districts) in which that information is not visible. (And there are other 'discrepancies' of course.) But nonetheless, this is potentially helpful, and therefore posted here.
DOE training material
7. Engaging parents:
Attached is a very good, short article from Edutopia focused on how to engage (or involve) parents more in school life. This is a very important issue for anti-bullying advocates. Typically, parents are 'under-involved' in school life. That is, after about 3rd grade, it becomes increasingly hard to find parents physically present and involved in most schools, and school activities. School staff and administration commonly explain this relative absence of parents by 'blaming the victim'. That is, they tend to attribute the absence of parents to parental lack of time or lack of motivation or disinterest. A more accurate, 'systems' (or social environment) explanation would be that schools do not make a sufficient effort to engage parents, including conveying to parents that they are critical to school functioning (and not only by being good parents with their children at home, but in being present at school and involved in daytime school activities) and making them feel welcome. The exemplar of such parental disengagement in schools is the sparse involvement of parents in most 'pta's (parent-teacher associations or parent-teacher councils). That is, in most schools, the regularly held 'pta' or 'ptc' meetings may have 20 or 30 parents present, even in a school with 400 or more kids (the annual 'budget meeting' may have more, but rarely more than twice that number of parents). Again, when asked about this, in our experience, most administrators or staff 'blame' the parents (e.g., lack of motivation or time). But the more accurate explanation would be that there is typically no staff member of the school who has it as a critical element of their job to nuture and expand parent involvement, using a variety of means (including consulting with marketing experts in the community or at local colleges, rearranging and rescheduling ptc gatherings to make them more convenient, creating live streaming options for school activities and meetings, etc. etc. etc. As a most current example, the school 'safety' (or climate) teams which the new anti-bullying requires are rarely adequately 'staffed' with parents (even though the law explicitly requires at least one parent be involved, and sets no limit on how many could be involved). Anyway, this short article (linked below) has some good tips for increasing parent engagement.
parent engagement - Edutopia
8. Compilation of letters on bullying, in NY Times (by Stuart Green)
Here's a Word document compiling the letters. Sometimes short is best, and these letters provide brief commentary to some of the bullying-related events noted in the Times over the past several years. (I'll also post letters to the Times or other publications by other Coalition members. If you're a Coalition associate and have published such letters, please assist me in identifying them, to reprint them here.) Meanwhile ...
Letters NY Times - SG thru 8-11
1/30/12: Great response to a bad decision!
There's been a wonderful response to the recent decision challenging the anti-bullying law as an unfunded mandate by the Council on Local Mandates. Schools have been calling to say that the law has been a success in focusing more attention on bullying, helped student behavior improve and school climate get stronger, and - as we've all moved past the initial adjustment period - that concerns about over-reporting and time management have diminished. Most notable and welcome has been Governor Christie's response (see attached), reaffirming his commitment to the law. Advocates and legislators have already gone to work to address the Council's concerns. Meanwhile, we should all be clear that the law remains in effect!
1/27/12: Challenge to the new law is upheld! (a bad decision)
An appeal of the new anti-bullying law by several school districts to the Council on Local Mandates succeeded today. See the article from the Record, linked below, and also visit the Council website to review the entire record of the decision (and background documents). In essence, the Council agreed with the school districts that the new law imposes inevitable financial costs on schools/districts without the legislature having provided any funding. Our (Coalition) view is that adequately (excellently!) addressing bullying is fundamental to what it means to be an educator and have a school. This is because bullying - as an aspect of school climate - threatens and diminishes every aspect of student functioning, in all students (not only those directly targeted), including academic performance. Further, we believe it is unconscionable and immoral that adults would create, staff and run a school without ensuring that the children are adequately supported, included and protected, especially those most at risk. If a school spends money on anything, it should be funding and supporting attention to violence prevention and the care of those at risk or already hurt first and foremost. But the Council (and, dreadfully, some school districts and administrators) don't agree. And now a state Council does something essentially bureaucratic, however reasoned, by issuing a ruling which will allow some (many?) schools in NJ to irresponsibly and shamefully avoid taking adequate care of the children they serve. Here are the links:
Record article 1-27-12
And here is the Council website:
Advisory on Bullying - from the Coalition's new Expert Advisory Group
See the attached documents: an advisory for school leaders and staff, and a second document providing more detail about the Group. The document is now being widely distributed through NJ education and community organizations, and shortly via media. While guidance is coming to schools from many sources, including DOE, we felt it important to create a series of documents which provide evidence-based, bedrock guidance for schools. The Advisory Group consists of college and university experts on school climate, bullying and related issues, along with various other (Coalition) experts. The first document is an overall guide to the issue, all in a neat two pages, easy to reproduce. Subsequent documents will address multiple aspects of the problem (and its solutions) in even more detail, released over the coming weeks and months. The Group is led (Coordinated) by Dr. Maurice Elias, of Rutgers University, a widely known and highly acclaimed NJ (and national) expert on in issues of school climate, and bullying.
Advisory Group Document 1
Cover Note for Advisory Document 1
Advisory Group Document 2
New! Rutgers Teleseminar on Bullying of Children with Disabilities
Hosted by Maurice Elias, and featuring Millicent Kellner and Stuart Green.
Items posted 1-12
1. The importance of GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network).
Several recent postings provide another good opportunity for emphasizing the importance of the work of GLSEN to the anti-bullying movement (and therefore to children). First, there is the upcoming (next week!) annual No Name-Calling Week (recently expanded, as you'll read, into a year-round activity). Second, the notice about No Name-Calling Week, attached below, also describes GLSEN's upcoming (March) annual legislative conference in Washington, DC. This activity, fully funded, provides for lots of students and anti-bullying activists to gather in DC, hone their organizational skills and then helpfully pressure legislators to help children by supporting anti-bullying legislation and activities. Third, GLSEN has issued another of its very helpful, influential and well-done surveys emphasizing the harm done to children by anti-gay attitudes and bullying. The notices and survey report are attached, below.
No Name-Calling Week and DC Conf
GLSEN study 1-12
2. Just brought to our attention by an advisor to the Coalition, is an important court decision from July 2011. Here's a comment by Jerry Tanenbaum, Esq.:
The Court applies the Tinker “First Amendment in schools”’ analysis to a student-on-student harassment case as I had hoped would be the case – holding that where the off campus speech specifically targets a class mate in a way that involves other classmates, a school district has authority to punish such speech notwithstanding the First Amendment.
The facts are legally helpful for those advocating for victims of bullying, because as compared to what we often see in our practices, the bullying was relatively tame and had as little to do with school as possible – the bullying was entirely web-based, it occurred entirely off campus, did not involve any school equipment, and lasted only about 24 hours. The victim went to school the next day to complain and then went home for one day because she was embarrassed.
The 4th Cir. held that these facts were sufficient to eliminate First Amendment protection from the bullying speech because it was foreseeable that the web page would substantially interfere with the school’s mission to educate the targeted child.
Here is a link to the full description of the case.
W Va cyberB case 7-11
Items posted 12-11
A new program started by Education Law Center (ELC), with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, with the involvement of the Coalition: Pro Bono Law Project (for bullying cases). This project was envisioned by the Coalition ten years ago but the time has never been right until now, and ELC deserves all credit for getting it done! The project involves providing free training on bullying for lawyers who agree to devote pro bono (charity) time to families who need legal representation in dealing with schools in which their children have been hurt (bullied - repeatedly assaulted and terrorized over months or years, with schools having failed to prevent or adequately respond). This might involve a lawsuit, in the end. The hope is that when parents, most of whom lack the resources to engage an attorney for help, can access legal help more easily, the involvement of lawyers will produce more and better school attention to the problems of the bullied child. Ideally, no lawyers would ever have to be involved because schools would be on top of these issues in a timely and adequate way. That, after all, is the core intent of the new law, and all advocacy efforts. Meanwhile, dozens of lawyers attended the training conducted Nov 29th, hosted by Rutgers Institute for Professional Education. See the attached notice for the training. One case is already underway, more likely to follow. A related project (to begin shortly) involves providing training for expert witnesses who agree to provide service on a pro bono basis.
Pro Bono law project
A federal Department of Education report was just issued this month, in which the nation's anti-bullying laws are analyzed. NJ's is essentially affirmed as the strongest in the U.S., in several aspects. The report is well done and worth reading.
Fed DOE law analysis
NJ Department of Education has finally issued its guidance to schools for interpretation and implementation of approaches to bullying and enacting of requirements of the new law. It's late but well done, full of useful points and discussion. It's an impressive piece of work by DOE. The big missing piece is discussion (and actual availability) of an adequate structure for ongoing technical assistance and support. But DOE still deserves credit for this very detailed (80 pages!) and good in many aspects (e.g., urging - in effect - that schools establish structures for more support of LGBT students, for one thing) report. It's appreciated, even now.
NJ DOE report
Items posted 11-11
There's a report (new, I believe, but curiously it's undated) from University of New Hampshire, where David Finkelhor and colleagues are among the most active scholars in this and related youth fields. The new report is focuses on internet safety issues, but in the course of doing so makes very useful points about what it means to be 'evidence-based' and the importance of evaluation. The points are all well worth making, and consistent with this site's point of view. In particular, the tendency to buy and bring in various packaged 'anti-bullying programs' to schools is not only ineffective much of the time, but can even create problems. The problems have to do with the perception by staff/school community that the bought program solves the school's problems, when most programs are not well built and comprehensive enough to do, and even the few programs which are well built ('evidence-informed' as Finkelhor suggests) do not work unless there is 'buy-in' on a wide and deep scale from local folks (the staff, e.g.). And there's the rub: When schools buy such programs, the staff/community impression is that the program is relevant to just this year or until the money (which bought the program) runs out. Further, as Maurice Elias has notably pointed out (over and over), when separate programs are brought in to address particular problems, and there are a number of such programs, and the programs are not integrated to work well together under a well understood and accepted umbrella concept (such as 'social emotional learning') that makes sense, there is often just confusion, misdirected energies, and ultimately no effective impact on the problem/s. Lack of staff buy-in is a particularly important problem. Study of anti-bullying program implementations which haven't produced expected benefits (and there have been a number of them in the U.S., and elsewhere) indicate that lack of staff buy-in has been the key problem. However, on the positive side, there is a lot that's understood and 'evidence-informed' in terms of what works in changing youth (and adult) behavior, and it's very possible for schools to develop approaches based on those known elements. The key is that the development and implementation is led 'locally' (the school, the district-perhaps). And ultimately, of course, what's happening is not 'a program' that ends - it goes on forever, as an aspect and expression of the changed/strengthened culture and climate of the school. Anyway, here's the report, very recommended, easy to read, and well worth the effort.
UNH - Jones and Finkelhor 2011
It's important to make note of the responses of schools/districts to the new law, especially when it seems there are districts which 'get it' and are responding to the spirit of the law, not focusing on complaints about the 'letter' of the law (its requirements). Here are two - Madison school district, and Princeton.
districts responds to new law 1
school district responds 2
Updated presentation - "what to do" (short) SG
Here is a new study about teacher bullying (specifically, teachers' perspectives on teachers bullying students). It's only the abstract - I need to review/access the full study - but given the importance of the topic (one of the leading corrosives to schools' efforts to improve climate), and the sparseness of the literature, it's good to get the word out about new research that's been done.
teacher bullying - new study (abstract)
A new resource from National School Climate Center, always a good opportunity to remind everyone of the valuable perspectives and resources the organization offers. As we've argued before, a more robust relationship with this (small but national - based in NYC) organization would be of tremendous benefit to NJ, especially statewide deployment of its excellent assessment (and prep for intervention) instrument, the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory.
NSCC new resource
An op-ed by Stuart Green published in the Times of Trenton today, a response to an op-ed published last week (11/1) by Richard Bozza of the NJ Association of School Administrators.
op-ed SG 11-8-11
Good/of interest articles/files, as of 10-11
Blow column on bullying 10-11
Read this beautifully, powerfully written, personal and deeply moving column by NY Times writer Charles Blow. He captures through his own experience the essence of what it means to a child (a very young one, in his case) to be hurt in this particularly painful way. While suicide is fortunately not common, the feelings that lay behind his near-act of despair are unfortunately very common. He not only makes terrible sense of childrens' sense of urgency when they are suffering, but portrays the power of a supportive, loving parent to provide a lifesaving hand back to life. I've never seen a better example of the way in bullying is a spiritual matter, along with all else it is. I appreciate his column so much! A similar expression by SG was published as a letter by the NY Times.
NY Times letter 10-22-11
This is a very significant new study from a very good source - Salmivalli of Finland, creator of the Kiva program, a bystander-focused whole school intervention worth noting (and described several pages below), and pointed out to us and strongly recommended by Dr. Michael Greene, the Coalition's research consultant. In this study she and her team demonstrate that bystander behavior in the classroom (those who 'reinforce' the bullying, and those who 'defend' the targeted child) have significant influence on whether the bullying continues. The study not only provides importance evidence for what's been reasonably proposed and pursued (the influence of bystander behavior) but the positive finding in a well-done study will lead to more important research into this dynamic.
Union County teacher anti-gay relig views
There's an uproar about this teacher's behavior (speech, on Facebook), and it's actually deserved. The question is whether a teacher who is extremely upset by her school's affirmative support of LGBT youth (as indicated by her heartfelt - however misguided - postings on Facebook) can possibly do a good enough job of contributing to strong school actions on behalf of those kids. Certainly, her public display of these views is extremely offensive to the LGBT community, and concerning. Thus, the call from Garden State Equality for her firing is completely understandable. Having these views, however much she may believe there's a religious basis for them, is unacceptable, comparable to having racist views one believes are somehow based in religion. And it is hard to believe that she would find similar views expressed by her students unacceptable. At the very least, the school has the obligation of observing her performance closely and seeing whether she is an effective participant in anti-bullying work. It is extremely unlikely that she is. In this regard, we note that the presence of even one or two teachers in a school whose behavior is demeaning or hurtful to students is a weakening and very corrosive factor in the school's efforts to engage, support and protect all students.
UCLA guidance 9-11
UCLA's school mental health project (Prof. Adelman and associates) has been doing a great job of writing, collecting and posting documents on bullying. Some of them are re-posted below. Thanks!
White House - Cyberbullying 9-11
The continuing attention by the White House to the problem of childhood bullying is tremendously helpful.
Swearer interview APA 4-10
Swearer's work and comments always deserves our attention. Evidence-based, passionate about the issue, and a major contributor (one of those most responsible for the 'ecological' view of what bullying actually is).
Goodwin ASCD - 9-11
Ed Week 9-11 Muslim kids
No group, other than LGBT youth, has probably suffered more in schools that kids who are Muslim. I know of no schools, in NJ or elsewhere (though there may be some?), who are currently providing enough support and affirmation to ensure that Muslim youth are engaged, protected and supported. It is especially important that schools do so, given the toxic attitudes toward the Muslim community so prevalent in the larger society.
Ed Week School Law Blog 7-11
Maurice Elias on school pledges 6-11
Elias is the most important voice in NJ on school climate and addressing bullying, so keeping up with his writings is a must. It is not clear that pledges play a critically important role but still ...
Mentoring article 8-11
Teacher advice re bullying 8-11 Wash Post
student engagement tips in classroom
As the evidence base evolves, it's important to make note of progress. This recent study provides some support for Steps to Respect as a tool for addressing bullying.
6-11 Case - DOJ - Federal DOE Settlement
The law also evolves, and this is a welcome new development on the federal level.
Times Minnesota articles 9-13-11
ADHD Stigma - 9-13-11
This is new info - a study which indicates that anticipation of negative peer attitudes and treatment is a significant factor in whether students with ADHD will use prescribed medication.
20 tips - rebecca alber 9-11
Middle-class school challenges
7/11 - Selected Items of Note
TK_case_-_full, LK_case_4-11, Cyberb_facebook_article_7-11, texas_suspensions_article_7-11,
NJ spec ed assessed and cited
6/11 - A HUGE VICTORY FOR ANTI-BULLYING ADVOCATES!!
Make no mistake - the achievement of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in New York State is of great importance for those interested in adequately (excellently, really) supporting and protecting children in schools, not only in New York but everywhere. What happens in schools, especially in schools in which leadership is not adequately caring for children, is highly influenced by societal attitudes and acts. Homophobia outside the schools becomes anti-gay peer violence inside the schools. The same is true for anti-Muslim attitudes in society and for every other kind of racism and bias in the larger culture. Schools must be very aware of societal racism and bias and take strong steps to counter its impact inside the schools. Today, for all schools in the U.S., but especially in NY, the situation is a little better. And when schools don't adequately support and protect LGBT kids and all kids who don't 'fit' (and shouldn't have to 'fit') stereotypical gender identities, nothing can pressure them to do so better than an empowered adult LGBT community. The irony, for those of us who are advocates in NJ, is that NJ has one of the strongest, most empowered LGBT communities in the U.S., exemplified by the strength and vigor of that community's major organization, Garden State Equality - and yet there is not yet marriage equality in NJ. But there will be!!
New Study With Important Implications, 5-11
Encouragement - Article 5-11-11
Whose Failing Grade Is It 5-22-11
The Problem of Segregation - Relevant and Important for Anti-Bullying Advocates, 5-19-11
Bringing NJ Schools Racial Segregation Into Open 5-19-11
A Dialogue on Protecting Children, 5-19-11
Protecting Children - BMJ Article 1
Protecting Children - BMJ Article 2
5/18/11: A word about assessment. The new anti-bullying law requires higher levels of assessment of schools' efforts to address bullying, and more reporting of incidents and response. It specifically requires that districts collect data identifying the number and nature of all reports of harassment, intimidation, or bullying; and that the state education commissioner promulgate
guidelines for a program to grade schools for the purpose of assessing their efforts to identify harassment, intimidation, or
bullying, among other reporting requirements. The current system relies primarily on the EVVRS - the electronic violence and vandalism reporting survey. This system - which relies on voluntary reporting by principals of violence incidents in their schools - is rife with under-reporting. DOE needs to openly acknowledge the problem and actively seek alternatives. Every year, the DOE Commissioner reports the results of the EVVRS reporting to the Legislature, as required by law. And every year the state's media, including the Star Ledger, dutifully reports, with front page headlines, that 'bullying incidents are trending up' (or down). It cries out for an "emperor's new clothes" moment.
It is past time for a more meaningful assessment process. DOE should do everything in its power, such as that is, to bring to NJ a system that works. As one approach, several more questions specific to school climate and bullying could be added the CDC-required YRBS administration. One barrier to moving in that direction is obtaining detailed information about the costs and management of the YRBS process. Dr Michael Greene, the Coalition's primary research consultant and an assessment expert, has raised this issue with DOE and we encourage DOE to engage in open discussion with he and other experts about this issue. Beyond the YRBS, which relies on a statewide sample, and therefore cannot generate a description of what is happening in any one district, we have an example of an excellent assessment system available close by: The CSCI (comprehensive school climate inventory), used by National School Climate Center. The CSCI obtains concurrent multiple perspectives (children, staff, parents) to provide an accurate description of school climate. It would cost approximately $1200 per school per year to implement a CSCI assessment and analysis. There is no reason the CSCI could not be relied upon to generate a climate/bullying grade. Done statewide, it would provide - for the first time ever - a valid statewide database by which schools could be compared.
It is far from simple to do this, however appealing it is to describe. The CSCI process would fortunately avoid the necessity of obtaining signed parental consent, since it does not ask about specific incidents/behaviors. It would still be good if the bad NJ law which hampers surveying children about what they have specifically experienced, in terms of violence, without previous signed parental consent, were repealed, as the advisory report to the State Commission on Bullying in Schools recommended. But pursuit of valid assessment should always be our goal. Ideally, there needs to be multiple-reporter redundancy in determining how many children are being hurt in our schools. A vigorous attempt to create a meaningful assessment and reporting system requires that DOE acknowledges more openly that the EVVRS does not do the job, and that tweaking it will not solve the problem.
5/14/11: A new article by Maurice Elias!
On multiple levels, this posting is uncommonly important. First, there is Prof. Elias. He is of vital importance to the anti-bullying movement. A professor of psychology at Rutgers University, director of the training program in clinical psychology, and a nationally known founding expert in social-emotional learning (SEL) and its set of educational practices known as character education, he is a founder of the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning or 'CASEL', the most important SEL organization (www.casel.org). He is widely published on educational practices focused on SEL (often subsumed under the term 'school climate'), including on bullying. It is now commonly understood (in part because of his work) that effectively addressing childhood bullying means changing and strengthening school culture ("how we do things here") and (arising from the culture) school climate (how the school 'feels' to those in it), and - in important addition - having processes in place which specifically assess and addresses bullying.
Based in significant part on Elias' work, a current national exemplar for this climate-focused/bullying-specific approach is the work of the National School Climate Center, the NYC-based national organization (www.schoolclimate.org), founded and led by Prof. Elias' close colleague, Prof. Jonathan Cohen of Teacher's College/Columbia University.
But let's focus on Prof. Elias, as we should. It is an endless source of frustration for NJ anti-bullying advocates that there is no current statewide structure which facilitates the application of Elias' - and colleagues' - work to all NJ schools, and takes advantage of his deep understanding of these issues.
DOE would undoubtedly argue that they are already associated with Elias' work - and workplace. And it is true that DOE has granted Federal (Title) money to Elias and GSAPP (Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology) at Rutgers. Nonetheless, the overall effort to bring Elias' work to NJ schools is still inadequate. DOE would undoubtedly argue that the unit which deals with bullying is severely understaffed, beleaguered by shifting priorities from government and other societal forces, and hampered by bureaucratic strictures. This is all true. Add to that the changes in leadership at the top, and (from the ground up) the uniquely 'local' nature of NJ's many districts, whose virtual autonomy defies - or at least resists - state input, and you have a recipe for logjams and incremental change. We also believe that DOE must prioritize bullying more - because of its importance to the functioning of schools and the lives of children - all children, targeted or not. And children can't wait.
We strongly advocate the creation of a NJ public university collaborative advisory group, led by Elias, to inform and strengthen the state's efforts, and to advise and supplement the work of the DOE. We believe that if the Governor's office created and empowered such an entity, and directed DOE and other state agencies to heed its guidance, private funders (corporations and Foundations) would help fill the Bullying Prevention Fund created by the new law and sustain anti-bullying and culture/climate work across the state. We believe the academic experts (which includes intervention and K-12 education expertise) would gladly join such an enterprise, even without initial funding, for the prospect of being part of an initiative of significance with strong development possibilities - including funding. We believe a key prize for such academics would be early access to the database which would be created by a meaningful statewide assessment process, to replace the current system, which is so completely inadequate in assessing school climate and bullying.
To appreciate the potential benefits the wider involvement of Elias and his university colleagues could bring to our schools, one only need read the attached article, below. It is essentially a summary of his views on climate and bullying issues, wonderfully brief and powerful. It contains many quote-able lines reflecting important ideas: "bullying prevention programs are only effective when students feels engaged" "little happens in schools to help remove or assauge emotional barriers to learning". He makes clear the relationship between SEL factors - especially disciplinary practices, teacher-student relationships, and a "positive atmosphere and tone set by teachers" - and academic achievement. An important statement from one of the most important NJ voices.
The Relationship Between Respect and Test Scores 5-4-11
Workplace – Adult – Bullying: In Health Care, 5-11
When Doctors Humiliate Nurses 5-15-11
War on the wards 5-11-11
Physician Heel Thyself 5-7-11
In Prison Reform Money Trumps Civil Rights 5-15-11
Division on Civil Rights - Franklin school board failed to end race-based bullying 5-4-11
Between Torment and Happiness 4-26-11
Foster care lawsuits have been expensive 4-25-11
Poor Janes Almanac 4-23-11
What about American girls sold on the streets 4-23-11
The items from the NY Times below help highlight the most overlooked aspect of the focus on childhood bullying. Bullying is the most common form of violence in adults as well as children. And, whether in children or adults, bullying is always a matter of institutional malpractice or neglect. This truth is evident in its own particular setting and manner in each of the stories below. Colleges which don't create and maintain campus cultures which adequately empower, support and reasonably protect women are responsible for the violence which inevitably occurs in such settings. This in no way lets the individual perpetrator off the hook. It simply points out the relationship between the culture and climate of the campus and violence which occurs on it. An violence-facilitating culture expresses itself both in inadequate prevention of violence and an inadequate response when incidents occur. The same analysis applies to the scourge and epidemic of sexual assaults of women all over the world, with Haiti being another tragic, wearying, frustrating and bloody example. Perhaps childhood bullying is the exemplar because the relation of institutional irresponsibility and victim vulnerability is so clear and tragically compelling. Nobody could be more vulnerable and at the mercy of institutional neglect than youth in our misnamed youth justice system. None of the stories below contain the slightest element of novelty, but worth reading to keep our anger about injustice properly stoked.
Biden to Discuss New Guidelines About Campus Sex Crimes 4-4-11
An Epidemic of Rape for Haiti Displaced 4-3-11
Fixing the Mistake With Young Offenders 4-3-11
3/19/11: A comment:
Now that the new law has been passed and signed (January), schools are naturally anxious about what they have to do to comply. To be clear - from an advocate's point of view, it's shameful that any laws were needed, whether the first NJ law (2003), the updates in 2007, or the new one, good and strong as it is (2011). Protecting, supporting, including, engaging children, especially those vulnerable to harm, should be basic to what it means to be an educator, basic to what it means to have a school. It's unconscionable that laws are needed in order to ensure that educators do that job. Now that the law is in effect, we hear complaints that the law is an "unfunded mandate", that is that no new funding was given to schools to implement the law's requirements. We reject that argument. This isn't about funding - this is about principals and teachers and staff (in that order) 'getting it' - understanding the nature and importance of bullying, prioritizing it, and addressing it. It's about commitment. The fact that it isn't primarily about funding is evident in one telling example. For the past twelve years or so, the NJ State Bar Foundation has offered free training on bullying, of good quality - and (it's worth stating again) free. For all those years, the training has - and continues to be to this day - underutilized by school administrators. And none of the state organizations who might urge and guide principals, teachers and staff to appropriately prioritize and address bullying has ever done so strongly enough (by our standards). Not the state Department of Education, nor the School Boards Association, not NJEA, nor Principals and Supervisors Association, nor the Superintendents' group, not any of the entities one might reasonably expect to 'get it'. So the state Commission issues its report in December 2009, new law is proposed and discussed in the Legislature over the course of the ensuing year, and that law is passed in December 2010 and signed into law by the Governor in January 2011. And now it is March 2011. And we still have not yet had guidance issued and a strong enough response by DOE. The law specifically calls upon DOE to create a robust advisory process, which should draw upon existing expertise at the University and community organization level. We (especially children and their families) are waiting ...
1. We strongly recommend looking into the approach developed by the national organization (with headquarters in NYC), School Climate Resource Center (www.schoolclimate.org). Appropriately focusing on school climate as the key, their work also includes a strong anti-bullying focus ('bullybust'), and - of critical importance - a climate assessment instrument (which assesses bullying in the form of 'psychological and physical safety'). This organization, already active in several states, is not yet well deployed in NJ, and we are hoping the first NJ school district will start working with them shortly. A strong NJ-specific existing resource is Prof. Maurice Elias at Rutgers University and his work on the 'Developing Safe and Civil Schools' project.
2. If you are a school, your safety (climate) team should be doing a lot of reading while readying your (new or enhanced) approach to these issues. While you are considering applications, take a look at the Coalition's guide:
Guide for Administrators
3. Tip sheet for new law
The document attached is one side of one page and covers, in very short form, the 20 plus pages of the new law. Given that the state Department of Education has not yet issued any guidance this specific on the new law's requirements, feel free to use this page until they do.
3/11: New postings on the 'News' page, this site.
Click on the 'News' page (clickable link is below, down left side) and find a list of NY Times articles dating back to 2009 (June), about 150 articles. Comments on each article are intended but not yet posted.
THE ANTI-BULLYING BILL OR RIGHTS IS SIGNED INTO LAW! (1/5/11)
See the press release, below, from Garden State Equality - it couldn't be better put:
Governor Christie signs the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, America’s toughest anti-bullying law
By enacting a totally new paradigm to protect vulnerable students, New Jersey sets a new course for the nation
Though 45 states, including New Jersey, have had anti-bullying laws, they are based on a loophole-ridden model that has allowed schools to do little. New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, in contrast, mandates specific anti-bullying procedures for schools across the state.
Garden State Equality spearheaded the campaign for the new law. Since the organization’s founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 212 laws at the state, county and local levels advancing LGBT civil rights. That is a national record.
Garden State Equality now initiates its new Anti-Bullying Partnership – comprised of legal experts, educational experts, corporate leaders, bullied students and parents – to partner with schools, student organizations and parent-teacher organizations to make sure the new law is enforced.
POINT-BY-POINT HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW LAW ARE AT THE END OF THIS RELEASE.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Contact: Steven Goldstein, cell (917) 449-8918
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which enacts a new paradigm in America to counter school bullying and provides a template for anti-bullying laws in other U.S. states. The bill passed both houses of the New Jersey legislature on November 22, 2010 – by 73 to 1 in the Assembly and 30 to 0 in the Senate.
Though New Jersey and 44 other states have had anti-bullying laws, experts say those laws have been based on a vague, loophole-riddled model that gives vast discretion to local school districts to do whatever they want or don’t want, and have lacked teeth to work in the real world. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights corrects that problem with a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey's current anti-bullying law, enacted in 2002.
“We are grateful to the prime sponsors, Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Mary Pat Angelini, and Senators Barbara Buono, Diane Allen and Loretta Weinberg, for their leadership that brought Democrats and Republicans together rapidly,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. The overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this landmark legislation will give impetus to other states across America, whether they are blue or red, to adopt anti-bullying laws just like ours.
“The era of vagueness and loopholes in anti-bullying laws is over, and hope for our children has begun.”
With today’s enactment, Garden State Equality is initiating a new Anti-Bullying Partnership – comprised of legal experts, educational experts, corporate leaders, bullied students and parents – to partner with schools, student organizations and parent-teacher organizations to make sure the new law is enforced.
Though the suicide of Tyler Clementi on September 22, 2010 accelerated New Jersey's attention to the bullying epidemic, drafting of the bill had actually begun more than a year earlier. The painstaking research and discussions in the drafting, during which Garden State Equality worked with legislators, leading experts and other organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the New Jersey Coalition on Bullying Awareness and Prevention, had anticipated that a tragedy could happen in New Jersey given the weakness of the 2002 law.
The complete text of the new law is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_R1.HTM and the legislature’s official summary of the new law is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_S1.HTM.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ANTI-BULLYING BILL OF RIGHTS:
America's first anti-bullying law that sets statewide deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved.
Under the new law, teachers and other school personnel must report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as a bullying incident. An investigation of the bullying must begin within one school day. A school must complete its investigation of bullying within 10 school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation.
America's first anti-bullying law to provide for an anti-bullying coordinator in every district, and an anti-bullying specialist in every school to lead an anti-bullying team that also includes the principal, a teacher and a parent.
America's first anti-bullying law to grade every school on how well it is countering bullying – and to require that every school post its grade on the home page of its website. Also on the home page of its website, every school must post contact information for its anti-bullying specialist.
America's first anti-bullying law to ensure quality control in anti-bullying training by requiring the involvement of experts from academia and the not-for-profit sector.
America's first anti-bullying law to provide training to teachers in suicide prevention specifically with regard to students from communities at high risk for suicide.
America's first anti-bullying law to apply not only to students in grades K-12, but also to higher education. Public universities in New Jersey will have to distribute their anti-bullying policies to all students within seven days of the start of the fall semester.
The law applies to extracurricular school-related settings, such as cyberbullying, school buses, school-sponsored functions and to bullying off school grounds that carries over into school.
The law requires a school to notify the parents of all students involved in an incident, including the parents of the bully and the bullied student, and offers counseling and intervention services.
The law mandates year-round anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade, and an annual Week of Respect in every school that will feature anti-bullying programming.
The law applies to all bullied students. In addition to protecting students based on the categories of actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, the law has clear language protecting students bullied for any other reason.
With more than 82,000 members, Garden State Equality is New Jersey's largest civil rights organization. Since Garden State Equality's founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 212 laws at the state, county and local levels - a national record. Garden State Equality is the only statewide advocacy organization in American history to be the subject of an Academy Award-winning® film. Click here to unsubscribe
November 22nd, 2010: The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is Passed; Goes to Governor for Signing!
New NJ Anti-Bullying Law Passed by Legislature
THE PROPOSED NEW ANTI-BULLYING BILL OF RIGHTS!
Here is a fact sheet about the bill, based on the latest draft version:
Fact Sheet Anti-Bullying Bill
The bill itself (awaiting signing by the Governor) can be accessed at njleg.state.nj.us, search 'anti-bullying bill of rights' or just the term 'bullying', and the bill will come up in full.
Sample Presentation - Bullying Awareness and Prevention:
Green, bullying - overview
(To open, you may need to right-click on the link, then select 'open in new window'.)
12/10: Items Noted of Interest
article 2 The Feds are increasingly doing good work on the anti-bullying front. Latest of these is a Department of Justice video which addresses LGBT issues.
item 3 Another good thing from the U.S. gov't: a Department of Education letter.
11/10: Research and An Intervention to Note: KiVa
It seems time to actively note the important work of Christina Salmivalli and associates, and their anti-bullying program KiVa. Salmivalli, a professor of psychology in Finland, has been the major researcher (for years) on what is called "participant role" process in bullying, which especially focuses on the role of peers (or 'bystanders') in bullying. Based on this work, Salmivalli (and Karna, an associate, and others) have developed an intervention program which incorporates elements established by Olweus but has what seem powerful and effective additional elements and understandings. We'll say more about this and note that widescale implementation of KiVa has just begun in all Finnish schools, with plans for rigorous program evaluation also under way. See the attached article and powerpoint of a Salmivalli presentation for a good review of the program basis. (Dr Michael Greene, the Coalition's primary research consultant, has also noted and drawn positive attention to Salmivalli's work.)
REPORT OF THE NJ COMMISSION ON BULLYING IN SCHOOLS
At this point, no additional requests for attendance at the 10/25 meeting can be accomodated - we are out of space. We apologize for this current limitation. The next Coalition gathering will be a conference, in a larger space or site which can accomodate all those interested in participating.
The Coalition is having another organizational meeting this month, on October 25th. The meeting will feature concise updates from various experts about various aspects of bullying. This is an organizational meeting, not a conference, so attendance is limited to representatives of non-profit NGO's and government organizations. If you represent such an organization and are not already aware of the meeting and would like to attend, contact Stuart Green at 908 522-2581.
10/18/10: Update and Notices
I'm posting this note to acknowledge examples of the growing
quality of widely available information about bullying. The items mentioned are in addition to information
you may obtain through this website www.njbullying.org; and our
longstanding recommendation of the work of Stan Davis - e.g., his
website - www.stopbullyingnow.com; his original book - Schools Where
Everyone Belongs; and his - with Charisse Nixon at Penn State - recent
Youth Voice Project national survey, available at
www.youthvoiceproject.com. It is also important in this regard to mention the critical work of Maurice Elias, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University. It's become increasingly evident that working on bullying is essentially work to change and strengthen the culture and climate of schools. In that regard, the essential understanding of school culture and how to impact it has come from the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org), the academic center of the character education movement in the U.S., of which Prof. Elias is a founder. He and his Rutgers colleague (and former longtime NJDOE insider) Dr. Phillip Brown are the major forces behind NJ's advanced efforts in character ed. (Another psychology professor - at Teacher's College - Dr Jonathan Cohen - is also very important in this area.) And finally, it's still important to note that all
modern work on bullying stems from the foundational work of Prof. Dan
Olweus - still ongoing and widely available, starting with his original
book, Bullying at School, and a range of related/updated materials
available from the Olweus program at www.hazelden.com. These and the
other good sources of information available about bullying will ideally
spur home-grown efforts by schools to more fully commit to addressing
the problem and to dedicate their attention and existing resources,
human and material, to more fully supporting and protecting all kids,
especially those at most risk or actively targeted. This is more
important than adopting any one particular program, whatever its
lineage. But good understanding and, ideally, good evidence is a
necessary starting point.
* In that regard, we note that Dr Michael Greene, the Coalition's
research consultant, has identified and recommends a recently published
article on the important and increasingly supported link between
bullying (cyber- or not) and suicide. The article, a useful review of
bullying issues generally, is the latest publication in a scholarly
journal (Archives of Suicide Research) by Drs Hinduja and Patchin, the
creators of the useful website, www.cyberbullying.us/aboutus.php.
<<Bullying and Suicide.pdf>>
* Under the leadership of Arne Duncan and Kevin Jennings, the US
DOE is also increasingly capable of drawing good attention to the issue,
as evidenced by the recent national 'bullying summit' (more info on the
website). An multi-agency federal effort produces a youth information
website which can be accessed for good quality bullying information
specifically at www.bullyinginfo.org. (This new site is in addition to
the still-operative original federal site,
* Each day seems to bring another announcement of a
bullying-related initiative, e.g. a national effort by America's Promise
Alliance, PTA, American Federation of Teachers, American Association of
School Administrators and a host of other groups. See the press release
which just came out today, at:
0/Alliance-Statement-on-Bullying.aspx. The focus of the initiative seems
to be on promoting a particular child-bystander approach, from the
organization Community Matters (www.community-matters.org.) But the
point here is the heightened national organizational response to the
* Here in NJ, the process which was most recently highlighted by
the work of the state Commission, but which acquired more traction in
the tragedy-driven way characteristic of the field (the horrible run of
well-publicized bullying-related deaths, including in NJ), is moving us
inexorably toward new strong law and hopefully successfully strengthened
school and community addressing of bullying. Given that a focus of the
tragedies has been the situation of LGBTQ children, leadership from
Garden State Equality (www.gardenstateequality.org) has been a critical
factor in this effort. In terms of NJ developments, we note that NJ
Principals and Supervisors Association is launching a new initiative in
collaboration with the Olweus program and Hazelden:
www.njpsa.org/bullycomp.cfm. While again we note that bringing in a
program is less important in predicting success than an ongoing
adminstrative and staff commitment to understanding and addressing the
problem, these are all hopeful and hopefully culture-changing efforts.
* If this message reaches you in a timely enough fashion, you can
register for an upcoming federal webinar on bullying (information
Webcast To Address Bullying Prevention
On October 27, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. E.T., the Federal Partners in Bullying
Prevention Working Group will air a Webcast on bullying prevention. A
follow up to the recent Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit
<http://www.findyouthinfo.org/spotlight_bullyingSummit.shtml> , the
90-minute session will feature presentations by: Dr. Catherine Bradshaw,
Associate Director, Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth
Violence, Kevin Jenkins, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and
Drug Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education, Capt. Stephanie Bryn,
Director, Injury and Violence Prevention Programs, Health Resources and
Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A panel of individuals involved in bullying prevention efforts will
discuss the challenges that they have encountered and the successes that
they have achieved. The registration deadline is October 25, 2010;
however, early registration is recommended as the capacity to
participate in the Webcast is limited.
Register online at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register827891504.
Questions regarding the Webcast or the registration process may be
addressed to Andrea Massengile at email@example.com.
1. Garden State Equality town meetings and support, and response to the death of Tyler Clementi (and others)
In response to the death by suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, apparently triggered by his roommate's bullying, and to what seems to be a recent escalation of the already relatively high rate of bullying-related suicide by gay youth (not to mention the suffering that is commonplace and fortunately does not lead to suicide), the NJ organization which is the leading gay rights advocacy group, Garden State Equality, so effectively led by Steven Goldstein, put on two town meetings, one at Rutgers on Wednesday evening and one last night at a church in Tyler's hometown of Ridgewood. The meetings were powerful (and very large) expressions of empowerment, support and outrage by the community most impacted by bullying. Among other points, it was very clear that the youth who described being bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay were being hurt not only by the inherited (from society, and in some sad cases parents) hatred of those youth who did the bullying, and not only by the inadequate protection and support provided by the schools in which the bullying takes place, but also by the toxic continuing attitudes of a society which refuses so far to recognize the full humanity of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. The direct relationship between bullying and the refusal to provide marriage equality, the refusal to completely end 'don't ask, don't tell', and the inadequate actions by government and everyone else to confront gender intolerance and violence and end it, was clear. There is an ironic and important contrast between the incredible empowerment of the LGBT community, exemplified by Garden State Equality, and the fact that bullying is characterized by an imbalance of power between those bullying and those being hurt. Children bullied have a hard time defending themselves in part because they are or feel isolated, and because they do not receive adequate support from peers and adults (including those who run and staff the schools and institutions in which almost all childhood bullying takes place). The challenge is to bring the power and support which so characterizes the LGBT adult community to the situation of LGBT children, who are so targeted and hurt. The gatherings the past two nights were painful, inspiring and hopeful. The fact is the continuing empowerment and passion of the LGBT community makes it inevitable that full acceptance and full rights for that community will soon arrive. And that means the bullying of its children will someday end.
2. A webinar and related posting.
Coalition director Stuart Green conducted a webinar for the NJ Center for Tourettes Syndrome last week. The webinar can be freely accessed by those interested at www.njcts.org - click on the Wednesday webinar series, the archive. Questions were also submitted and answered by email - a copy of those postings is attached here, below (and can also be accessed at the website).
Webinar follow-up Q and A
10/4/10: Star Ledger editorial on tragedy at Rutgers
The Ledger editorials so often get it right. In this case, they are right on target in their response to the latest bullying-related death. Concise and eloquent, they address the toxic adult attitudes and lack of support for vulnerable populations which underlies all of the bullying young people do.
Star Ledger editorial 9-10.
10/3/10: Items (at a time of major tragedy!)
1. Suicide yet again
The bullying-related death by suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi has once again (in an endless run of similar tragedies) brought heated attention to the problem of bullying. If it happens that this infuriating event moves us toward finally giving the problem of bullying the attention and action it deserves, it would be no surprise. Bullying prevention and intervention is a tragedy-driven field. If it were not for the suicides of three youth in Norway about forty years ago, the murder of Matthew Shepherd, the events at Columbine a dozen years ago, the suicide of Phoebe Price and all the past and continuing dramatic deaths between those events and since, we would not be doing anything about bullying, however inadequate to this point. It is a tragedy-driven field, and the fact that we essentially wait for these predictable and horrible deaths to move us in the right direction is what is infuriating. It should be clearly understood that when we talk about bullying we are always talking about about the extent to which we as a society protect and support all those - but especially children - who are at risk and hurt. We have failed so far to provide adequate support - in our schools and in our society - for these populations. That is why the death of Tyler, whose roommate targeted him as gay, and saw in that perception justification for humiliation and denigration, is so intimately related to the hatred still directed at lesbian, gay and transgendered populations, and so much allowed by society. That is why Tyler's death is not unrelelated to the continuing denigration of 'don't ask/don't tell' and why it is perfectly reasonable to ask of Rutgers University and all other educational institutions, at any level of schooling: Have you done enough to support and protect all those students who are in gender minorities or perceived so? Are you doing enough to support all those students who are in any minority in a school, rather racial or cultural or religious or socioeconomic or by dint of some special health or learning condition or need, or because of appearance, or because they are new to a school or isolated from others for any reason? Are you (we) doing enough?! If not, what possible justification can there by for waiting any longer? It is time!
Attached below is a note with information provided by Margo Saltzman of GLSEN and P-Flag, and a member of NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools, with information about gatherings sponsored by Garden State Equality and others, and a statement about Tyler's (and others') deaths from Arne Duncan, the head of US DOE, and some suggestions for those wishing to be active.
activism notes 10-2-10
9/18/10: News items
What the following items have in common is that they reinforce three central points we make about bullying. One, that bullying is a widespread phenomenon, not only the most common form of peer violence (in children or adults), not only a child phenomenon (but exists in adults), but also covers a wide range of phenomenon - from hazing, to sexual assault and harassment, to hate crimes - which are not usually identified as forms of bullying. Given the proper definition of bullying - a pattern of negative acts in which there is an imbalance of power such that the targeted person/s has difficulty defending themselves - all these phenomena are indeed bullying. Two, that bullying arises and is maintained because of the behavior of those in charge of the social systems in which bullying takes place. Those in charge of systems are most responsible for the culture and climate of the institutions and settings in which bullying takes place. In schools, that means all adults and most specifically adults in positions of authority. Beyond schools, it simply means authorities or those with power, with power being acquired as a function of role (e.g., an official), or majority (e.g., the dominant subgroup, the greatest number, the most allies/most popular) or by other means.Three, that adults create and maintain bullying by not adequately supporting those at risk and by inadequately addressing bullying when it occurs. Given these background points, see what you think of the following items.
1. The school drop-out rate
As conditions - economic and political - become more challenging, Bob Herbert, the NY Times columnist who often focuses on communities of color and the poor, becomes ever more passionate and incisive, never losing sight of the facts. Here is one of his columns in which he reacts to a recent report giving the percentage of African-American students who do not complete high school in the U.S. as 53%. If the figure is accurate, as it seems to be, the statistic makes an appalling statement about the way in which our current public education system functions. From an anti-bullying advocate's point of view, it inherently raises questions about the degree to which our educational system is supporting those youth. And it is not only African-American youth who are underserved. Drop-out/incompletion rates for Hispanic youth are somewhat better, but in that ball park. Asian students do relatively well but all other (e.g., 'white') students also have a significant incompletion rate (about 20%). A system which serves so many inadequately and has such disparities in outcomes has major problems, as has of course been widely and sometimes feverishly noted, in these days. Addressing bullying and other forms of violence is such settings is all the more difficult.
Times HS drop-out column
2. The disparities of zero tolerance
We shouldn't even need to be discussing 'zero tolerance' approaches any more. Basically an expression of anger and desperation on the part of school officials, the approach took what should have been a fatal blow from an American Psychological Association Task Force report a year or two ago. (The Task Force reviewed the existing evidenc and found that the approach not only was not helpful in addressing any school problems, including bullying, but did harm because it was prejudicially applied - mostly to populations of color.) Now a new Southern Poverty Law Center report (see attached) reinforces that last point, finding appalling rates of suspensions and expulsions for black male students, much hjigher than for white students. In our experience, in most schools with zero tolerance approaches, there is little else attempted or effectively done to prevent and address bullying.
zero tolerance articles
3. The most common setting for adult-adult violence: Prisons
What goes on in prisons is a classic example of how to manage a system in such a way that the culture and climate of the institution facilitates bullying (in the form of widespread sexual assault, among other forms).
Prison violence 2010
9/12/10: New New York anti-bullying law signed by Governor this week
This 'Dignity for All' act has been awaiting enactment for years (!), so it must be regarded as a significant victory and step forward to have this law at all. Having said that, the law is incredibly weak. But you can judge for yourself. See the attached law - in draft/text form - below, along with a critique (separate document). Having criticized the New York, I'll quickly say that current law in NJ is not significantly better. (If anything, the New York law takes after the existing NJ law.) In fact, NJ law (there are actually three of them) is in desperate need of updating/strengthening, which is hopefully soon on the way. Having said that, I still consider the passage of this law an important step forward. That's because the single most important factor in addressing childhood bullying is the attitude of the principal and then the teachers. Law is not only regulatory and remediative, it is also a way for society to state its opinion about an issue, and people - including principals and teachers - do respond to that to some extent. The statement law makes also not only reflects societal opinion, it also informs it. In this case, the passage of the law, whatever its precise strength, will likely serve to embolden parents of bullied children and raise their expectations for justice. This is itself significant. Anyway, as one more notable point about the new NY law - and a heartbreak for any bullied children and their families who are hoping for quick relief from it: the law doesn't even go into effect for almost two years!! (July 2012). Anyway, judge the new law for yourself:
new NY anti-bullying law
first impression review of new NY anti-bullying law
9/2/10: Two new items
1. Division on Civil Rights takes new case to court
Reading the published (Star Ledger) details of this new case is extremely frustrating - Did (some) schools learn nothing from the LW case!? In this case, the school district is Oldbridge. Once again, apparently, a severely bullied child, with repeated incidents insufficiently addressed by a school. The child in this case is targeted based on other children's perception that he is gay, and also because he is Jewish. The school reportedly treats each occurrence of bullying as a separate incident, does something in each case but never enough to fully address the issue. And the Attorney General's office, in the form of the state's Division on Civil Rights, steps in. Here's the Star Ledger story (attached).
New DCR case
2. A blog entry by James Fox which provides a well done summary of where we are in terms of addressing bullying programmatically. His main point - and a good one - is that addressing bullying requires addressing the culture and climate of schools, and this is a deeper matter than simplying importing an anti-bullying program, however reasonably constructed, into a school. He also rightly points out that buy-in from teachers (and others) is the critical issue. That is, the leaders and main staff of a school have to 'get it' - get how important the issue is, how critical it is (ncluding to learning) to do enough about it, etc. A good column, worth redistributing, attached.
8/18/10: New items on "Legal Issues" page, and on "Cyberbullying" page
The first new items on those pages in a very long time! (We'll see if we can do better going forward ... )
8/18/10: Some new items on this page (where we update pretty well ... )
1. Letter to NY Times
An op-ed was published in the Times in July that was quite good, by two professors in Massachusetts. I'll post the op-ed below, but also a letter to the Times I wrote, also published, which disagreed with the authors on one point. The letter is first, below, then the op-ed.
Letter NY Times - 7-10
op-ed Times 7-10
2. Federal summit held 8-10
The US DOE, now led by Arne Duncan and his top aide Kevin Jennings (who founded GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network), the NYC-based national organization which has provided important leadership - and study - on childhood bullying, recently hosted what it billed as 'the first' national summit on bullying. (There actually have been Washington DC meetings before, such as the one several years ago that launched the HRSA campaign.) I didn't go but there were lots of good folks there. Attached below is a file the DOE provided, which contains powerpoints of a number of te presentations. Taken as a whole, it's an interesting overview of what advocates are thinking (and presenting to others) about bullying.
US DOE Summit 8-10
3. New work by Stan Davis
Everything Davis does is worth noting. For those not aware, Davis was one of the first anti-bullying advocates in the country, a very early promoter of Olweus' approach (though he's a wise critic of aspects of the approach as well), author of the first great guide for schools (after Olweus'), Schools Where Everyone Belongs, and continues to make important contributions. His latest project (with a colleague, Charisse Nixon) is an on-line survey of kids about bullying. A 20-age report on the project findings is attached below. See page 8 (and related pages) for a table of great interest - a summary of the strategies kids have found helpful (and not) when bullied. As Davis comments, when the strategies have involved obtaining more support from adults and other kids, the strategies seemed helpful. When the strategies enacted by the kids bullied were directed at the kids bullying, they did not seem helpful (and even had negative effects).
Davis Nixon report
The NY Times recently published a long article on cyberbullying. The article is very well written, long enough to present a deep view of the issue, and full of interesting examples, worth discussion and comment. In fact, below is a version of the article which I've annotated with my own comments. Though the article uses examples from New Jersey schools, the material is generally applicable.
Cyberbullying article - Times - w comments
5/28/10: Genes and being bullied
There is a new report (of a study) about a relationship between having certain genes and experiencing distress (and lasting harm) from being bullied. The report is already being reprinted (as it is here too) on certain anti-bullying sites, but (as far as I've seen) without accompanying commentary. That may lead readers to some unfortunate conclusion including that we only need worry about at-risk and bullied kids who have the gene. The most unfortunate (and wrong) conclusion one could draw from this report is that being bullied is somehow associated with having a gene-based vulnerability or sensitivity. In fact, as the report itself notes, the researchers did NOT find an association between having the gene and being bullied. It was simply that having the gene seemed to predict the extent of distress/harm the bullied child experienced. It was also noted that those without this particular gene were at less risk of experiencing harm from bullying. But all that means is that if 100 kids with the gene are bullied, and 100 kids without the gene are bullied, fewer of the kids without the gene will experience significant levels of distress/harm than those with the gene. But that does NOT mean that ANY kids without the gene will experience no harm, or that the distress kids without the gene experience is less harmful. It's complicated to interpret studies, admittedly, but it's important to do so. And, in the end, since a school has not way of knowing which or how many of their kids have the gene (at least for now, til someday, inevitably, there will be universal gene profiles of all kids - which I'm NOT endorsing), this report should not affect in any way school efforts to protect and support all kids, and thoroughly address bullying. Nonetheless, so you can read it yourself, here's the Science News report about the study.
genes and being bullied
5/26/10: New Anti-Bullying Campaign (Cartoon Network and CNN!)
This new campaign - though sight unseen by me, but based on the description (attached, below) ... - is good news. The advisory panel to this media effort (the campaign essentially consists of material broadcast on Cartoon Network and CNN, presumably in its shows or perhaps - somewhat less powerfully, if so - in 'ads' between the shows) is legit - including Dr. Sue Limber of Clemson U. and the Olweus team - and the press material (see below) emphasizes two solid, and evidence-based (such as we have it), points: that adults are primarily responsible for addressing bullying and that - in a supportive adult context, such as a well-run school with good anti-bullying efforts in place - child bystanders can make a huge impact on bullying. The campaign is also focused on middle-school kids, another good strategy, since that is where the highest frequency of inicidents/relationships occurs.
Cartoon Network campaign
1. An article from Education Week (referencing articles published in Educational Researcher, and published online by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development or - as it's now called by initials only - ASCD) offers an uncommonly good and reasonably evidence-based overview of where we are with bullying. One flaw is the article's overemphatic mention of a counseling approach for identified victims as a viable approach but overall a good review, featuring Swearer (and Espelage's) ecological model as an example of good understanding of bullying (which it is). The key point the article makes (which is of key importance) is that there is no one model which will work (or has been demonstrated to work) for addressing bullying. At the same time as this point is made, the article also emphasizes the relation of bullying to the culture and climate (and overall functioning) of the school, and - within that understanding - the importance of bystanders/observers of bullying (notably including adults). A good article::
no one model - ASCD posted article
2. NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention will be holding an educational session and networking meeting on October 25th (Monday) at NJ Law Center (courtesy of NJ State Bar Foundation). For information and to RSVP (which is required), contact the Coalition by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 908 522-2581. The meeting is for non-profit and governmental organizations (including legislators) only, and not designed for individual (non-organization) participants, even including parents. (Parent organizational meetings are vitally needed - as they have been for years), but that is not the focus of this particular meeting.) The meeting will feature brief (1/2 hour) talks by experts on core issues and plenty of time for discussion and networking.
3. I occasionally give talks on bullying for school staff, at conferences, or for parent groups. More often I ask/arrange for others associated with the Coalition to give such talks. But I've become convinced that a more active role in disseminating useful information about bullying is necessary. So I've arranged to give a talk on bullying for parents and others interested, at Overlook Hospital in Summit, in the fall (November 4th, Thursday evening). The talk is for adults - it is not directed to children. In my view, children should ideally and primarily be receiving information about bullying from their schools (or parents, of course), as part of their schools' overall (and hopefully well thought out) approach to the issue, not from outside experts at 'one-shot' auditorium programs. Nonetheless, I am giving the talk. Registration information will be provided at a later date.
4. There have been lots of recent studies on bullying, a new Massachusetts law, and media coverage, all worthy of comment - but no time to do so right now. The focus of most remaining attention to this issue, from a Coalition point of view, is on developing and supporting passage of a new NJ law addressing the issue.
4/1/10: Bergen Record Editorial ...
We (advocates) sometimes refer to bullying as a tragedy-driven field. It was the suicide of three pre-teen youth in Norway, three decades ago, that led Dr Dan Olweus to begin studying bullying in a systematic way. Olweus' work led to a cascade of scientific studies that established our modern understanding of bullying. This new understanding included the idea that school-based interventions could substantially prevent and address this most common form of violence. At regular intervals since then, bullying-related suicides have occurred. By itself, it's an interesting and important discussion as to why one particular suicide catches the media's (and therefore the public's) attention and not another. But that aside, the suicide of Pheobe Prince, a 15 year old South Hadley (Massachusetts) high school girl, has led to another such firestorm of public and media attention. It is important to note the other suicides which have taken place, including recently, even in that same state - the equally tragic death of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11 year old boy. And there have been too many others. In many cases, the parents and families of these children have become important voices in the struggle to get schools (and society) to finally adequately address this problem. We use the term "bullying" to capture all the related phenomena: harassment (including sexual), intimidation, hazing, all forms of assault in which there is an imbalance of power. And while we focus on peer violence, all adult violence against children (such as teacher bullying of children) and adult-adult violence in which there is such an imbalance (including workplace bullying by bosses or supervisors against employees) can be considered part of the phenomenon. It is right, however, to focus on bullying in schools, as the Bergen Record editorial does. School is the most common setting for bullying. Schools are an institutional environment in which adults can and should take responsibility for the culture ('how we do things here') and climate (the 'feel' of the place). Most bullying can be prevented by increasing support for all children and ensuring that all students have are engaged and active participants in school life and activities. This requires that staff of a school get to know the students and have a sense of who is isolated and vulnerable to bullying. This is something most of us as parents would expect of a school staff. It is why we trust our children to the staff of a school. It is part of why we are so disappointed and upset when our children are hurt in school. And it is why we are so bitterly disappointed when school officials do not respond to such hurting as the urgent matter it is from a child's and parent's point of view. And it is why parents are infuriated when school officials and staff suggest, as they often do, that the child who has been hurt has somehow been responsible for what has happened - because of some characteristic or behavior. Or that the child himself or herself must change or protect themselves - because the school is helpless to do so. A culture of safety, the protection of children, the nurturance of children - these are priority tasks of any system which cares for children. Without these in place, no adequate learning can take place.
We appreciate the Bergen Record editorial today. Here it is.
3/29/10: Teens charged in Massachusetts bullying-related suicide
This notice (see below) from today's USA Today is striking. It's certainly uncommon, if not unique, to see charges filed by a district attorney against youth whose harsh treatment of another high school youth, 15, caused - it's charged - her suicide. The harsh treatment as reported is incendiary, including a sexual assault, denigration of the girl who died on the web after her death, and a pattern of targeting which seems both vicious and widespread, involving a group of both girls and boys. So in that sense, charging the youth with harassment, the assult, etc. makes intutive sense. At the same time, media reports (including quotes from parents and students) also seem to clearly indicate an inadequately addressed culture of violence at the school, and some specific failures of response to reports of these particular incidents. However, the DA's action is certainly a also response to the tremendous anger (in addition to the grief) the incident has aroused in South Hadley, MA, where the incident occurred. The question of responsibility is key - whose is primary - the children who bullied a fellow student in school, and/or the school which - as some argue - did not do enough to prevent or address the behavior. The DA has focused on the kids bullying and not - as the article specifically states - on any adult staff or leaders of the school. What the charges do certainly represent, similar to the increasing number of lawsuits cited below, is a growing recognition of the seriousness of bullying as form of youth violence, and the increasing expectations of the community that the problem be addressed.
Charges filed in bullying-related suicide
3/20/10: Lawsuits reflect increasing expectations, less tolerance for school behavior
Here are two lawsuits reported in today's papers, from Boston and Atlanta. The increasing number of lawsuits being launched represent the increasing expectations parents have for schools to deal with bullying. The question then becomes - as it inevitably will in these suits - what can a school be reasonably expected to do. Having observed the various court discussions in the LW case in NJ (LW vs. Toms River School District) (see below on this page and/or on the Law page of this site for a link to the case and discussion of it), this was the central issue then. Toms River (in the LW case) argued that the school district had behaved reasonably in addressing each incident of violence against LW when it occurred, talking with kids bullying, suspending kids. As I see it, Toms River came close to winning that case. I believe Toms River only lost because the school and district had not specifically addressed in their materials the gender identity bias which was the main reason LW became a focus for harmful acts, and because Toms River had not demonstrated in its responses and statements an increasing sense of ugency about the harm being done to LW over the course of eight years. It remains to be seen what the courts will say in these current suits (of which the two mentioned here are only samples). Just to be clear, what schools ought to be doing that very few do, is be more proactive and preventive. Specifically, schools need to take active steps to increase support and protection for those students at risk for being harassed, intimidated and bullied. It is not rocket science to identify such students. Schools need to take it for granted that students with any minority status, whether by virtue of gender identity, race, culture, immigrant status, social class, special health or learning need, etc. etc. etc. as well as students who are socially isolated and/or not engaged in school activities are at higher risk, among others. Measures to increase support are also not especially complicated to envision, although carrying them out requires skills which parents would reasonably expect teachers, administrators and staff of skills to have (or prioritize acquiring). An example of inadequate support would be a school that does not take any steps to educate students and parents about the types of special health or learning conditions some students have, whether it is Tourettes or attentional problems or learning issues or ... Anothe example of inadequate support would be a school that does not have a club or any staff-involved school-sanctioned activity that positively recognizes the identity of lesbian and gay students. When schools do not adequately support students who can be reasonably predicted to be at higher risk, the school in effect both models and implicitly encourages other students' negative attitudes and actions toward those students. It remains to be seen whether a result of these court cases is that schools are expected to meet a higher standard for supporting and protecting vulnerable students than is presently the case. That higher standard would also certainly include an effective, adequate response to incidents of bullying (which are almost always multiple acts, often over long periods of time) when they have not been adequately prevented and thus occur. In all of these ways, from an advocate's point of view, the increasing number of lawsuits is a good sign, though a painful one for schools and districts. Losing (or having to settle) a lawsuit can be avoided, if only schools and districts will adequately address he problem. But if instead a child egregiously and unnecessarily suffers, it would be hard to argue that a parent who has the resources to sue (lawyers are typically not taking thse cases on contingency - yet) should not do so.
3/4/10: Michigan loses Race to the Top funds b/o bullying?
What's most interesting in this story from a Michigan paper is the suggestion that one of the reasons Michigan did not make the finalist cut for states applying for Race to the Top funds is because Michigan does not have an anti-bullying law. As the article notes, this is a direct effect of Arne Duncan being the Federal education czar. As evidenced by his appointment of a GLSEN founder as his chief aide, the U.S. education department officially cares about bullying. This is a very welcome development!
Michigan funding problem - bullying-related
3/2/10: New study results in wide media reports of bullying decline, but ...
The study, which was published in the March 2010 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (a very good, peer-reviewed journal), is by a well-known and well-respected (and very experience) researcher, David Finkelhor, who runs a violence institute in New Hampshire. So it's not a question of disputing the source. However ...
I had some issues with the study and the media reporting of it, as much as I value and appreciate Finkelhor’s work. It’s a problem that his various question categories differentiated sexual assault, assault, and sexual harassment from bullying, and emotional bullying, as well as from peer-sibling victimization (combined). So the figures reported about bullying don’t reflect a lot of the phenomena which would otherwise usually be included in “bullying.” Also, while the earlier survey asked respondents about incidents in the past year, the 08 survey first asked about lifetime incidents then asked (separately) about which of those occurred in the first year (which Finkelhor acknowledges as a problem). Further, the questions asked were not identical in the two surveys (he also acknowledges this problem). Also, the phone method is an issue (not acknowledged as a problem). That is, first parents were contacted, then the parents were asked to put a child on the phone. The child was then answering questions with the parents present, which affects the honesty of reports. Having said all that, at least on a big scale (national stats) it might be reasonable to think that the growth of extremely variable and often low quality anti-bullying programs schools have conducted over the past decade (which has included a large number of infamously ineffective zero tolerance approaches, and a great many other cases in which there is a paper policy on bullying but virtually no meaningful anti-bullying activity in the school) has had some impact. Of course, the rates are still unacceptably high, even by this report. And the gold standard for knowing how much bullying is taking place should still be much more active comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability, and harm, experienced by students and reported by them, anonymously, in a particular school. Here's the study (below) so you can analyze it for yourself.
2/24/10: Massachusetts anti-bullying law
The continuing response to the bullying-related suicide of a 15 year old girl ...
Mass bullying law
1/30/10: Rutgers hazing, continued ...
The NJ Star Ledger has a strong editorial on the hazing incident at Rutgers and calls for stronger action on hazing. This is very welcome! It is not a suprise, in that the Star Ledger, has an exceptionally strong editorial section, including its columnists. But it is still gratifying. The Ledger is exactly right when it states that the underlying problem is that bullying (hazing) is still seen by many (including some coaches) as a way for teams and organizations to build bonds among members. As the Ledger says, "It's not. It is an inexcusable practice with infinitely dangerous consequences, and it must be stopped."
1/30/10: South Hadley, Massachusetts bullying-related suicide case follow-up
The tragic death of Phoebe Prince, 15, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, after being bullied has continued to be covered by the media and is becoming one of those cases which characteristically and occasionally builds awarenss of the widespread and common problem of bullying in school, and may lead to helpful developments. One outcome is that Massachusetts, one of those states which has not had an anti-bullying law (despite having had a Commission to study the issue!) may get one. (Then the quality of it and what actually improves in schools will still remain to be seen.) One interesting aspect of the case is that the school had had a visit not long before the suicide from Barbara Coloroso, an adolescent specialist who published a (good) (and best-selling) (and early) book on bullying, and now goes around the country (and the world) giving talks, including at schools. The Globe (see article attached below) reports that there were only a few dozen parents at her original talk but that she recently returned (invited) to attend a school board meeting in So Hadley, at which several hundred aggrieved parents were present. At the meeting, Coloroso is described by the newspaper as criticizing the school because (apparently, reportedly) the kids who did the bullying are still at the school. Coloroso is in essence criticizing the school for not suspending (or expelling?) the children who bullied. There are several interesting aspects (of importance to anti-bullying advocates) about the Coloroso situation. One aspect (previously noted on this page, below) is that having an expert talk to parents (or staff, or kids, or .. ) can be helpful in raising parent (or staff) expectations for what the school ought to be doing, and for clarifying (with staff especially) how the school should move forward. (It is very much not helpful to have expert talks or other 'one-shot' programs directed at kids in a school in which a school-wide, active, adequate, ongoing program is not yet in place.) However, when Coloroso (according to the report) notes that consequences need to be applied to the kids bullying and that everyone (other kids) needs to know that consequences were indeed applied, she's absolutely right. Of course that ought to be happening in every case in which a pattern of bullying has been identified. If it only happens to kids in cases that are publicized or that have especially tragic outcomes, that variability is itself a problem.
South Hadley bullying follow-up
1/29/10: Hazing is bullying ...
A front-page article in today's NJ Star Ledger ("Hazing still bedevils college campuses") references a hazing incident at Rutgers, reported in the media last week, but makes a broader statement about hazing as a problem. Unfortunately, the article never mentions that hazing is just another form of bullying (or harassment/intimidation/bullying, or HIB, as the full phenomenon is commonly referenced). Thus, hazing is a form of institutional abuse. It occurs in the setting of organizations - teams, clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc. - and such organizations are almost always set up by and run by and/or supervised by or approved by adults. As in all bullying, one of the most common ways in which adults are responsible for behavior which occurs between youth peers is that the adults know or should reasonably know about negative patterns of behavior in a setting - hazing in a sorority, as in the case cited in the article for example - and do not address it actively and intensively enough to stop it. Of course, in many cases of hazing (common in sports team settings, for example), the adults (coaches, in many cases) model such negative behavior (e.g., demeaning, sometimes even hitting, or otherwise hurting a youth team member). As the Star Ledger article makes clear, the problem is not yet being adequately addressed. And even though NJ has one of the strongest anti-hazing laws in the country, thanks to Bob Bailey and others at the NJ Interscholastic Athletics Association, the law is still extremely limited (e.g., only addresses hazing at the college level), not providing any significant requirements for schools to assess and address the issue, other than imposing consequences for acts which occur. As the article notes, only a very small portion of all the hazing which occurs gets reported, so any actions which are limited to imposing consequences after an incident is reported will be inadequate. Schools and other institutions in which hazing occurs must be required to assess the extent of hazing in their team and club settings, and must be required to institute training and programs which proactively, preventatively and adequately address the issue. In this unfortunate sense, hazing is identitical to the situation we face with bullying generally: increasing recognition of the problem (as the article below states, "parents and administrators" are upset) but grossly inadequately measures being taken, either to assess or address - and prevent.
1/28/10: Items, including institutional abuse, and suicide
Our focus on bullying in school should always be accompanied by awareness that bullying is primarily institutional abuse - harsh treatment of children by peers (and sometimes by adults) which occurs mainly because of the way in which social institutions function, and for which adults in charge of such institutions are responsible. Nothing makes this point more clearly than the example of prisons. Peer violence in prisons is exceedingly more common (and more violent) than it is in schools. It's important to emphasize that the main reason is NOT that the population is more violent, at least by history (though that is of course true) - it is that in prisons, as opposed to in schools, there are very limited educational or remediative values and programs to inspire the staff to care enough about what happens to the prisoners. Unfortunately, this appears to be the case even in youth correctional institutions. And prisoners - including youth - are repeatedly hurt not only by other prisoners but also directly by staff, as a long series of published investigative reports by both government agencies and media clearly indicate. A column in today's NY Times (linked below) does a good job of stating the problem. Of additional importance in the column is that a major example of the suffering caused includes suicide - this is very much in our awareness these days as it relates to bullying, given two recent publicized bullying-related suicides.
1/22/10: South Hadley suicide follow-up
Here is some follow-up - an article from a South Hadley newspaper (The Republic), published yesterday (accessed on the web today). The principal's response continues to be impressively open and thoughtful. Here is the article, with sections from his letter to parents highlighted.
Bullying preceded student's death
Thursday, January 21, 2010 By SANDRA E. CONSTANTINE
SOUTH HADLEY - There were several public disagreements about relationships and dating between Phoebe Prince and other South Hadley High School students in the weeks leading up to the 15-year-old's death, principal Daniel T. Smith has stated in a letter to parents.
Local police and the Northwestern District Attorney's Office are investigating whether the student's death in her home Thursday was a suicide as the result of bullying. Prince, who entered the school system last fall after moving here from Ireland, has been described as smart and beautiful by people who knew her.
"These disagreements centered on relationship-dating issues, a rather common event among high school students," Smith wrote in a letter sent out to parents earlier this week.
Smith also wrote that staffers immediately intervened and "both counseled and provided consequences as the situations required."
However, Smith stated what happened after that is cause for "significant concern."
"Because of the aforementioned disagreements, some students (to be confirmed through investigations) made mean-spirited comments to Phoebe in school and on the way home from school, but also through texting and social networking Web sites," he wrote. "This insidious, harassing behavior knows no bounds."
The principal went on to state that not only should bullying on the basis of characteristics or background be fought, but also bullying when one disagrees with someone's actions.
"The key is how each of us deals with that anger - finding ways to resolve or accept differences of opinion instead of engaging in the insidious behavior of demeaning others," he wrote.
Although the school district has made efforts to stem bullying, such as tightening up high school policies, Smith has said much remains to be done. He has called for a public meeting of a Bullying Task Force at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the high school library.
The principal invited people unable to attend, but interested in offering "proactive" ideas to help stem the problem, to e-mail him at email@example.com or call him at (413) 538-5063, ext. 1104.
The principal said following the tragedy of Prince's death some graduates have come forward to say they had been bullied and described the effect it had on them.
Meanwhile, the Northwestern District Attorney's Office is not releasing any information about Prince's autopsy, pending completion of a toxicology report, which takes as long as six weeks, First Assistant District Attorney Renee L. Steese said.
As for why the investigation includes looking in the issue of bullying, Steese said, "I am not responding to specific questions when they are asked within the context of a specific case."
Police have said investigators are also looking into whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the young girl's death.
1/19/10: A high school girl's suicide in South Hadley, Massachusetts
As several Massachusetts newspapers have reported (no NY-NJ area coverage that I've seen yet, which seems odd), a 15 year old high school girl, a recent arrival to the U.S. from Ireland with her family, killed herself last week, and other students and local residents are describing a history of significant bullying (at South Hadley High School) and attributing her death to it. Police and other investigations are under way and as far as I have read there have not yet been statements by her family, or other common means (e.g., a suicide note) which can clearly indicate whether the bullying was a primary cause. However, if bullying was occurring, it is likely it played a role in her death, no matter what other causes of suffering may have been present. Further, as we know from many other tragedies, bullying - and all that it always implies, the repeated assaults as well as lack of adequate peer and adult support - is sufficient by itself to be a cause of such death.
The school's response, at least so far and as reported, has been to acknowledge the need to further address the problem - which is good. In the article linked below, the principal announces creation of a task force to address bullying and specifically states that while certain measures are in place, clearly not enough has been done. This is laudable. The principal and administrators quoted have however unfortunately emphasized in their past approach to the issue the fact that a talk was given at the school by a well-known author (of a book about bullying). Such a visit and talk may indeed be a part of a good school-based approach to bullying, but only if the visit is a minor aspect of an ongoing, comprehensive, school-wide effort to address bullying by strengthening the culture and climate of the school, vigorously assess and address known violence at the school (including students bullied) and ensure good support for any vulnerable populations of students. Such vulnerable populations famously include any minorities (which by race, religion, culture or gender) and those new to the school, including immigrants. Bringing in a speaker does not come close to substituting for such measures and in their absence is of no benefit. The news article (below) also notes that one of the planned measures is to bring in a program in which students create and exhibit anti-violence t-shirts. While such programs can be helpful as adjuncts and reminders, and perhaps to help strengthen and highlight anti-bullying measures, such programs are not the core measures needed.
Making these points is not meant to specifically critique South Hadley High School. Even in a school making reasonable, well-meaning and thoughtful efforts to address a problem, such tragedies may still occur. And, again, the principal's responses reported in the press are helpful in tone and openness. But in most cases, in most schools, when such tragedies occur, they are typically an indicator - as the principal acknowledges - that not enough has been done. A last point, which seems important, is that although Massachusetts was one of a minority of states in which a Governor's commission to study bullying was created, and which issued a good report (see below, this page, for a link to a copy of the report), the follow-up to the Commission's work was very poor, including - to this date - no passage of an anti-bullying law in Massachusetts. That's a tough societal and legislative environment in which a school must struggle to deal with bullying problems.
Bullying-related suicide in Massachusetts?
1/18/10: Upstate NY bullying of gay youth - legal case w major implications
There are actually two notable bullying-related stories in the press this week. One involves the situation of a girl who killed herself in Massachusetts, apparently bullying-related. I'll post that shortly, after a bit more is know. But meanwhile, in this story, reported here from the Utica newspaper and not yet noted in the Times, there are some major implications. It is the case of an openly gay 14 year old boy reportedly bullied without adequate school protection/intervention. That's a routine story. What lifts the case to our attention is the involvement (on the boy's behalf) of the NY Civil Liberties Union which has, remarkably, provoked the involvement of the Federal Department of Justice. This is notable, and the first time, to my knowledge, that DOJ has become involved in this way. This involvement (which would start with an investigatory process, and could lead to more active DOJ legal support) never occurred during the previous two administrations and is new and somewhate unexpected even for the Obama administration. The school is likely to settle the case, especially given this major uptick in attention and potential costs, but hopefully not before the boy's (and school's) situation is more fully explored - and then resolved! Here's the article:
Upstate NY bullying case 1-15-10
1/15/10: Seattle cyberbullying
What's interesting about a recent cyberbullying story in the Seattle Times (see below, attached) is that the school apparently felt empowered to take action. This is happening more but not enough. There are still many principals and superintendents who will not address such behavior because it takes place off school grounds. The linked article is too short to understand the situation adequately - what motivated the school's action (suspending the involved students), was all the electronic bullying taking place off-campus or were on-campus computers and devices being used, or the behavior (e.g., via cell phone) taking place at school? Also, as the article notes, the school has a 'zero tolerance' policy for bullying - that's not a good thing, typically. But in this case it may have motivated the school to act. Interesting, in any case.
As a related note, the recent (NJ) Commission on Bullying in Schools report has as one of its recommendations that anti-bullying legislation be specifically adjusted to make schools responsible for addressing bullying off school grounds when it 'substantially and materially impacts' students/school functioning. The intent of that adjustment is to encourage/require schools to address electronic bullying (although other off-campus behavior may also be addressed).
1/13/10: An even wider focus - on adults, on harassment and in France!
As the very, very brief notice in today's Times explains, a new law is being proposed in France to address "psychological" violence in partner relations (e.g., marriages, etc.). What's notable about this from an anti-bullying advocate's perspective are two points: First, it's apparently taken a while for the French to recognize that non-physical expressions of violence can be as harmful as the physical kind and deserve equal attention - and the French would not be alone in this. Second, the expected opposition to the law is characterized by one of the classic myths about harassment, intimidation and bullying - that such behavior is going to be difficult to recognize, especially when it is psychological. In fact, such behavior is typically (almost always) a pattern of negative acts and the pattern is quite discernible, whether the violence takes place between children, at a school, or between adults, in a relationship at home or at work.
France new law
1/13/10: Update - now that the Bullying Commission report has been handed in
See below for a previous note about the report but here's where we are right now - Meetings with legislators are going on toward the goal of encouraging legislative action focused on Commission report recommendations, and perhaps beyond.
Aside from what legislation can do, much is of course expected of DOE (let alone of individual schools). What DOE does going forward (in addition to what they've been doing, which is appreciated for what it is) remains to be seen. From a DOE point of view (I believe), some of what happens depends on external factors, including whether new legislative action requires certain things of DOE and whether new Report-recommended structures (e.g., a new Bullying Prevention Fund, new Technical Assistance Centers) are established and (very problematically, at present) funded.
Beyond the state, new Federal funding is hoped for but not guaranteed (e.g., the $50 million or more talked about by US DOE for school safety initiatives, and new DOE 'race to the top' funds - in both cases, NJ is applying for the monies, but of course receiving the funds is far from guaranteed).
Another factor is the new NJ DOE Commissioner, Bret Schundler. it is not known whether he has specific views about bullying and DOE's role and/or to what extend he will prioritize (or not) this issue.
Yet another factor is the current lack of continuing federal funding for some of the professionals at DOE who deal with safety issues. It's likely that DOE will find (or already has) some temporary means of retaining such folks (by redirecting existing funding within DOE, e.g.) but whether this staffing is sustained remains to be seen. From an advocate's point of view, such staffing has not adequately done the job (which is as always significantly determined by the actions of those in charge, not the staff themselves), but certainly some good things have happened and/or are in process, and this would surely be impacted if that staff was no longer there at DOE.
In summary, as of today, those who have been involved with this issue, including at the Commission level, continue to be involved and pursuing the overall goal of strengthening support and redress for children bullied. Much of that work is 'behind the scenes'. Ultimately, all such work and - most importantly - outcomes will have to be very visible and visibly produce the change which is needed. We are still far from where we need to be - as the almost daily phone calls, emails from and in-person conversations with parents of bullied children endlessly and painfully remind me.
1/7/10: Bullying is another name for institutional abuse (continued) ...
We have made over and over again on this site the point (as in the item below, 12/28/09) that the bullying which goes on in schools is just one expression of a wider and deeper phenomenon - institutional abuse or that inattention/neglect or active harm done to children which is the primary responsibility of institutions in which children are found, and also institutions in which adults are found (as in the 12/28 military item, below). The 'delivery system', as it were, for the harm is typically peers (of the harmed person) but the primary responsibility for the harm done belongs to those who run and staff the institutions. In all cases of harassment, intimidation and bullying which arises in institutional settings it is the culture and climate of the institution which has failed to prevent the harmful actions and then commonly inadequately addresses the acts if they occur. In some cases, however, it is the administrators or staff which directly harm vulnerable persons. A perfect example is referenced in the attached article (below) - a tale of institutional abuse (in Mississippi, in this case) and then a broader failure (by the U.S. Congress, in this case) by society (at least to this point).
Prisoner abuse 09
To broaden the picture even further, consider the article attached below from today's NY Times ("Minorities and the Poor Predominate in South's Schools"). Every aspect of the dismal picture painted (which, going forward, will apply to the entire U.S., not only the South) reflects institutional neglect (at all levels, including societally) with dramatic, harmful, pervasive effects. It starts with de facto segregation (as Jonathan Kozol and other education writers have eloquently pointed out) and goes on from there. It is a miracle, which should be appreciated, that despite such broad negative societal factors (neglect), increasingly impacting most schools, such effective progress can still be made to strengthen school culture/climate and (therefore) address bullying (among many other factors) when administrators and staff of schools do right things (effective practices).
12/28/09: Harassment in the military
Here is another reminder that the childhood bullying which is our primary focus is one name for and one aspect of the phenomenon of abuse in institutional settings. In the exact same sense in which harassment, intimidation and bullying of children in school is primarily a function of the culture and climate of the school (institution), the peer violence which takes place in other institutional settings has the same dynamic. Notably, as we've discussed on this site, we find that dynamic in youth (and adult) prisons. The key factor in these settings which predicts whether peer violence will take place, whether in schools or prisons (or workplaces), is the degree to which those in charge (administrators, then staff) takes steps to address - including prevent - the violence. The culture ("how we do things here") and climate (how the setting 'feels' to those in it) are shaped most of all by those in charge, who set the tone, ideally modeling non-violence and support in their relationships and taking very active steps to ensure support for everyone - with no biases. Bias is, in fact, the major corrosive to good cultures and climates. If the leadership does not take strong steps to support and protect commonly targeted groups, a certain level of peer violence will predictably occur. In most institutional settings in this society, those perceived as lesbian or gay, and those in racial and cultural minorities, will be especially at risk. But anyone perceived as 'different' or not in the majority, including those who are 'new' in a setting - whether it is newly arrived students in a school, or - in the case of the military - women new to combat settings - will predictably be targeted unless sufficiently strong steps are taken to support and protect those vulnerable. In the case of the military, this has not yet occurred to the degree that is needed. The attached article, from today's New York Times, makes this point. The word 'bullying' is of course never used in the article, but it is nonetheless a relevant piece.
Here is a copy of the Commission report, which was released last week. There was a good response, in terms of coverage, by the press - last week. There have been some statements by legislators, notably Senator Buono, responding positively to the report. What remains to be seen is what the legislature and state administration (e.g., DOE, others) will do to create implementation of the report's recommendations. It also remains to be seen if the recommendations of the report, even if implemented, go far enough. As mentioned in earlier notes, the report is the function of a committee process which included (as appointed by the Legislature and Governor) a mix of high-level representatives of various state agencies and quasi-governmental entities - such as the State Department of Education and the NJ School Boards Association, union groups - notably the NJ Education Association, and representatives of non-profit associations - such as NJ State Bar Foundation, and community organizations - such as the Anti-Defamation League, some explicitly anti-bullying, others more broadly representative of community concerns. This odd mix of folks, all with legitimate and serious interests in addressing bullying, had to find proposals on which they agreed, based on their own knowledge and the testimony provided by parents and organizations.
All that appeared in the report are those recommendations and related discussion on which these disparate individuals agreed. The question of whether or not the recommendations "go far enough" remains to be answered. For instance, the report does NOT include a recommendation that the Legislature amend the anti-bullying statue to clearly state that parents who remain dissatisfied with the official response to their child's plight, at all levels (local school, district and country/state) have a "right of private action" - that is, a right to sue in Superior Court for redress. Such redress might include punitive damages from the school district, limited or unlimited (set by a jury, for example). Private lawyers who advise the Coalition have said, for instance, that in the absence of specific recognition in the state's anti-bullying law of the option of suing school districts, such suits are less likely to be brought or to succeed.
Another example of a way in which it is possible the report does not "go far enough" is that the report does NOT recommend that the Legislature establish a permanent, standing advisory group (e.g., such as the Coalition itself, or - probably better - a group of University-based experts in educational matters and/or violence issues) with the authority to evaluate DOE efforts to address bullying and provide advice. What the report recommends instead is that DOE itself establish 'ad hoc' advisory groups, as needed to assist the proposed Technical Assistance Centers (on bullying) with various specific issues (e.g., assessment). The "go far enough" element which may be missing from the 'ad hoc' approach is that no entity is created which stands outside of DOE and can provided separate evaluation and opinion to the state. While one can argue that that role is filled by various non-profit groups and by the public itself (e.g., advocates, parents, etc.), the strength of those various, disparate voices is limited absent an official role or recognition.
Generally, the report leaves up to DOE the continuing responsibility for addressing bullying. This may seem quite reasonable however ... NJ is famous (among all other states) for having an educational system in which localities (e.g., the over-600 separate school districts in the state) have significant latitude in how education is actually carried out. This effectively limits state DOE authority and influence. Further, some advocates would argue, even to the extent state DOE is authoritative and influential, leaving it alone to monitor and address bullying is problematic. Those advocates argue that given DOE's track record on addressing bullying, it does not seem to prioritize the issue sufficiently or sufficiently appreciate its importance, at least so far. Such advocates point to the example of child abuse in the state. They note that DYFS (Division for Youth and Family Services), the state agency which is responsible for preventing and addressing child abuse and neglect, was not adequately handling that issue (by media and public and expert consensus). Therefore the legislature established the Child Advocate's office within the Public Advocate's office and gave that agency (Child Advocate) legal authority to evaluate and comment (in an annual report) on DOE's progress. There have been subsequent substantial improvements in how child abuse is addressed. Though such improvement is due to multiple factors, including increased support for DYFS, financially and otherwise, most experts agree that the increased openness - and sense of urgency - the new oversight adds has been a significant factor in that improvement. The Commission's report does not recommend establishing any such additional oversight to DOE efforts.
Similarly, the report does not contain any "mandates." That is, the report does not recommend "requiring" (as opposed to "encouraging," or suggesting e.g.) that school districts change the frequency or means by which bullying and related violence is assessed and reported, or specify new timelines for addressing problems revealed by such assessment, or even require that DOE establish new standards for such matters. The report simply - in effect - suggests that such matters be addressed by DOE, which can then train and advise school districts on such issues. Of course establishing mandates without new funding creates the typical hated (by school districts, and understandably so) "unfunded mandates" in which a district is asked to do some thing but not provided supports or means to do so. And in the current economy and NJ budget crisis, expecting any new funding is difficult (though the amounts needed are so relatively small, one can hope ... ).
In essence, the Commission's report relies tremendously on state DOE's commitment and ability to carry out the recommendations to which it agreed (as a key member of the Commission). And many, if not most, of the recommendations do not require new funding. For example, there is no reason DOE and DCR (Division on Civil Rights) cannot proceed (with haste, hopefully) to refine the suggested structure for addressing bullying incidents (from new investigatory guidelines to a clarified structure for review and appeal from the local school through state/Commissioner level), and to inform all schools/districts and communities (parents, especially of course) of these options. Similarly, one would hope that DOE will take active steps to reach out to the state's teacher-training programs to introduce the recommended new curriculum content addressing harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) into pre-professional teacher-training programs. And one would hope DOE reaches out to the state's universities and other partners to create the on-line training resource recommended.
But some recommendations do depend on funding. (The on-line resource mentioned above is probably one of them.) In particular, the establishment of the new recommended TAC's (technical assistance centers) does require some funding. If there are no TAC's, then it's unlikely the newly envisioned parent peer support structure will be developed. And, similarly, the envisioned training for the newly identified or formed school-based climate teams will then be unlikely to occur as planned.
Further complicating the picture is the drecreasing funding for HIB anticipated at the federal level. We have been told that even those staff who are specifically designated at DOE to address HIB may be cut in the coming budget year/s. Whether this is ordained and real or simply a possibility (or doesn't occur) remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, especially given DOE's central role in the recent Commission process, its agreement to the report's recommendations, and those changes which can reasonably be made without either legislative action or new funding, a lot depends on DOE. So the question is: is bullying understood at DOE in the way advocates see it - as the preeminent culture/climate and student support indicator of school functioning, including academically, and therefore the issue which must first and foremost be addressed in all schools? Even after more than a year of meetings and the production of a report on the topic, that answer remains to be seen.
1. The report of the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools has now been completed and handed in the Governor. The official release date for the report should be mid-December, with a press conference (and release of the report to the media/public) tentatively scheduled for 12/15. The report is the outcome of a democratic process - with the 14 Commissioners voting on every element. What that means is that the report inevitably leaves out some recommendations which a minority of the Commissioners would have wanted to include and includes some recommendations which a minority of the Commissioners would have wanted left out. Overall, though, the report is seen by all of the Commissioners as a good effort - that is, if all of the recommendations (over 20) are carried out either administratively (e.g., by NJ Department of Education) or legally (i.e., the NJ Legislature makes changes in or additions to existing law), approaches to bullying in NJ schools will be stronger and the situation of bullied children and families will be improved. Note that the report is a recommendation to Governor, Legislature and state agencies (especially NJDOE); whether the recommendations become reality depends on the actions of those entities. What advocates and communities can do, once the report is released, is observe what those agencies actually do and advocate for implementation of the recommendations. If advocates and communities find the recommendations do not go far enough, then pressure should be brought to strengthen and add measures the Commission did not (in it's democratic process) include.
9/23/09: More bullying stories (catching up ...)
Although the story of the moment (in these parts) is the local situation (in Millburn) described below, as usual there have been a lot of bullying-related stories in the media in the past month. These are often not labeled as 'bullying' stories but can easily be seen as such viewed through the proper lens. Here are some of the recent stories I didn't have time to post:
(1) The institutional exemplar of a systemic bullying problem: youth prisons
This (the state of youth prisons - not to mention adult prisons, equally troubling) is the continual bullying story. Whether in Texas or New York (as this article describes) or almost anywhere, whether in the U.S. or the world, prisons are a prime institutional setting for harsh peer-peer behavior. What an anti-bullying advocate understands is that this has little to do with the nature of the prisoners. What it primarily has to do with is how the adults who run these settings manage the institutional environment. As this article (linked below) very clearly describes, a combination of irresponsibly low levels of funding, poor choices about how to use those funds which are available, inadequate attention to management (especially of employees, including training and support), inadequate addressing of violence when it occurs, let alone preventive measures - all these both set the stage for and implicitly create (including through adult modeling of violent behavior) the harassment, intimidation and bullying which is so characteristic of prisons. Here's the article (it first appeared 8-09, in the Times):.
youth prisons - New York
9/22/09: The hazing story in Millburn, NJ
This is just another story about senior students (girls in this case) treating younger students (freshman year girls in this case) harshly. It's "just another story" in that these behaviors are unfortunately, still common in many schools. However, we take special note of this story because it's in our (Coalition) backyard - nearby Millburn, NJ. Also Millburn is commonly identified in the media as the "number one" school district (and especially its high school) in New Jersey, in terms of such characteristics as college admissions, academic achievement, etc. Not surprisingly, given the inequities in our educational system, Millburn (and surrounding areas) are among the best resourced communities in the state (and therefore anywhere). A suburb of New York City, Millburn is a natural coverage target for media such as the New York Times. For all these reasons, the "Millburn hazing story" has received wide attention.
From an anti-bullying advocate's point of view, there are several especially notable aspects of the events and its media coverage. In terms of the events, one notable aspect is that there has been a widely and specifically acknowledged 'tradition' of negative treatment of freshman girls by older students at Millburn HS for a decade or more. This is striking, however much Millburn HS may not be unique in having such a phenomenon. Having such a 'tradition' is - ought to be - inherently an emergency condition, a red-light warning about school culture which requires urgent action at whatever points it is perceived.
Another notable aspect is that the principal and other school administrators are emphasizing how over preceding years in which this 'tradition' has been enacted, some students have been identified as perpetrators and penalized by the school (e.g., suspension or other consequences). The principal has been quoted as saying that his hands are tied (or options limited) unless students involved in the hazing come forward with 'proof' and can identify specific perpetrators. This legalistic and evidence emphasis in school administration thinking about bullying is what advocates call an "incident-based approach" to harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB). This is a famously inadequate approach to preventing and addressing HIB. It is not sufficient (or effective) to deal with bullying incident by incident. Ideally, schools must scan their (social) environment actively and in an ongoing manner for conditions relevant to HIB. A 'tradition' of hazing every class of girls newly entering the high school (in such ways as shining lights in eyes, pushing into lockers, putting their names on a 'slut list', etc.) would certainly be a phenomenon one would expect such a scan to note. School culture and climate, patterns and 'traditions', school subgroups and populations especially at risk, including even those children most isolated/least befriended, all that must become a part of administrator (and staff) awareness. Preventive, proactive, persistent, pervasive - these are the characteristics of an effective, just approach to addressing bullying. It includes dealing with incidents effectively and justly, but incident response is only one part of the picture, and not the largest part.
Another notable aspect of the Millburn story is the parent and community response. Parents quoted in the media (including those who have made their voices strongly heard at the subsequent school board meeting) have clearly characterized these events as "hazing" and - remarkably - as "bullying." This is a remarkable development. It represents and is a sign of an advancing level of understanding of these issues on the part of communities (and parents). Also notable is the justifiable impatience of Millburn parents. You can read their sentiments for yourself in the article (linked, below).
Hazing in Millburn
9/3/09: Students with disabilities are physically punished more in schools
An alternate title for this item would be "How far we have to go ... "
A NY Times article (attached, below), published 8/11/09, describes a report issued by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU. The report analyzed data from the federal Department of Education and found that a significant portion of students who receive corporal punishment (e.g., paddling) in U.S. schools have disabilities (autism, as one example, though presumably the population paddled/hit would include a range of disabilities, many milder than autism). While students with disabilities are 14% of the student population, according to the report, they represent 19% of the students hit in U.S. schools. Aside from the statistics, each of those incidents represents an essential wrongdoing. As the article well describes, when a "300 pound" school staff member (in one incident described) paddles a six year old first grade boy with autism, there is no clearer example of what can and should be described as the assault of a student by a school staff person (an assistant principal, according to the article). This well qualifies as bullying - the imbalance of power is clearly present, and such behavior is almost always not one incident but a pattern of abuse. That is, bullying. As the twin rights organizations advocate, such behavior ought to be against the law. In fact, in 20 U.S. states (thankfully not including NJ), corporal punishment of students is still allowed - and practiced.
Spanked - NY Times 8-09
9/3/09: An example of 'systemic' violence (relevant to bullying)
A NY Times article (see below, attached) today describes a report recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on conditions for immigrants in Suffolk County, NY. (SPLC tracks hate crimes and groups nationwide.) The organization looked at Suffolk because of the hate crime killing there last year of a Hispanic immigrant. What is notable about the report is its strong focus on the relationship between the behavior of political and other leaders in Suffolk and the occurrence of street level violence against immigrants. We should note that police officials in Suffolk challenge the report's findings, stating that the organization (SPLC) did not, in their view, take enough into account the perspective of the police, in particular. However, if the report is valid, the link it describes - between leader behavior and peer violence - would not be remarkable, and in fact entirely consistent with a similar systemic view of how bullying violence arises in schools and other institutional settings and is sustained. Notably, if one follows the analogy, Suffolk leaders quoted in the Times article, seem to be using an "incident-based" understanding of the anti-immigrant violence. That is, acts of violence against immigrants are decried in general terms (" ... violence against a fellow human being cannot and will not be tolerated ... ") while at the same time (in the same comment) focusing on the potential harm immigrants pose to the community. What this type of juxtaposition clearly indicates is in this particular leader's thinking, there is no emphasis on supporting and meeting the needs of the immigrants. It is that lack of positive action toward populations, as much as specific negative acts, which sets people up for peer violence. That's an example of a "systemic" approach to understanding such violence. So long as - in this case - immigrants are not positively welcomed and supported in communities, they will inevitably experience harsh treatment from some of the fellow residents of those communities. In schools, the analogy would be that those student populations most vulnerable to violence (e.g., children with special health and learning needs, LGBT or non-conforming children, as just a few examples, and immigrant children or those with any minority status in a school) need ongoing active "welcoming" and support from school leaders (and everyone else, ideally). If that doesn't happen, those children are at high risk of peer violence. That's what apparently (if the report is right) happened to immigrants in Suffolk County.
immigrants - NY Times
8/24/09: A possible, interesting connection:
A startling study about youth suicide (in Denmark) in Archives of General Psychiatry (June 09) suggesting an association between both attempted and completed suicides in youth (ages 11 to 17) and the number of times the child changed residence: the more times the child changed residence, the higher the risk. This question has not been specifically studied before. It is not yet clear as to why this association exists, but it is possible to speculate. One speculation might be that each change of residence is caused by a negative family event such as a parent's job loss, or a family death. Therefore, the increased suicide rates are caused by the child's response (e.g., depression) to the family changes. However, it's also possible that when a child changes residence, engagement in the community (e.g., the child's involvement in community programs and activities, and sense of belonging in the neighborhood, including in relation to school) and support (e.g., number and quality of friendships) decrease. The child's response (e.g., increased isolation, loneliness, alcohol or drug use, depression) leads to increased suicide rates. More study is needed to understand the finding. But it's an interesting study about a tragic topic ...
Reference: Quin P, Mortensen PB, and Pendersen CB. (2009) Frequent change of residence and risk of attempted and completed suicide among children and adolescents. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66 (6); 628-632.
8/17/09: A Contest!!
Here are some items from the Times and the Star Ledger, just from the past week or so (with one or two exceptions). It's a selected, non-chronological sampling, not in order of importance, just as an attempt to add some currency to the News section of the website - see link at left to go that page. I don't have time at the moment to copy and paste the full articles but I'll provide the full headlines and the reporters' names (if not an editorial) and you can visit nytimes.com and starledger.com to obtain the full posts. (I'll revisit this posting on the News page and present the full articles, and my comments, right after Labor Day.) Here are the articles:
1. "Disabled Students Are Spanked More" by Sam Dillon, NY Times, 8/11/09.
2. A letter to the NY Times dated 4/27/09 by Herbert Pardes, "Obesity in Schools."
3. "New Jersey Tries to Put Safety First," by Winnie Hill, NY Times, 8/9/09.
4. "A worrisome trend," an editorial in NJ Star Leger (? date, but within the past several months).
5. "No More Cheeks to Turn," by Lorraine Duffy Merkl, a column, in the 'Complaint Box' section of the NY Times, 8/9/09.
6. "Bloomburg Plans to Stop Promoting Low-Performing Fourth and Sixth Graders," by Javier C. Hernandez, NY Times (? date, but recent).
7."Charter Schools Aren't The Cure-All for Failing Education," by Diane Ravitch, which I believe appeared in NJ Star Ledger, on 8/14, and is a reprint from the LA Times.
8. "Locking Up Fewer Children," an editorial which appeared in NY Times on 8/14/09.
Since I don't have time at the moment to provide the full article postings or even to comment, here is an opportunity for you - a contest. See if you can identify the common theme and essential points about childhood bullying which these articles raise or address. Email your analysis to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best responses will be printed here and - if you provide your name and address - a free copy of a book about bullying will be awarded (sent) to the winner. The deadline is Labor Day.
8/16/09: Commission Update:
The NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools has been working for about nine months. It's only task (by law) is to review the current status of efforts to address childhood bullying (in NJ) and make recommendations to NJ government (Governor and Legislature) for changes (in law and school pratices). It's report was originally due mid-July. An extension was obtained and the report is now due mid-November. In the time passed, the Commission (14 individuals appointed by Governor and Legislators) has met monthly (and currently twice monthly), held (as required by law) three public hearings and (not required by law) a few additional meetings (e.g., with special education leaders, school administrators, and others) and formed two panels (one of lawyers, one of academic and school pratice experts) to provide input to the Commission. The Commission itself has a certain expert perspective on the issue, the appointed individuals representing some (not all) relevant organizations, such as (not a complete list) NJEA (the teachers), NJSBA (school boards), NJPSA (principals), NJSBF (the Bar Foundation, a major provider of training for school staff about bullying), and two especially relevant organizations, DOE (Department of Education) and DCR (Division on Civil Rights).
The law in fact suggests the possibility of a "new state initiative" on school bullying to be developed and implemented by DOE and DCR. This initiative has been one of the two main foci of the Commission's discussion and recommendations (when the report appears). The other focus is law (status and changes). I won't go into any detail here about the process of the Commission's discussion, other than to note the extreme difficulty of bringing together disparate points of view held by passionate and experienced individuals on an emotionally intensive topic involving violence to vulnerable children. When the report appears, it will reflect no one's ideal but hopefully be useful. The usefulness of the report (whatever its quality) is not under the Commission's control, in several ways. A "new state initiative" will be hard (impossible?) to implement without some new money (from Government or private sources) or at least a shifting in current allocation of resources. Because no new money to address childhood bullying is a distinct possibility, the report will also recommend an alternative based heavily on the contributions of existing interested organizations and volunteer experts. This will inevitably be more difficult, especially because ideally such an effort needs to be coordinated by DOE staff, which requires - again - funding in one way or another. In fact, in the current economic environment, all such staff are under the threat of budgetary cuts, rather than new facing the prospect of new (or even continued) funding.
We have the example of other states which formed government Commissions to study the problem of childhood bullying, issued good quality reports, and implemented no significant changes. This is certainly a possibility in NJ as well. The one possibility which costs no new money is changes in law. And indeed the Commission (as ordered to do by the law which formed it) will recommend such changes. The implication of such changes (whatever the specifics) is another whole discussion, which I'll get to in another posting within the next few days. However, I will note here that it will be completely up to legislators (and the interest groups which inform and influence legislators), not the Commission, as to whether the recommended changes in law will be made. Again, forming a Commission and submitting a report is no guarantee of change. However, there is hope. The report is being written now and will be submitted soon.
It's been a month since the last posting. In part, I resisted posting because I didn't want to draw any attention away from the July 10th posting below this note. The review in support of the collaborative learning model is a strong example of a positive method which could easily be implemented by schools if children's social relations were seen as the priority it ought to be. In fact, we have a long way to go, in terms of adequately addressing bullying, adequately supporting all children, having an adequate educational system generally. It's a frustrating, wearying reality. Thus, a month away from posting ...
Another reason paying ongoing attention to the literature and events relevant to bullying in schools is wearying is that the same events and stories reappear so often in what unfortunately seems to be an endless cycle. Is progress really being made? As relevant evidence, see the attached story about yet another court case, this time in Vermont.
Vermont lawsuit 8-09
Again we have - apparently: as a spokesman for the school system points out, there is perhaps more to know about the situation - children bullied (this time on the basis of a speech impediment, being new to a school, and being from an 'outside' community, all known factors which increase risk for bullying in a school which is not adequately attentive, preventive and protective), a school inadequately responsive from a family's point of view, and the school defending itself by pointing to its incident-based responsiveness. If these are indeed the facts of the Vermont situation, as the family alleges in its lawsuit, it's a wearying, familiar repeat of an old story.
Of course many of the issues surrounding bullying are repetitive, as if cycling. There will always be more bad news about the harm bullying does, a continuation in the so-far unending stream of studies which demonstrate the negative consequences of bullying for everyone involved - the children bullied, those bullying, the smaller group which experiences both and for the schools in which most bullying takes place. We will tragically and unfortunately continue to hear about the occasional suicide - and we won't hear enough about the many suicidal thoughts and even attempts which take place unobserved and in silence. We will continue to hear from those who would equate bullying with the numerous other social conditions extant in schools instead of understanding that the allowing of peer violence in schools by adults who do not adequately address the issue is the preeminent problem of school functioning. And we will continue to hear from the extreme deniers - those who see any focus on bullying as a furthering of an LGBT 'agenda' or who essentially believe that bullying is in inalterable aspect of childhood (and perhaps even one which adults ought to allow - for 'growth' or 'character-building' purposes). We will continue to hear from those who proffer and advocate unproductive, illogical and harmful advice for bullied and vulnerable children - to 'laugh it off' or 'take another route home' or 'ignore it' or 'fight back' or ... In the midst of these unproductive voices will be the studies of the problem, with helpful advancements in knowledge. The item posted a month ago - a review in support of the increased use of collaborative learning models in schools - is one of those highly useful (and, not coincidentally, evidence-based) studies. Again, I was reluctant to displace it from the top of this page. However, a month has indeed gone by, so some further updates and new items, including the status of the NJ Commission's work, will be posted shortly.
7/10/09: Important new review article - collaborative learning models
We've mentioned before on this site and in our materials a strong recommendation for the use of collaborative learning models as way to improve childrens' social relations and decrease bullying. This recommendation was based on an awareness of decades of good academic (and field - e.g., at school) work showing the relational benefits of such models as well as the model's academic performance efficacy. Now there is a new review - by the Johnsons, of Minnesota, major contributors to this work all along - reaffirming those benefits. (The article is linked, below.) As the authors note, collaborative models are an "educational success story" in terms of not only the strong chain of evidence but also - more important, really, since not all evidence-based practices are widely adopted, for political/cultural, funding and other reasons - in the widespread adoption of the model by teachers and schools in the past thirty years. But 'widespread' does not mean 'universal' or even 'dominant'. That is, much (most?) of the time students spend in classrooms is still in an essentially individual achivement/competitive mode. If academic performance is the only focus, it may not matter what model is used (it actually may - but that's another story). But if collaborative models produce (as the evidence strongly indicates) an improvement in positive student relations and (as some evidence suggests) a decrease in HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying), then we need to dramatically increase our use of collaborative models. Here's the review.
6/29/09: Potentially important new clue to school success:
The NY Times (see article below) describes an innovative new small high school run by the Camden School District in which an amazing result has been achieved. However small the population (100 students total, 28 graduates this year), there are no drop-outs and every graduating student has been accepted to at least one college. It's disturbing to say, but absolutely real, that in an educational system in which students not finishing high school (if they even get close) is a huge problem, and especially so in urban underserved areas such as Camden, having any size graduating class with these great results is an amazing, unexpected achivement. Although there is no direct mention of bullying or school climate in the story, it's easy for an advocate on these issues to see the presence and impact of such social factors. In fact, one of the emphases in the article about the school is the way in which there is a very individualized and peer supportive process at the heart of how the school functions. I suspect there is a great deal more for all of us to learn from this Camden model. More to come ...
new Camden high school
6/8/09: NY Times column highlights new statement on bullying from American Academy of Pediatrics.
The column, by Perri Klass, MD (a prolific and skilled writer of medical narratives) describes the Peds academy's revision and strengthening of its existing statement, including urging all schools to adopt the systemic approach to the problem pioneered, developed and actively championed internationally by Dr. Dan Olweus (widely and rightly known as the father of the field of bullying prevention in schools). In the U.S., the Olweus team, led by Marlene Snyder, PhD and Sue Limber, PhD of Clemson University (among some others), is very active in trying to get its program into all states. So far, here are Olweus implementations in 45 states, to my last awareness, and intensive broader Olweus efforts in eight states (I believe), closest to us in NJ being Pennsylvania. (For more on Olweus and these points, see various items on this site, including notes on thjis page, below.) As we've pointed out before, while the Olweus program contains many of the elements one would want to exist in a school's approach to bullying, it is not perfect or perfectly replicable and reliable in its results. A lot depends on the quality of implementation, most importantly including the understanding and commitment of school leadership and (therefore) solid buy-in from a school's teachers, first and foremost. The Pediatriicians (AAP) do not have to consider (and don't deal with) what it takes to ensure that all schools in a state implement Olweus programs, even if that's the choice of what to do. Money and resources are involved - the Olweus team itself charges thousands of dollars per school for implementations, and the help provided for that sum is limited (the intent is to 'train trainers' - meaning teachers and others at the school in this case - to provide the ongoing work). In Pennsylvania, the money came from a rare opportunity - the creation of funding (pre-recession) from the privatization of the state's Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan (as I understand it). It's not at all clear how NJ would move in that direction, even if the state's new Commission on Bullying in Schools wanted to go that way. In fact, the Commission's expert advisory group did not find the evidence clear enough to make a blanket recommendation for statewide Olweus implementations, even if a way were found for that to be feasible. The Olweus group (w whom I've spoken) has faith that funding can be found. As you can see, these are complicated issues, which the AAP (the Pediatricians) makes very (and somewhat misleadingly) clear, as does Klass' report.
On the other hand, both the AAP's new statement, and Klass' column about it, continues to make absolutely clear (as if it needed any more clarity) that this is a key problem in the life of children (and most other age groups, actually) which must be urgently addressed in all ways possible (and Olweus's approach is certainly one of them).
Here's the article.
bullying - Peds statement - NY Times 6-09
6/5/09: Interesting Star Ledger editorial (not about bullying)
In fact the article is about policing and refers to a recent ACLU study. Reading it from an anti-bullying advocate's point of view, however, evokes some instructive parallels. Here's the article, reproduced below, with the instructive parts highlighted (bolded).
I'm NOT reproducing the article to make any comment or complaint about policing in NJ (though the Star Ledger obviously is) - I'm just using the editorial to raise some issues relevant to how schools in NJ handle bullying and what the relationship of the state (e.g., DOE and other state agencies, in the case of school bullying) ought to be.
The ACLU says local police departments often mishandle or ignore complaints filed by the public.
The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report that finds widespread mishandling of citizen complaints by local law enforcement in New Jersey. It presents a sound argument that the attorney general's office needs to improve its oversight of internal affairs practices followed by police agencies around the state.
When citizens have complaints about improper searches, excessive force or unfair treatment by local police, they need to know that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.
Recognizing that, state law and guidelines from the attorney general's office establish what are supposed to be uniform procedures for handling complaints. But the ACLU report found more than half the state's police departments violated at least some of the legal requirements.
Analyzing records from nearly 500 local law enforcement agencies and 21 county prosecutors, the report found many departments restrict the process of accepting complaints.
The report noted that 63 percent of local police agencies require that complaints be filed in person and 49 percent do not accept anonymous complaints. The report also points out that 79 percent of agencies require juveniles to have an adult present to file a complaint, andfive won't accept any complaints from minors.
These arbitrary local rules are in direct conflict with the attorney general's guidelines. In addition to measures that make the process of filing complaints onerous, the study found "many agencies also create an intimidating environment for complainants."
The attorney general's office deserves credit for its efforts to set uniform civilian complaint practices across the state. But it has not done enough to make sure they are carried out correctly. The office needs to step up its oversight of local departments.
The ACLU makes a number of recommendations for better training of police personnel in the proper handling of complaints, better record-keeping to ensure they are properly investigated, and regular auditing by the attorney general's office.
It also recommends video and/or audio taping during civilian complaint interviews. It also suggested a timeline be implemented for handling these complaints, and that an appeals process be set up for citizens who are unhappy with the way their grievances were handled by the local department.
The group's suggestions are sound. If the attorney general's office is to fulfill its obligation to transparency and accountability in law enforcement, it can no longer allow local police departments to police themselves.
5/5/09: Important new study of severity of the problem
This newly published paper is very significant because it is the first prospective study showing an association between being bullied as a child and the development of (in some bullied children) psychotic symptoms in childhood - which is itself predictive in some children of the later development of an adult psychotic disorder. This is not the first paper to show such an association, but it is the first one to show it prospectively - that is, to take a group of children (over 6,000 in this case, in England) and follow them from before the experience of bullying. As you may know, this type of evidence is much stronger than retrospective studies of such questions. As such, this paper (published in a very good, peer-reviewed journal - Archives of General Psychiatry) is likely to attract wide publicity in and out of the scientific community (e.g., it's already been discussed in an NPR program). The paper provides further evidence-based support, if any were needed, for the absolute importance and urgency of addressing childhood bullying.
The abstract is below.
Prospective Study of Peer Victimization in Childhood and Psychotic Symptoms in a Nonclinical Population at Age 12 Years
Andrea Schreier, PhD; Dieter Wolke, PhD; Kate Thomas, MSc; Jeremy Horwood, BSc; Chris Hollis, PhD, MRCPsych; David Gunnell, PhD; Glyn Lewis, PhD, FRCPsych; Andrew Thompson, MD, MRCPsych; Stanley Zammit, PhD; Larisa Duffy, BSc; Giovanni Salvi, MBChB; Glynn Harrison, MD, FRCPsych
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(5):527-536.
Context Psychotic symptoms are commonly experienced in nonclinical populations of adolescents and adults and have been shown to be predictive of later schizophreniform disorders. Associations between adverse experiences in childhood and psychotic symptoms in adulthood have been demonstrated.
Objective To examine whether peer victimization is associated with psychotic symptoms in a population-based sample of 12-year-olds.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Assessment clinic for 12-year-old members of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort in Bristol, England, where parents had participated since pregnancy and their children completed a range of physical and psychological annual assessments since age 7 years.
Participants A total of 6437 respondents with complete interviews (mean age, 12.9 years).
Main Outcome Measure The Psychosis-like Symptoms Interview developed for the study using stem questions, glossary definitions, and rating rules, adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children–IV and the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry. The interview, carried out by trained psychology graduates, investigated respondents' experience of psychotic symptoms hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorders) over the previous 6 months.
Results The risk of psychotic symptoms was increased about 2-fold (odds ratio = 1.94; 95% confidence interval, 1.54-2.44) among victims of bullying at ages 8 and/or 10 years, independent of other prior psychopathology, family adversity, or child's IQ. Similar results were found using mother and teacher reports of victimization. Associations were stronger (up to odds ratio = 4.60; 95% confidence interval, 3.24-6.50) when victimization was chronic or severe (ie, experience of relational as well as overt victimization reported).
Conclusions Peer victimization in childhood, especially if it is chronic or severe, is associated with psychotic symptoms in early adolescence. These results lend further support to the relevance of psychosocial factors in the etiology of psychotic symptoms in nonclinical populations, which may increase the risk of adult-onset psychotic disorders.
4/17/09: Nevada lawsuit on harassment of Muslim student settled
As the attached story (from National School Boards Association legal clips wire) describes, the girl's harassment was evidently neither prevented nor sufficiently addressed.
Nevada lawsuit - Muslim harassment
4/10/09: Another (!!) bullying-related suicide
This time it's an 11-year old boy in Springfield, Massachusetts. The bullying has all the tragic, unfortunate, maddening characteristics of other similar incidents: most of all, bullying based on other childrens' judgement that a child is gay. One hardly knows what to say, beyond feeling totally in accord with the child's mother, who passionately avows that she will devote herself to this problem and (thereby) help protect other children. As she sorrowfully notes, referring to her personal and family history of facing multiple challenges, " ... we made it through. The one thing we couldn't get through was public school." (!)
Springfield Mass suicide 4-09
4/2/09: Federal lawsuit w claim of bullying-related suicide
This tragic death (actually several in the same school/same year) in Ohio raises complicated issues. On one level what is claimed is simple: A child was suffering tremendously as a result of persistent violence which the school (the suit asserts) did not adequately address. That's the simple part (the child should have had more protection, the school needed a more emergent response to what was going on, the continuing incidents should have indicated to the school leaders that a systemic problem was present, etc. etc.). The complicated part is what the lawsuit seeks as redress. What is sought is not money (according to the news report below), but that the school institute an anti-bullying program. That is complicated depending on what those words "anti-bullying program" (or similar terms) are thought to mean. The fact is we are still at a point in our understanding of school-based peer violence (including bullying - the most common form of it) at which we do not have enough evidence to say that a particular anti-bullying program will prevent or adequately address all incidents of bullying. What is clear, however, is that when bullying occurs - and typically it is a pattern of acts, not one incident - the school must act with a very high level of concern, and immediacy. The pattern should ideally be perceived by the school without the need for another or worse incident to occur and without the need for the targeted child or parent to report. But in those situations in which the pattern was very well hidden but is now revealed (less common), the pattern must be taken as (1) an indicator: an alert to the school that a systemic problem exists (a flaw in the school's climate and culture, and approaches to peer relations, bullying and perhaps violence generally - and an urgent, concerted effort must be made to understand the problem and address it; and (2) an alert: that a child is at risk, at least of continuing suffering - with all its implications for school engagement and performance, aside from the personal pain - and at most of suicide (or - sometimes - homicide). That is, the existence of a bullying pattern, of a repeatedly targeted child, must, de facto, be considered an emergency, requiring immediate, urgent (and sustained) action. Whether or not we can currently reliably identify an "anti-bullying program" which achieves all the desired outcomes, the lawsuit should be construed as calling for a major change in attitude on the part of schools.
bullying-related suicide 3-09 Ohio
3/25/09: Suit claiming bullying at a private school
As this NY Times article (link below) points out, whether bullying occurred at the school is still to be determined, but the suit being filed on that basis in that setting is an uncommon event for various reasons (one is that such claims or suits may be settled quietly). As usual, the true issue would be to what extent the school actively creates and maintains a social environment which prevents most bullying, and is alert to it and active in addressing it if bullying occurs.
Suit over bullying at a private school
3/24/09: Suit over school bullying - by staff - in NJ
Again - this time in NJ - the focus of the lawsuit is staff behavior toward a student. This is increasingly an issue being raised, both in suits and in the academic literature. Whether the situation in this case in this school is as described in this lawsuit (by the victim and family) is to be determined (though an advocate's bias is always to assume the victim's perspective). But the problem in general is quite real. There are multiple levels on which staff (especially teachers but other school staff as well) behavior impacts bullying. As we've cited before, teacher attitudes toward bullying and support of anti-bullying programs in schools appears to be the most critical factor in determining whether such programs succeed. Teacher (and other staff) modeling of bullying behavior in their peer behavior (toward other teachers and staff) is a critical element of school climate, as it relates to bullying (and generally). And - as is the claim in this lawsuit - teachers and other staff may directly harass, intimidate and bully students. Typically, in any school, there are a small number of teachers and staff who model and engage in such behaviors. However, their influence is large. Their presence and continuing behavior is an issue administrators must understand and address. If this does not occur, then the behavior inherently has the implicit support of the administration - and the problem deepens and spreads. It's an important issue.
3/24/09: Support for gay youth in NJ
A strong editorial from the NJ Star Ledger (not surprisingly - the paper routinely has wise and beautifully written editorials) on the issue of whether gay youth are adequately supported - in this case in Newark, NJ. While this is certainly an issue in Newark, including in its schools, the problem is hardly confined to Newark. Here's the editorial.
Star Ledger editorial 3-24-09
3/24/09: School's drug search challenged
The issue here, highly relevant for anti-bullying advocates, is school staff behavior toward students. Even given a reasonable cause - addressing the problem of youth drug use in school - the question is whether it's a good idea for school staff to engage in "humiliating and degrading" (as an Appeals Court judge termed it) behavior with a student (a strip-search in a public setting, in this case). One spur to this behavior, in this case in an Arizona school, and a well-known problem in bullying circles is that the school (the article notes) has a "zero tolerance policy for drugs and violence" in place. As has been pointed out repeatedly, "zero tolerance" is typically ineffective and a barrier to more effective approaches.
School drug search Arizona
3/17/09: Education and assimilation
NY Times article (attached below) describing schools in Maryland in which children who are recent immigrants with limited English-speaking skills are taught separately (school-within-a-school) from other children, and the problems that result. Here's the article:
Education and assimilation - times 3-09
And here's a letter sent to the NY Times about it.
To the Editor:
The true nature and cause of conflict between the student groups described in "Where Education and Assimilation Collide" (Times, 3-15-09) could not be clearer. Adults are the cause - specifically the adults who wrongly decided that segregating students from each other was a valid educational strategy. Keeping immigrant students apart from others is a set-up for misunderstanding and peer conflict. There is no mention in the article of any attempt by school administrators to prepare to address the predictable social issues so inseparably a part of educators' responsibilities. The options they considered - between isolating the immigrant children, in order to ensure good test scores, and integrating the children, with inadequate educational support - are both unnacceptable. School leaders must help their communities understand: Children learning together, with the support each child needs capably provided, is the only safe and civil option.
Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
Chair, NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
3/17/09: A powerful editorial in the NJ Star Ledger!
Star Ledger editorial 3-09
3/7/09: Hazing is another form of bullying ...
hazing NH 3-7-09
2/24/09: Article about last week's public hearing
NJ's newspapers have done a good job of covering the hearings, but I'm posting today's article from the Philadelphia Inquirer because their article has the most in-depth focus on the recent hearing and the issue.
Commission Lawrenceville hearing
2/23/09: NJ Commission Public Hearings (this week and next)
See attached notice - a hearing this Wednesday in Gloucester and one next week in Jersey City. You are invited - urged, really - to attend, and provide testimony if you wish - instructions for doing so are in the linked notice (below).
Two Commission public events have already been held - a set of focus groups on February 9th in Monroe, and a Public Hearing in Lawrenceville last week (2/18). Both events were well attended and the input and testimony valuable. Especially powerful and important testimony came from parents of children bullied, though the experts and organizational representatives who testified were also very helpful. The hearings and events represent only way source of input to the Comission. Each of the Commissions (14) have their own organizational experiences with the issue, including with the community, various Commissioners have been holding informal meetings and calls with various expert and involved individuals and groups since the beginning of the Commission process (10/08), and there are additional advisory groups (on legal matters and on evidence-based school practices) providing reports as well. Out of all this will come a report, in mid-July, to the Governor and Legislature, with the Commission's recommendations.
2/23/09: Complications Inevitably Arise ...
Some of the complications that may arise as schools address bullying issues are captured in the following story about a boy in a Connecticut school whose parents are upset because the boy "was labeled a bully." As the story explains, there were several incidents in which the boy was identified as bullying others. From the parent's point of view, their son was victimized and striking back. There are numberous issues which may be relevant here. First, as the school principal points out, there is no indication that this phenomenon (mislabeling as "a bully") occurs much (if at all) - that's important because a legislator in the area is suggesting a new law requiring "due process" before a child is "identified as a bully." Second, it's not clear why a 'labeling' process (e.g., a letter in the boy's school record, in this case) was required (if it was) or needed. Third, as we have argued before, schools need to take a "relational" rather than "incident-based" view of bullying (and ideally proactive) - so that the emphasis is on good understanding of the circumstances (e.g., the relationship between the child targeted and those hurting him or her, the adequacy of the school's support of the targeted youth or youth who share the targeted characteristics) of the bullying, rather than only reacting to each incident when it occurs. There is something appealing about adopting a legalistic framework in addressing bullying - it fits the analogy between bullying and assault, emphasizes that there is indeed a victim and the importance of consquences and redress, etc. But because bullying is occurring between children, and in school, and is primarily a function of school culture and climate, a legalistic approach primarily or by itself won't adequately address the problem. It should be possible, e.g., in this case and others, to understand who is being bullied. But that is not to say things can't get complicated - for one thing there are a relatively small percentage of children who are bullied and also bully others.
Backlash on B
A wider issue that arises as the focus on bullying grows is the critique offered by researchers who use social norms theory (a recent study by David Craig and others, e.g. - description linked below). This is the idea that perceived norms strongly influence behavior. In this view, if students receive information that bullying is common, they may bully more (or helpfully intervene less) than if they perceived bullying as less commonly occurring. Of course, reality has a role to play here - how commonly bullying is actually occurring. But how the facts are presented is always another issue. In any case, no important issue is without its complications - and these are two recent examples.
2/23/09: A critique of law
As the article linked below notes, a NY anti-bullying law is still being discussed. What's interesting about this article (from press in Saratoga) is the extensive quoting from bullypolice.org (a non-profit org which devotes itself to tracking the status of anti-bullying laws nationally). Bullypolice does good work - when last checked they rated NJ's law(s) in the Bplus range and liked Delaware's and Georgia's laws more (in part because of increased accountablity and consequences as compared to NJ's - and lots of other states' - laws). This article cites Florida and Kentucky as good examples, and lists a number of criteria for what makes a good law. A helpful review.
NY law - recs
2/23/09: The tragic death of Lawrence King
One of the questions raised by the suit is the extent to which the school's level of support of the child, or proactive support for the range of gender identity and expression can be said to have played a role in his death.
King suit 2-09
2/23/09: Stalking and bullying
Is stalking a form of bullying? While the Times article (linked below) does not address this explicitly, the question is implicitly present. How much stalking behavior starts at early ages? Is there an imbalance of power which makes it difficult for the target to defend herself? Are there institutional factors (in schools, or workplaces, or society) which provide implicit support to the person stalking (or inadequately address the behavior), while limiting options and support for the person targeted?
Stalking - NY Times 2-09
2/6/09: Supporting All Students
An exciting change is taking place! I'm inferring such a development from the appearance in today's NY Times of an article entitled "Powerhouse School District Reaches Beyond the Elite," and some other similar developments I've seen. The article is about a NY school district, Port Washington on Long Island, which is conducting a vigorous effort to engage so-called "middle" students (sometimes defined in negative terms as those without stellar grades and those who are not otherwise - e.g., athletically - 'stars') in more educational and extra-curricular activities in schools. ((The term "engagement" here is used deliberately, since 'school engagement' (usually defined as the student's perception that the school "cares about me") is one of the key characteristics which researchers suggest determines school success. (At the very least, this sense of engagement makes it much more likely a student will actually keep attending school - a common sense minimal requirement for the possibility of success, other factors aside.)) The "news" in this news story is that all students appear to be benefitting from this strategy, not only the 'middle' students. To those of us who are anti-bullying advocates, this is no surprise. To us, the proper headline for such a story would be: "Powerhouse School District Supports All Students." Such culture and climate change in a school, as multiple studies have indicated (though not conclusively shown), is powerful and indeed benefits all students. To us, supporting all students should be non-controversial. But of course, predictably, there are some objections. Some who are stars, and presumably their families, worry that education and will be somehow watered down if we actually start paying more systematic attention to the bulk of students who need more support. In fact, as the article (below) describes, such potential (or even actual) 'watering down' is not a problem. And the benefits of supporting all students are great, including (though not mentioned in this particular article) improving peer relations and reducing bullying.
Beyond the Elite
1/30/09: Workplace Protections - Children Too?
It's interesting, from the point of view of a bullying-focused advocate, to see the now rapid strengthening of national (federal) protections for workers against workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. (See the NY Times Editorial, today, attached below.) In terms of bullying, we have in NJ Frank Vespa-Papaleo's (when he was Director of NJ Division on Civil Rights) groundbreaking decision in the LW case that employer obligations to protect workers from harassment also applied to the situation of children in school, reasoning which was substantially upheld both by NJ's Court of Appeals as well as the NJ Supreme Court (discliamer: I am not a lawyer, so take my descriptions of court decisions with a grain of salt). However, note that in some sense Vespa-Papaleo's courageous (given the storm he stirred up) decision was stating the obvious (which no one else before him had ever noticed, or stated!). That is, that the NJ Law Against Discrimination, on which Vespa-Papaleo relied (because it is one of the strongest in the nation) does not ever use the word "adult" to describe the workers it is protecting - in fact, the law uses only the word "person." That's the sense in which it could have been evident that the law's sense of justice (protecting vulnerable workers) should have also applied to children in 'work-like' (e.g., school) settings. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I am noting the quickening process now taking place through the new US administration's actions (e.g., the Ledbetter law) and the US Supreme's Court's actions (see the attached Editorial). Is the need to strengthen protections for children in schools also obvious?
Times Editorial - workplace protections
1/27/09: 'Digital Harassment' new campaign
A New York Times article published today (in the 'Advertising' section) describes a new Ad Council campaign just started (w help from Google) which is aimed at helping teens (especially girls) who are harassed by cell phone (text messaging) and other electronic means (cyberbullying, in other terms). As the article accurately notes, the electronic bullying is occuring between kids who have relationships in 'real space', not only in 'cyberspace' - and most of those relationships are 'building-based' (school) and in the local community. The article also makes the connection (a continuum) between dating violence and cyberbullying. Here's the article:
Digital harassment 1-09
(1/14/09 - new item on 'News' page)
1/13/09: Commission - Public Hearings
Details for the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools public hearings are attached. The hearings represent one (important) way for the Commission to view the problem of bullying in NJ, especially for public (e.g., parents, others) to offer input. It is only one way of course. Each of the Commission members has had years of exposure to the problem, hearing from respective communities, studying the issue, etc. In addition, the Commission members receive other input and testimony from experts to whom they've reached out and others who have been in contact. In addition, there is access by email and other means of submitting written testimony. See the attached notices (duplicated in pdf and Word document form). The first hearing is coming up in about two weeks, with two other hearings in the month following. Hearings are located in North, Central and South New Jersey, at public sites (e.g., schools, a college). Contact info for questions, etc. are on the notices.
Public hearings notice Public hearing notice - Word
1/13/09: Cyberbullying Report
A NY Times article summarizing a report about to issued from a Harvard-led national task force on cyberbullying makes the point (as Nancy Willard and other experts have made before) that the threat of sexual predation on-line and on social networking sites specifically is more limited than is typically believed (though any incident is of concern, of course), but that cyberbullying (peer harassment, including on a sexual basis) is the much more common threat. This finding seems consistent with the small number of good studies previously done. Here is the article.
Task Force Report 1-09
1/6/09: Updates - Apology
Apologies for the long interval (11-23-08 thru today) between notes here. There is much to report. I'll write a very short, informal notice at the moment, then fill in with longer pieces and attachments in notes to follow:
(1) A change of great importance to anti-bullying advocates in NJ is that Frank Vespa-Papaleo has left the directorship of the state's Division on Civil Rights, as of 12/31/08. We assume this also means that Frank will no longer participate on the Commission (on Bullying in Schools). The Division is ably represented on the Commission by Frank's associate Esther Nevarez, who has attended meetings to this point for Frank (who was working hard on the Civil Unions Commission, along other work). (A longer note about Frank's work will be posted here shortly.) We should look forward to the appointment of a new Director, and hope for equally strong leadership and action on bullying and related issues - which is only to be expected and very likely for anyone who leads DCR.
(2) The Commission (on Bullying) had a third meeting in December and has a fourth meeting coming up next week (January 12th). The core work is still going on - trying to work out a set of recommendations for strengthening NJ's approach to bullying, through law and through a school-based initiative. Public hearings are now scheduled (I'll post a notice about the hearings, with all details, very shortly - a notice is coming from the Advocate's office and will be widely distributed.)
(3) There have been mutliple interesting news stories, and professional publications about bullying - those will be posted shortly as well. A recent highlight of those (which I'll post) is a report of the American Psychological Association's Zero Tolerance Task Force, which essentially affirmed the relatively uselessness (and occasional harm) zero tolerance approaches do, both in terms of bullying and in terms of fair treatment of students and impact on school climate. (Article posted below.)
Zero tol APA 12-08
The second meeting of the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools was held on November 18th. The focus in this meeting was the core work: (1) discussing the legal issues associated with childhood bullying in preparation for recommending to the legislature any changes in law or legal procedure which would strengthen support for bullied children and their families, while protecting all those involved; and (2) discussing a new state initiative on bullying to be conducted conjointly by DOE (Department of Education) and AG (Attorney General's office). To that end, two subcomittees, one for each of these tasks, were created and each group met, then reported back to the full group. Logistics were necessarily addressed as usual: a schedule of all remaining meetings (through July 20th) was decided upon - meetings will take place variously at NJ Principals and Supervisors headquarters in Monroe or NJ Law Center in New Brunswick. Given the central role of DOE and AG, staff of each of those offices will begin attending the meetings, so that representatives of each agency can participate on both subcommittees. The chairperson again emphasized that most of the work will have to be done between the meetings, given the tight schedule: The full report for both aspects must be finalized and turned in by July 20th. That means a draft of the report will have to be ready by April. The public hearings are taking place between January and March. It was decided there will be four public hearings - the first three will be in traditional individual testimony format, one for each NJ region; the fourth meeting will be a series of focus groups. The Public Advocate's office is sending our a press release and letter, including by email, to all identified child-focused agencies and organizations in NJ, asking for input by letter and email, as well as a notification of the upcoming hearings. Meanwhile, Commission members are reaching out to various parties for expertise beyond that represented in the Commission itself.
(2) Workplace Bullying:
A conference on workplace bullying was held at NJ Law Center today. The conference, co-sponsored by the Organization of Chinese Americans and the NJ State Bar Foundation, was excellent. Featured speakers included Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, psychologists who are the best known national advocates on this issue, and NJ Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, already known for her advocacy on childhood bullying issues and currently sponsoring in NJ a healthy workplace bill, with input from the Namie's organization (Healthy Workplace Institute). For me, a striking take-home point was the way in which the adult anti-bullying movement seems very clear that the only way changes in workplace bullying behavior will occur is through changes in law. Specifically, changes in law which increase the potential burden and risk to employers of having bullying occur is seen as the main factor in getting employers to make the necessary changes in the culture and climate of the workplace. It is especially interesting that advocates such as the Namies take this position (if I understood them correctly), given the similarities perceived between workplace bullying and school (childhood) bullying. That is, in workplace bullying, just as in our understanding of childhood bullying, the phenomenon is seen as primarily a function of the environment (culture and climate), as a behavior which is modeled in adult relations, as a behavior which is implicitly encouraged and sustained by inadequate prevention and response on the part of those responsible for the environment (workplace or school), etc. etc. Their clarity on this issue makes a childhood bullying advocate wonder whether the belief that this issue can be adequately addressed by schools without lawsuits and other means of enhancing 'burden and risk' is a naive view. A chilling side-comment made at the conference was the observation by one expert presenter (in a less formal Q and A segment) that even after a successful anti-bullying system has been put in place in a workplace, the work done is typically undone whenever a new CEO and set of executives come in. This is work well worth doing - advocates in both the childhood and workplace bullying arena agree that addressing bullying is a matter of morality, rights and integrity, so the work must of course be done. But despite the slow progress made and one's optimistic nature, the task is daunting.
11/13/08: Commission Update
So the first meeting of the new Commission on Bullying in Schools was October 20th. That meeting was mainly occupied with introductions to the task and logistics, including setting up subsequent meeting dates/times, selecting a chairperson, discussing structure (e.g., subcommittees), sharing (among the 14 commissioners, all of whom were present) concerns about childhood bullying, from personal/professional and organizational perspectives. Only the next meeting was set - it's November 18th 4pm. More time will have to be used at the Nov 18th meeting to set up the remaining meetings, including the public hearings. The Commission was given a 9-month life by the state legislation which set it up. So the Commission ends on July 20th. There will be a meeting monthly between now and then (e.g., mid-Dec, mid-Jan, etc.).
There of those meetings will occur on days on which there will also be a public hearing. The legislation requires (and it's a good idea of course) public hearings for north, central and south New Jersey (one hearing each). The dates and locations for those hearings are to be determined. The state's Public Advocate office handles all logistics for the Commission, including setting up and managing the hearings.
The Commission's main work product will be a written report which (mainly) makes recommendations to the state legislature about changes in law which ought to be made to strengthen NJ's response to childhood bullying, and which proposes and details a new state initiative on childhood bullying to be managed by the Department of Education and the Attorney General's office (both of which are represented on the Commission). (To read the full law, click here https://wwwnet1.state.nj.us/GOV/APPT/GOV_APPT_WEB/Default.aspx.)
Most of the work will have to be done, of course, between Commission meetings, through individual reading/thinking and discussions, including between Commission members, mostly conducted by phone and email, but with smaller (e.g., sub-committee) or even smaller (e.g., one-to-one) meetings. Testimony at the public hearings (which will be recorded/transcribed, I'm told), including submission of supplemental written materials, is one type of input which can (and needs to) influence the report. But much more input is needed of course.
One source of that input is the entire literature on childhood bullying and related issues which is already available (books, journal articles, etc.). And even though scientific attention to chidlhood bullying is arguably only about 35 years old (and in the U.S. even newer - perhaps ten years, post-Columbine), there is a fair amount of such literature to review. (Fortunately, many of all of us, visitors to this website included, have been reading that literature as it emerged, for all these years.) Another source of input is expert opinion (hopefully from experts who have also been closely following the evolving science). So lots of phone conversations and outreach to experts needs to (and is) taking place. The voices of parents of bullied children, and of children themselves, is of course of great importance. Again, those of us involved in this work, in addition to our own experiences as parents - and survivors - have been hearing from children and parents about these issues for all these years, and the public hearings will hopefully provide more of those voices.
At the end of the day, there is far from a guarantee that this work (the Commission's) will produce significant change, which is not said to minimize in any way the credit deserved by the organizations which helped bring this issue to the legislature and the legislators' and Governor's good work in producing this law and establishing the Commission. It is just the reality that many Commission reports are produced, but not all such reports are concretized and enacted, for many reasons (money being only one of them). The quality of the report is one factor, the extent to which the public supports such work and expects recommendations to be followed is another factor, and circumstances (e.g., an economic downturn affecting public interest and government priorities, and available rseources) is another. The Commission on Bullying in Schools has begun and there is lots of work to do. Let's see what happens!
10/29/08: Reminder: Coalition Meeting This Monday (11/3)
Here is the program for the upcoming NJ Coalition meeting this Monday at NJ Law Center (courtesy of NJ State Bar Foundation). The meeting is, as usual, limited to representatives of organizations which address or are concerned about childhood bullying. (The space is small and the meeting is not designed for individual education but primarily for updates and networking.) If you would like to attend (there is no cost), you must RSVP (by Friday morning 10/31 at the latest) to Stuart Green at 908 522-2581.
Coalition meeting 11-3 program
10/29/08: OKLAHOMA SURVEY AND A HIGH QUALITY REPORT
A report of a survey of children conducted in Oklahoma in 2005 and an accompanying report just issued in 2008 (not sure why the gap between the year the survey was conducted - apparently 2005 - and issuance of the report, apparently a few weeks ago, but ... ) just came to my attention (thanks to Dr Michael Greene). I haven't seen the survey instrument itself as yet (though it's reportedly of high quality, a modification of Olweus' , and may be useful for NJ purposes) and the survey results are not surprising, essentially finding again (in Oklahoma) roughtly similar results to those found by survey after survey in the US (and some other countries) over the years. But the short summary report accompanying the survey is also nicely done, neatly stating key elements of a systemic approach to bullying in schools, with a solid introduction. Worth looking at.
Oklahoma report 10-08
10/23/08: COMMISSION BEGINS!
The NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools has finally begun it's work. The first meeting occurred on Monday, 10/20 at the office of the Public Advocate in Trenton. All 14 members of the Commission were present. (For the full list of members, click here https://wwwnet1.state.nj.us/GOV/APPT/GOV_APPT_WEB/Default.aspx). Organizations represented include: Department of Education, NJ School Boards Association, NJ State Bar Foundation, NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, NJ Education Association, P-FLAG and GLSEN, Anti-Defamation League, NJ Division on Civil Rights, Princeton Center for Leadership Training, Arab-American Family Center of NJ and Rider University, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Center, and the Coalition. While there are numerous important child-focused and bullying-focused organizations not represented - the Coalition has had, at various points, over 25 different organizations participating - the Commission members were those appointed by the Governor and legislators, which created the Commission. As previously noted on this page, the Commission has what seems a very short time (nine months from 10/20) to produce a meaningful, comprehensive and practical report on bullying. As per the law's requirements, the report must recommend to the legislature what changes in law and regulation are still needed to support a strengthened approach to childhood bullying in NJ, and the report must propose in detail a new state initiative on bullying in NJ. While it is the responsibility of the Commission to carry out these tasks, it would not be possible to accomplish them without much input from the organizations who are not represented on the Commission, from NJ experts on bullying and related issues who are not Commission members and from the community, including parents, children, school staff, and others. This is not to say that the Commission lacks such expertise - there is a wide range of useful background and expertise in education, law, advocacy and community work with children represented in the Commission's membership. The first meeting was primarily about logistics, including planning for the public hearings (there will be three, on each in north, south and central NJ), and for setting up the necessary sub-committees (no way a group of 14 can efficiently address all the necessary issues meeting as a whole). Among the issues likely to be addressed in sub-committees are 'data', 'training' and 'legal issues.' It seems evident the Commission will need to look at what other states have done/are doing and reach out to a wide range of national and international experts on bullying. For further information on the Commission's work, or to provide suggestions for the work, at this initial point, contact the Department of the Public Advocate (at email@example.com or 609 826-5090) or contact Stuart Green, who is chairing the Commission, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 908 522-2581).
10/7/08: NEW GLSEN CAMPAIGN:
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), which has a national as well as NJ organizational structure, is doing some of the most important, and leading, work on bullying. What makes their work so impressive is not only the quality but the range: they do it all: research, public education, legislative advocacy and specific school-based programming projects. Their latest effort targets an important aspect of the school (and community) environment - the use of the term 'gay' as a casual, negative descriptor for all types of things. Here's the NY Times article about the new initiative:
9/26/08: COMMISSION UPDATE!
The first meeting of the Commission is finally scheduled - for October 20th. The NJ Public Advocate's office is handling the logstics and facilitating the process. As of that first meeting, it will be possible - I think - to have at least an initial sense of what the Commission's work might yield (no guarantees, despite the importance). We've therefore scheduled an NJ Coalition meeting for November 3rd. The meeting will include a brief report from the Commission meeting (by Stuart Green) and feature a talk by youth violence expert Dr Michael Greene on the issues an initiative on bullying in NJ must address. We appreciate, as usual, the support of Leisa-Anne Smith (also a Comission member) and NJ State Bar Foundation (host of the meeting). As usual, the Coalition meeting is primarily for organizational networking/information sharing but if you/your organization hasn't received an email invitiation by Monday, feel free to contact (908 522-2581 or email@example.com).
8/28/08: New Research!
See the 'Research' page on this site for summaries or copies of articles from a special issue of the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health just published. The journal did an exceptional job of obtaining review articles from many of the major researchers in the field. There are many particular issues addressed by the various articles - perhaps the key one, in terms of an overview of where we are from an evidence-based perspective, is the article by Rigby and Slee which addresses interventions. As the article concludes, we have a beginning understanding of what measures may effectively address bullying but the results vary pretty widely, according to such factors as the quality of implementation, buy-in by school staff, ages of the children addressed, severity of the bullying, etc. Much more effort to intervene and study the interventions is needed. Given the importance of the issue, the level of funding and extent of support - financial and technical - available to schools is currently trivial.
8/21/08: New 'News' items:
1. Juvenile justice system in Texas
An editorial in the NY Times two weeks ago (? date) about juvenile justice conditions in Texas. The trigger for the editorial is release of a report on Texas Youth Commission facilities which notes the lack of appropriate education and care for incarcerated youth. This is especially so because of the large number of youth who have special learning needs and "emotional disturbance" and who not only receive very poor treatment in these facilities but arguably ended up in these facilities in large part because of poor services at their local schools, ending with being "dumped" (the editorial says) out of those schools and "onto streets," with their final destination being youth facilities. What struck me about this editorial is having read this year the previous news reports of conditions in the Texas system, which eloquently and clearly described the rampant violence (much of it bullying) occurring in this system, both in terms of harsh treatment by peers and harsh treatment by staff. This series of reports - and the reality of child life in that system - is a classic example of treatment of children which is bullying but not labeled as such, and additionally highlights the importance of providing adequate support of children in need. These issues ought to be - and are - concerns for all those concerned about childhood bullying. There is a thin (if non-existent) line between harsh treatment of children in our insitutions generally and a more narrow focus on "bullying in schools." One wonders how children are treated in NJ's youth facilities - much better one assumes, but it's worth thinking about.
2. A model for the Commission on Bullying in Schools?
For those of us awaiting the start of work by the NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools, it was very interesting to note the passage and signing by Gov. Corzine of recent health care reform laws. The laws (according to an 8/9 article in the Star Ledger and an acompanying editorial) "put into practice several key recommendaitons made by the NJ Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources." One bill creates "an early warning system" which allows the NJ Dept of Health and Sr Services to monitor the financial health of the state's hospitals and "take action before a crisis strikes." Another law creates a special fund ($44 million) to provide "support and a mechanism" for working with hospitals to address service problems. Another law requires psychiatric hospitals to conduct public meetings for the communities served. Another law requires hospital board members to undergo extensive training in their "roles and responsibilities." What's of interest about these laws, from an anti-bullying advocate perspective, is not of course anything about hospitals. It's the way in which one can easily see how such approaches would be helpful in addressing bullying. It would be interesting if - analogously - we had law which:
- further empowered the State Department of Education (e.g.,) to monitor each school district/school to identify the status of anti-bullying and student-support efforts "before a crisis strikes."
- created a special fund to provide "support and a mechanism" for work with schools to address bullying problems.
- required public meetings or reports to communities on the status of anti-bullying and student support efforts by schools.
- and required school board members to have intensive and specific education about bullying and peer violence. etc. etc.
And of course it's not without interest or importance that these laws flowed from the work of a state Commission!
8/5/08: Commission Update:
It's now been about nine months since the NJ law establishing the Commission on Bullying in Schools was passed, and almost that long since the date passed on which the Commission's work was set (by the law) to begin. It's been a frustrating wait. I'm sure in the interim those appointed to the Commission have continued working on bullying-related issues for their own organizations and interests, and hopefully also doing preparatory thinking about how to develop the state initiative which is one of the Commission's goals. (The other job of the Commission is to recommend changes or additional approaches to bullying legally and legislatively - see below, for the law.) I've met individually, whenever possible, with individuals appointed as the names became known and with contacts in organizations who had not yet made recommendations. Once the Commission officially starts, the law sets a very short time period of only nine months for doing the work - whether this can be extended remains to be seen, but I'm not counting on it. So 'pre-work' before the Commission begins, seemed important to do. (As those of you involved with the Coalition know, many discussions about a state anti-bullying initiative and even development of materials which could be used, has already been done - but the Commission itself must decide how to build on existing efforts.)
I remain excited by the possibility we can do substantial good. But there is no denying the barriers, including a variable track record for state Commissions (I'm told by those with much more experience in these matters), and reasonable questions about whether and how what the Commission recommends will be meaningfully enacted. Nonetheless, I'm grateful to Garden State Equality and others involved in the development of the law, and to the legislators who enacted it, and I'm hopeful we can do meaningful good.
Having said all that, we still haven't begun! So here's where we are - I think it's important you know. Once the Governor's office is satisfied it has all the members identified, hopefully this week, the Advocate's office will begin the process of contacting everyone and setting up a structure for meetings and the work. As a member of the public, and/or even more so if you have specific bullying-related experience/expertise, you can and should expect to have input. One way to do that is to begin communicating (even more) with those appointed. (Once the Commission begins, outreach for input, in terms of public hearings at least, is mandated.) You can link to the latest list of announced appointments from our website, or you can go directly to the Governor's site. (The Governor's page shows several organizations' appointees as missing, but I'm told - by the organizations - that all persons have already been recommended, and are only awaiting the Governor's office recognition/appointment.)
On this site, www.njbullying.org, on this page, scrolling down a bit, you'll find the Commission page link),
or go directly to:
Here is the law, for those who haven't seen it, which includes the Commission's mission:
Commission on Bullying in Schools
Commission on Bullying in Schools
P.L. 2007, c.303
The commission shall study and make recommendations regarding: the implementation and effectiveness of school bullying laws and regulations; the adequacy of legal remedies available to students who are victims of bullying and their parents and guardians; the adequacy of legal protections available to teachers who are in compliance with school bullying policies; training of teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement personnel in responding to, investigating and reporting incidents of bullying; funding issues related to the implementation of the State school bullying laws and regulations; and the implementation of a possible collaboration between the Department of Education and the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety on a Statewide initiative against school bullying.
The commission shall consist of 14 members as follows: the Commissioner of the Department of Education, or his designee; the Director of the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety, or his designee; the Governor shall appoint eight public members: one representative of the New Jersey Education Association, one representative of the New Jersey School Boards Association, one representative of the Anti-Defamation League, one representative of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and four public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools; the President of the Senate shall appoint two public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools; and the Speaker of the General Assembly shall appoint two public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools. The members shall be appointed within 30 days of enactment. The commission shall conduct a minimum of three public hearings: one in the northern portion of the State; one in the central portion of the State; and one in the southern portion of the State. The commission shall report its findings and recommendations, along with any legislation it desires to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, to the Governor and the Legislature in accordance with section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1). The commission shall issue its final report no later than nine months after final appointment of its members. The commission shall expire upon submission of its final report to the Governor and the Legislature.
NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
(908) 522-2581 / cell: (908) 447-0477
7/21/08: Children 'Overestimate' Bullying?
A recent Star Ledger story reported on a recently published survey which had as one of its findings that while NJ children thought more than 3/4 of all children in their schools were involved in bullying, 'only' 20% or so (if I recall) actually were (directly involved in bullying). So the headline noted this 'overestimation' or apparent excess of fear about bullying. (I'll post the articles themselves, including the study, when I can.) I was called by a reporter to comment. Here is the (email query and response):
Dear Mr. Green,
I'm a reporter for The Star-Ledger and I'm working on a piece about a new survey of perceptions of bullying by New Jersey middle school students. The survey found that the kids overestimated the prevalence of bullying in their schools. While they reported they did not engage in bullying they estimated that it happens frequently in the schools by someone else. The authors feel that, A, this could lead to more bullying or reluctance to intervene because kids think it happens so frequently, and B, that school should recast their message indicate most kids are against bullying and peer pressure can be exerted against bullies, and C, that the anti bullying messages themselves might be responsible for kids overestimating bullying in school.
Here is my response:
I haven't seen the survey yet so I can't judge its accuracy, but let's assume it's good data (surveys commonly are not good data, but ... ):
This one survey would not be consistent with most or all previous evidence (mostly survey data, admittedly), of which I'm aware. That either means most or all of the previous data was not accurate, or that the current survey is not accurate, or that something important has changed.
- It's unlikely tho still possible that most or all of the previous data was (collectively) not accurate.
- In terms of the accuracy of the current survey, the issue is what is the basis for comparison? That is, the rate at which kids report bullying occurs (in the present survey) is obviously being compared to something else (e.g., a more accurate report about the rate at which bullying is actually occurring). I'm not aware that we have any good data, in NJ or anywhere else, about the actual rate at which bullying is occurring (and such reports themselves depend on how bullying is defined, who's conducting the data, whether the data collection is anonymous or not, etc. etc.). So what is the idea of kids over-estimating bullying based on (what comparison)? From what you wrote, it seems as if the rate at which kids report bullying occurring is being matched against kids' report of how much/often they themselves engage in bullying. If that's all the comparison is, it's not much to report. Kids are of course likely to respond no (or to minimize) if asked if and how much they themselves bully. It's not even clear that kids will report accurately how much they are bullied. Again, it depends on how the data is collected, the questions are formulated, etc. etc.
- If something important has changed (i.e., kids now perceive and/or report more bullying than is actually occurring), what could have happened?
- Well, it's possible that bullying has become such a media focus and parent/community concern at present, that the perception of bullying occurring (by kids or anyone else) has now exceeded the actual rate (assuming we know it) at which bullying occurs in school. But even if this is so, it does not mean anything especially good for the lives of those kids in the school who are being bullied. Schools generally are not yet systematically and adequately taking such great care of kids being bullied, nor especially systematic or effective steps to prevent that bullying from occurring. Nor are schools currently over-committing resources to bullying, nor over-focusing on it (in their actions). So it's not as if - based on this survey, e.g. - schools can now cut back on something they weren't doing enough of in the first place. In other words, I don't see much reason to stop pursuing the goal of having schools effectively address bullying because of this report.
- However, there is one important implication of such a result (the survey), worth thinking about. We know, from some recent research done on problematic alcohol use in college, that the perception by college students that "everyone" (peers) drinks can apparently be a factor which leads some students to drink more or more often than they otherwise would have. As I'm sure you know, this is complicated research, needs a lot of replication and may or may not be actually true, as many have pointed out. But anyway, based on some findings that suggest this may be true (more drinking if college students think 'everyone drinks'), some have suggested that college campaigns to decrease drinking remind students that most college students don't drink or get into trouble with alcohol (e.g., binge drink). It remains to be seen, as far as I know, whether such new campaigns, with this slant, actually decrease college student drinking. Anyway, if the middle school situation is similar (may or may not be), it might be good to remind students that most kids don't bully (and certainly not hype how common bullying is.
That's a reasonable suggestion. Nancy Willard, who writes extensively about cyberbullying and internet safety, has, for example, pointed out that there's a lot of hype around the danger of the internet for kids, though this is not to say there aren't some real risks and dangerous situations which do occur. I agree w her about this. It may also be true about bullyinjg.
- But so what? The big danger today is not that we overhype or overestimate bullying. The real, actual danger - which currently exists in all schools of which I'm aware - is that we do not do enough to prevent and address bullying (at whatever rate it occurs) and do not do anywhere near enough to adequately protect and support vulnerable kids.
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
6/27/08: News about Bullying (That Doesn't Speak Its Name) ...
Every day in newspapers across the land stories appear which are about bullying - but the reading public would never know it. That's because the word "bullying" doesn't appear in the headline - or anywhere else in the story! Therapists often use the concept of "the elephant in the room" to refer to issues of which everyone in a family is aware (e.g., substance use problems) but no one wants to openly acknowledge. That would make bullying an "invisible elephant." That is, the issue is present and central but no one sees it as such. Examples abound. For example, in the New York Times, there are bullying-related stories almost daily - but since the word bullying isn't used, it would be easy to miss. For example, a story the in the Times the other day was about school programs for gifted/talented children. The story described disparities in how children were being admitted to such programs. From an anti-bullying advocate's point of view (mine, in this case), the bullying-related issue was obvious (but not raised in the story): Here's a letter sent to the Times about it:
To the Editor:
Disparities in "gifted and talented" program admission are inevitable ("Gifted Programs in the City are Less Diverse" 6/19/08). In addition to limited access, the existence of these programs in schools inherently mischaracterizes and minimizes the needs of students not labeled gifted and talented. Schools with gifted and talented programs implicitly divide students into three groups: gifted/talented, special needs and those in the middle range. But only those designated gifted and talented receive consistently positive special attention and opportunities. In fact, all students are gifted and talented in various ways - if one doubts this, ask a child's parent. And every student needs "extra" or "special" support to maximize those gifts, at whatever level. Schools are capable of providing positive support and enhanced opportunities to every student and should be held responsible for doing so. Instead, students not perceived as gifted or talented often stand in the shadows in their own school.
Director, NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
While some may disagree with the specific point of view (in this case, questioning the existence of gifted/talented programs in a system which does not provide equal enrichment for all students), this is an issue we ought to address.
Another example was in the Times Metro Section (B1) on 6/25. The headline was: "Holding Back Young Students: Is Program a Gift or Stima?" The article describes a program in the East Ramapo school district in which 12% of its first graders are held back to repeat the grade, but with enhanced support and teaching. As you'd expect from the comment on gifted/talented programs, we're in favor of enhanced support and teaching (for all students). In fact, most of what the article describes, from the point of view of parents and children, as well as teachers and administrators, is positive outcomes of the program. But being held back, as the article describes, also brings "stigma." Just to be clear, the stigma essentially consists of other students "picking on" the student held back (though there is also an issue of the student's self-perception). The problem, from an anti-bullying perspective, is that the "stigma" issue is implicitly presented as if nothing could be done about it. There is no mention in the article of this easily anticipated and inevitable aspect of the (beneficial, as reported) program being addressed. That's what's wrong (assuming the article is accurate/complete). Anyone planning to implement such a 'held back' program (or any other program which targets specific groups of students for "special" services) needs to concurrently plan to address (and prevent) any stigmatizing (bullying) behavior on the part of other students. (This would be done in the usual recommended ways - see the rest of this site for a hundred pointers on how to do this).
More examples of "the invisible elephant" to be posted soon...
6/19/08: IMPORTANT (EVEN 'URGENT'!): I'm very concerned that it's now been almost six months and the Commission on Bullying in Schools hasn't yet begun its work. In the law itself, it was stated that all members of the Commission should be appointed within 30 days. We are obviously far past that point. All of the 'direct appointees' (citizens appointed by the Governor) have been named, but the remaining five agency representatives have not yet been. The agencies concerned are Division on Civil Rights, Department of Education, NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, School Boards Association and NJ Education Association. It is the Governor's office which must appoint those representatives, I believe (though I assume the persons appointed would be administrators or staff of those agencies who have been identitified/recommended by their particular agency). It is also the Governor's office which must schedule the first meeting of the Commission and decide on other aspects of the Commission's functioning. Once the first meeting occurs, the Commission has (by law) only nine months to do its job - a very short time for a big task, though lots of prep work has been done - in effect - by many of the Commission members and agencies. Nonetheless, all issues relevant to the creation of a new state initiative and to recommendation to the legislature about new law must be examined during this nine-month period. In addition, at least three public hearings must be held (one for each part of the state - North, Central, South), and (one assumes) the Commission is certainly going to want to call on various experts for advice. That's a lot to do once the clock starts ticking. It's a big task - yet I'm very eager to get started on this because there's the hope and potential that we can make a difference in the lives of bullied children and their families, beyond what's already being done by many good people and agencies. As members of the public, you may want to contact your own government representatives and/or those you may know in state government, or the Governor's office, and ask about the scheduled start of the Commission's work. Let's get started!
6/16/08: New book by Ken Rigby!
Here's another book very worth mentioning - it came out in 2007 but hasn't been mentioned on this site (though the author has been). It's
Children and Bullying: How Parents and Educators Can Reduce Bullying at School by Ken Rigby (Paperback - Dec 19, 2007). Rigby is the Australian researcher (and interventionist) who's been at the heart of so much of the good work (especially research and analysis) that's been done on bullying over the past twenty years. He somehow manages to pull off the difficult feat of being a passionate advocate for anti-bullying work, a supporter (in effect, though he might deny it a bit) of the whole school approach (not because he endorses Olweus' approach over others, specifically, but just because he - rightly - points out the benefits of approaching the issue of bullying systemically) and a very rational analyst and presenter of what's known about bullying. And he does this all, in his writing, is a supportive, appealing tone, with great clarity, which also recognizes the difficulty of dealing with bullying. He's written a number of books before this one, including one of the most important, a work with Peter Smith and Debra Pepler, Bullying in School, which came out in '04 and summarized the research to that point, and several guides (similar to the new one). This latest one, though, is especially good in reviewing the issue. He's addressing, as he points out, the two groups with the highest stake in adderssing bullying. Rigby is, above all, rational and reliable. The points he makes, the resources and websites he recommends, his reporting of what we know are highly evidence-based, expert and reasonable. In terms of the whole schools approach and Olweus' model, Rigby accurately points out that there have been Olweus-model implementations which haven't produced the very good results Olweus himself (implementing his own model, of course) have achieved. This even includes an implementation by Olweus' US associate, Sue Limber, in South Carolina. In the past, in talks and writing, Rigby's suggested that where whole-school implementations have produced poor results, lack of teacher buy-in (probably due to inadequate attention to this factor during prep for implementation) could be the explanation. However, as Rigby rightly points out, we need to study more and know more about how to prevent and address bullying. I especially like in this book his listing of "pro's" and "con's" about using certain approaches which (inevitably) imply that the targeted child's behavior has contributed to the bullying, or which rely on "shaming" approaches to the bullying child (and which we don't advocate using). This is a good book, a good guide for paents and educators, and a welcome resource.
6/3/08: New book on cyberbullying!
A new book by on cyberbullying ("Cyberbullying," by Kolwalski, Limber and Agatston) recently came out. See the attached review for a good critique. The book is widely available in paperback though the review (below) indicates (I think inaccurately) that the intended audience is primarily adademic. As the review indicates, the book can be useful for parents (and schools) looking for guidance. This is not surprising in that one of the authors is Susan Limber, PhD, one of Olweus' major U.S. associates and the lead consultant for the HRSA website (www.stopbullyingnow.org). The endorsements on the back of the paperback edition, from Dr Dan Olweus and from Stan Davis, are an indicator of the quality of the work. The book provides a useful guide to the legal issues surrounding bullying, a good table of bullying laws and is in general a useful review for all audiences. The short introduction, by John Halligan, whose son Ryan was one of the first publicly known cyberbullying-related deaths (due to the important continuing work his father has been doing), is the most powerful part of the book and useful for its insights in its own right. It sets the tone for another (we now have a few) useful work. This and Willard's book (Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats) make a good tandem (and Willard is well used as a resource for this work). An interesting point the reviewer (a psychiatrist, I believe) makes is that cyberbullying and 'offline' bullying (school-based, mainly) may be different phenomena in some fundamental ways, which has big implications for addressing it effectively. On the other hand, the harm cyberbullying does and the way in which it does it will seem very familiar to a target of bullying generally. Also, the key understanding contributed by Olweus - that adults are primarily responsible for the bullying which occurs between children - seems as applicable to cyberbullying as to bullying. Anyway, here's the review:
Book review - cyberbullying
6/3/08: Good cyberbullying article
Here's an article from E-School News about cyberbullying which does a very good job of reviewing some aspects of the issue, in the course of a story mainly about a girl's cyberbullying-related suicide and the way in which the girl's mother has found great meaning in working to address the issue. The death of Megan Meier of Missouri has become another of the tragedies which draw attention to bullying and unfortunately one of the only type of event that ultimately creates a change in societal attitudes and actions. Her situation had the unique aspect of an adult apparently being the person targeting the girl (in this case by creating a false persona of an adolescent boy on a social networking site and using that to attract and then harass and verbally assault the girl). The article benefits from comments by Nancy Willard, who has become (in the view of many) the country's leading advocate and expert (as a lawyer) on cyberbullying. The quality of her comments is very strong, including her understanding that some of the talk and outreach to kids about cyberbullying can indeed be - as she calls it - "fearmongering" and not helpful. Here's the article:
ESchool News cyberbullying article
5/23/08: Two new studies
Two items I'll flag here as well as on the Research page (though both of them are studies): One study is about smoking but can be interpreted as strongly supporting the view (ours!) that bullying, among many other human behaviors, is not primarily a function of individual pathology but the social environment. One study is about how people quit smoking, finding that quitting and smoking are social phenomena. That is, as the NY Times science reporter put it, " ... stopping (smoking) is seldom an individual decision." The study reportedly (I only read the Times article, not yet the study) convincingly shows that people start and quit smoking in groups, rather than on their own. If the group quits and a member doesn't, the member (e.g., one friend among several) becomes more isolated. In terms of smoking, this is bad news for those who smoke to self-medicate depression or other conditions, for example, or for whom smoking is part of a pattern of addictive behaviors (because they become more isolated, which is bad for them in all kinds of ways). But the most important implication is that interventions which aim to help people quit need to address the social environment, more than just target individuals. (See the NY Times article, below. I'll read, then post the study itself, published in New England Journal of Medicine, when I can.) Social smoking, NY Times article The second study, specific to bullying, involves about 700 students in three Korean schools, and tests hypotheses generated by three different theories of criminal behavior. The study background (e.g., criminal theories) is specialized/complicated of course, but the finding of the study is again supportive of thinking of bullying in environmental (rather than individual psychopathological) terms: that bullying is signficantly related to what the authors call 'school-generated strains' (strains = stressors), including teacher behavior. This one requires more detailed reading - I'll post the study abstract here, then obtain the full article and discuss it further after reading. School strain and bullying 5-08
5/22/08: A few new items on the Research page (clickable down left side of this page).
5/22/08: Cell phones and bullying - a school takes action
Here is an article about a junior high school in Santa Fe which has confiscated "dozens" of cell phones in order to limit distribution of nude photographs of two students. The students had reportedly sent the photos to friends, who then sent it to others. In that sense, it is not the typical cyber-bullying scenario, in which such a photo is snapped without the target's knowledge (e.g., in a locker room) and then distributed. But the actions are certainly harmful in exactly the ways typical of cyberbullying, even ways of which the girls might not be aware (e.g., as the article points out, the possibility that the photos end up on the internet and even more widely - and lastingly - distributed). The most significant part of the story is the school's action. Despite concerns about privacy and property, the school felt (rightly) empowered to seize the phones. This act, which appropriately recognizes the school's responsibility to protect the girls, is to be applauded and hopefully will encourage other schools to take such actions and not be limited by the perceived liability or sense of incursion which schools sometimes cite to justify not taking necessary actions.
Santa Fe cell phones seized
5/19/08: Boy Scouts address bullying, but ...
A story which came across on Google News this morning (attached, below) is about the new Boy Scout Handbook, which (according to the report) now discusses bullying and requires Boy Scouts to learn how to address it. While every movement in this direction (addressing bullying) is to be applauded, and is also an indicator of the continuing positive societal understanding of the importance of the problem, this particular development is complicated. Gender identity and expression is perhaps the most common of all of the characteristics which are targeted for bullying/harassment. Not only addressing incidents of bullying when they occur but preventing bullying from occurring is the ideal orientation to the issue. Perhaps the most critical component of preventing bullying is very actively increasing support for those children we know are likely to be targeted. How does the Boys Scouts, as an organization, do this effectively, given its history and continuing practice regarding acceptance and support for all gender identity and expression? I'm sure Boy Scout leaders struggle with this issue, but it would be of great interest to hear a conversation about this which involved the leaders of the organization.
Boys Scouts address bullying
5/9/08: Bullying as child abuse
The concept of bullying as a form of child abuse (or, more specifically, but no less serious, neglect) is logical, implicitly. Bullying is significant harm which occurs to children who are in the care of adults with caregiving and supervisory responsibility ('in loco parentis', if I have the Latin correct, as the school's responsibility is sometimes described by courts), and since most bullying is a function of the environments those adults create and maintain, the caregiving adults are responsible for addressing it. When bullying occurs, it can therefore be seen as a form of - at least - neglect. But it is still uncommon to see bullying referred to a child abuse in anti-bullying efforts and media coverage. That's why the attached (see below) article about an effort in England is notable.
England anti-bullying effort 5-08
5/9/08: See news article on 'Cyberbullying' page (clickable on left side of this page) about Facebook agreement to curb cyberbullying.
5/8/08: New articles on the 'Research' page (see clickables down left side of this page). It's just the articles themselves which are posted, for the moment - they were selected from a database search which turned up 57 significant articles published in '07 and so far in '08. I'll post comments on the articles shortly.
5/6/08: Status of the new Commission (still awaiting start)
This is the current status of the Commission on Bullying Schools, you can access the status website by going to the
Boards, Authorities and Commissions page and clicking on the
Commission on Bullying in Schools link. You'll see that 6 of the appointments are still officially 'unannounced', though it wouldn't be hard to speculate on who some of the appointees will be (e.g., one appointee will be Director of Division on Civil Rights, which is Frank Vespa-Papaleo, or his designee - in any case, each person very welcome and eagerly awaited, whomever is appointed - lots of work to do). Here's the list, as of this morning.
||Public Member 1/NJ Education Assoc. Rep.
||Public Member 2/NJ School Boards Assoc. Rep.
||Public Member 4/NJ Principals and Supervisors Assoc. Rep.
|Ms. Bassima Mustafa
||Public Member 7/Gov
|Dr. Stuart Green
||Public Member 6/Gov
|Ms. Leisa-Anne Smith
||Public Member 5/Gov
|Mr. Etzion Neuer
||Public Member 3/Anti-Defamation League Rep.
|Nadia S. Ansary Ph.D.
||Public Member 8/Gov
||Director of the Division on Civil Rights
||Commissioner of Department of Education
|Ms. Margo Saltzman
||Public Member 12/Assembly Speaker
|The Honorable Esther Fletcher
||Public Member 11/Assembly Speaker
||Public Member 10/Senate President
||Public Member 9/Senate President
5/5/08: Just posted on the 'Model Presentations' page, the powerpoint for the basic talk I give, including sections on Cyberbullying (relying heavily on Nancy Willard's Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats) and on Hazing (relying almost completely on the source I like best - Hank Nuwer and folks at stophazing.org).
5/1/08: The Massachusetts Department of Health just published a bullying prevention guide (linked, below). Their guide has actually been prepared since 2001, but experienced delays in funding and approval for distribution. (This is a situation with which we in New Jersey are familiar. A NJ guide developed by a task force has been available for a while but not yet distributed. Perhaps it can ill serve as a basis for a NJ guide which can be made available as part of the new state initiative which may result from the work of the new Commission on Bullying in Schools - see below.) In any case, we welcome this work by the Massachusetts group. On review, the new guide has a good perspective on bullying, as one would expect, emphasizing the systemic and ecological approach to the problem associated with Olweus and others. Many good points are clearly made - that adults are primarily responsible for bullying, especially through management of school culture and processes, that those bullied or at most risk receive increased support, and the deserved emphasis on supporting gender identity and expression. The guide developed by the Maine group (see link, below), which we've made available here before, still seems stronger, a comprehensive, useful compendium which is hard to top, but it's great to have this additional work and Massachusett's work is much appreciated.
Masschusetts Guide Maine Guide
4/28/08: Commission update (not yet started)
Update - NJ Commission on Bullying in Schools - as of today, the Governor's office indicates 6 of the 14 Commissioners have been appointed. The Commission's work can't get meaningfully started until the full group is available, though those appointed can certainly be in contact and start to develop relationships and share perspectives. Hopefully the formal work period will be able to start soon. Once the work starts, it'll be nine months until there's a report with recommendations for a state initiative and for additional law. We're counting the days ...
4/28/08: Bullying in the military
Yesterday's NY Times contained a good example of how many news stories each day are essentially about bullying, but the word 'bullying' is never used. (There were several examples in yesterday's Times, actually, but I'll just focus on one.) The story was about a solider (now at Fort Riley but in Iraq in 2005 and again in 2006-07) suing the army because of harsh treatment and threats he experienced after declaring his atheism. As the article makes clear, the behavior of officers (those in charge) was critical (as it always is, in bullying). The article also served to remind me (if I needed any) of the courage of those who are bullied, the strength it takes to bear up under it, let alone pursue and end to it, and justice. Here's the article:
Solider Sues Army
4/25/08: An imperfect tv appearance
This is a note of apology (or regret). I taped a tv show yesterday for a major network. The show was 1/2 hour on bullying and I had about 8 minutes. The prior guests were wonderfully articulate and made good points - a rep of an internet safety group and a teen who recently wrote a book about difficult experiences in school. I was completely inept (in my view). I was nervous (of course) and hadn't prepared enough (or done major venues enough). I tend to be long-winded, especially when I'm worked up about a topic (bullying!), so my responses were a poor fit for the short amount of time and quick pace of tv interviewing. What I regret is what feels like a missed opportunity to make important points for a wide audience. The apology is to Toms River School District. One of the questions I was asked was about the LW case. Instead of noting its most important aspects - the strength of LW and his mother in pursuing a just outcome for what he experienced, terrific decision by Frank Vespa-Papaleo of NJ Division on Civil Rights that schools should be held to a higher standard for protecting students, and the NJ Supreme Court decision which supported what Frank did - I only managed to get a fragment of my thoughts out. And the fragment focused on the way LW was treated over a long period in a Toms River school. For one thing, it's not up to me to characterize LW's treatment - I can state the facts of what he experienced (I didn't do so) but labeling it (e.g., as 'torture' or 'horrible' or similar) is really up to him, not me. Further, it's not fair to Toms River to do so. It's been several years since LW was in school there, and Toms River may by now have made significant efforts to change its approach to these problems. Schools should not be demonized when bullying occurs - they are social institutions run by people struggling to adapt and change, however upsetting the current state of things may sometimes be. It's easy to get angry about what happens to bullied children. I do. And I think that anger came across. In another question I was asked, about the violence associated with bullying (mainly what is done to bullied children, but sometimes what they do in response). I responded - again, a fragment of my thoughts - that the anger was understandable and could even be helpful in producing the change that's needed. I did say the violence was not helpful, but I'm not sure that came across clearly enough. I made some points (e.g., that most bullying occurs in schools) but failed to be clear about most others. E.g., after I spoke, the other guest came up to me and said, "I feel it's important to emphasize that schools are responsible for changing the climate which allows bullying to occur!" "Great point," I said to him, thinking 'gee, didn't I just make that (all-importrant) point?' I guess I didn't! I hope another chance arises to do better for the cause!
4/18/08: National Day of Silence
Bullying which targets gender identity and expression (always as perceived by those who bully) is, some reports suggest, the most common and vicious type. On the occasion (next week April 25th) of a national Day of Silence which highlights the problem of violence toward and negative treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in the schools, a columnist in the Florida Sun-Sentinel does an excellent job of describing and reviewing the issue.
Day of Silence article
4/17/08: Commission on School Bullying is announced!
A copy of the law is attached (below). It was enacted a few months ago and made some important changes in hate crime legislation, some desired changes in existing anti-bullying law, but mainly addressed bullying in future terms by establishing the new Commission. A separate document which excerpts Section 9 of the new law is attached below. The section describes the work of the Commission and its prospective membership. I posted here a few days an announcement from the Governor's office which listed 5 members (including me), but the full Commission is actually 14 members. The larger membership is important in that for the Commission to have any credibility of impact, certain voices and organizations must be included. E.g., if the Department of Education and the Attorney General's office were not represented, it's hard to see how any recommendations for a new state initiative (which must be implemented in cooperation by those two organizations, among others) would have any meaning. On the other hand, 14 is too large for an effective working group with such a detailed mission, as any group dynamics expert could attest. One assumes the new group will create sub-groups for certain tasks, which should help, but none of this (how the group will work) is guaranteed. Anyone associated with this Coalition can only look forward with great hopefulness and excitement to the possibility that the Commission will work well and do great good - that's the feeling here! Anyway, here is the law and the Commission section:
New NJ anti-bullying law
Section establishing the new Commission
4/17/08: Bullying and food allergies?
ABC news did an interesting piece on bullying which involves children with food allergies. The article refers to the link (bullying w food allergies as the targeted characteristic) as well known (in the food allergy community). It makes perfect sense that this would be the case - adding food allergies to the almost endless list of characteristics which have been targeted - but I've not come across articles to that effect in the scientific literature as yet (I've missed them, I assume). The ABC article is very well done - covers the issue, provides some info re both common problems (bullying, and food allergies), gives the bullied children's perspectives and even notes the protective importance of friends. Here's the article:
Bullying and food allergies
4/14/08: New book review (of an unidentified book) posted on the 'books' page - to get there, click on the circle at upper left to get to the site's home page, then click (upper left again) on the 'books' page.
4/10/08: Bullying on video
There is, understandably, a lot of media coverage of a current example of youth violence. The violence is presumably bullying, involving as it does, many against one, a relationship (the kids involved know each other), and there is likely to be a history of negative acts. It would also be likely if some - if not all - attend the same Lakeland, FL school. The perpetrators and victim of the violence are girls, which is not uncommon, though 'relational aggression' (rather than hitting) is the more common form of girl:girl bullying. And the bullying here is a so-far less common (but apparently growing) form in which the violence has an online (or cyberspace) aspect: the girls who beat the victim and videotaped the beating were reportedly doing so with the intent of posting the video on sites such as YouTube and MySpace. That act would consitute "cyberbullying." As the article describes, one issue is how responsible such web businesses should be in addressing cyberbullying (and violent video material generally). In our view, the usual hesitation to encourage "censorship," - which is always the argument raised - does not apply; this isn't a case of self-expression, however creative the means - this is a case of assault. The owners of such sites should be held just as responsible for violence committed against youth using their sites as the weapon, or means of attack, as schools should be held responsible for the reasonably preventable violence which occurs between their students. See what you think:
article re video of beating
4/10/08: Bullying and graduation rate data
Today's editorial in the NJ Star Ledger about inflated graduation rates, while not specifically about bullying, is strongly relevant. The well-written article neatly captures the difficulty social reforms face when accurate data is unavailable (usually because the data is distorted or hidden, albeit legally in most cases, in order to protect a powerful interest and image (the apparent success of NJ schools and teachers, in this case), This is a huge and core issue for the attempt we all are making to adequately address school bullying. A system which identifies bullying incidents within and across all public schools, with reasonable validity and accuracy, must be developed.
NJSL editorial re graduation rates
4/10/08: Sexual assault (at school) case settled
See the article (inserted below) in today's Star Ledger about a school district having settled a case involving the sexual assault of an 11 year old girl by an 8th grade boy in a middle school. Notable in addition to the tragedy of the assault is that the family expects changes in school district behavior in addition to the money. The changes, according to the article, which takes its points from the family's lawyer, are that the district must report all violent incidents to the state (and claims this has not been done to this point), that hall pass and sign-out sheet policies must be enforced (which implies this wasn't happening enough before). The lawyer is quoted as saying that if the case had moved forward he would have shown "numerous, prior violent incidents" in the school hallways, and that: "There was only one hall monitor to supervise 384 kids." While it's not clear how many monitors are ideally needed for that number of students (the article cites 'two' as a better number), and the school's perspective is not reported, there are still important points here, which anti-bullying advocates well recognize: Supervision of school areas must be adequate, and - as the lawyer states - schools are indeed responsible for protecting children from reasonably foreseeable dangers. Sexual assault is one of those dangers, bullying incidents generally (which may include sexual assault) is similarly a foreseeable danger.
NJSL article 4-10-08 - school district settlement
4/4/08: Bullying in Arkansas
Here is an article from an Arkansas newspaper about the situation in Fayettesville to which the item below refers. In the attachment here, the article has been 'deconstructed' (comments inserted into the text).
Newspaper article about bullying, w comments
3/26/08: A child in Arkansas
Here is a front page NY Times article about bullying (specifically about a child in Arkansas) and letters published in response to the article, including one I wrote. It's very significant when the Times (or other major media) puts a bullying-related story, identified as such, on the front page. It's even better when, as in this case, the writer (Dan Barry) takes a sophisticated, supportive approach to the story. And it's even more significant, I think, when every letter published, "gets it," in terms of bullying, clearly supporting the bullied child and clearly placing responsibility for the child's situation on adults, including (and especially) the school the children involved attend. Unfortunately, one of the letter writers placed some blame on the parents. The writer's frustration with the child's continuing suffering is understandable, and taking a child out of a school in which they're repeatedly assaulted is definitely a recommended strategy, usually as a last resort. But the bullying of their child is a very difficult situation for parents as well, and there are many reasons a parent may not remove their child from the school, including economics and other available resources. However, all of the writers, no exception, take a strong, supportive attitude toward the child and have a sophisticated, evidence-based understanding of bullying. This has not always been the case - in fact it's the first time I've seen such a consistently helpful response in major media. Is a positive culture change in regard to bullying finally occurring? Anyway, see for yourself. Here is the article and the letters.
letters 3-26-08 NY Times Arkansas article NY Times 3-25-08
3/20/08: Bullying and high school graduation rates (between the lines)
This may be a stretch, but ... It seems important to take note of a front page article in the Times (3/20/08) which suggests that the average percentage of students who finish high school in the U.S. is only 70% and significantly lower in some areas (higher in others also, of course). This is an abysmal track record. From an anti-bullying advocacy point of view, the implicit issue is the extent to which schools are taking care of all of their students. It is not much of a stretch - in terms of what we know about human psychology and functioning - to suggest that the extent to which students feel they belong, are cared about, attended to, included and feel safe in school is likely to be a major (the major, really) factor in whether a student stays in school and obtains their degree. This is another one of those articles which does not contain a single specific mention of the word 'bullying', but is arguably about it anyway. Read between the lines and see for yourself:
school drop-outs, NY Times
2/14/08: Cyberbullying legal developments
See 'Legal Issues' page (this site) for an update on cyberbullying law developments, including in NJ. As the material describes, NJ's cyberbullying law (in effect 8/07) provides a basis for school districts to address cyberbullying that "substantially interferes" with school functioning, even if the cyberbullying occurs off-campus. Some NJ districts are hesitant to address such off-site bullying. We consider addressing off-site bullying as a matter-of-fact responsibility of schools and school districts. It would certainly be obvious to any parents of bullied children, and the children themselves, that off-campus bullying should be addressed, cyber- or otherwise. Most 'off-site' bullying, even in cyberspace, occurs in school building-based relationships, between students at the same school or in the same district, though many others (especially in cyberbullying) may be involved. The bullying substantially impacts student functioning in the school. It should be addressed by the school. Anyway, for a good discussion, see the article, which comes from National School Boards Association Legal Clips.
1/8/08: The Commission!
An important step forward in NJ's efforts to address bullying! (see below) We're extremely grateful to the legislators and organization whose hard work and inspiring commitment created this new effort. Depending on how the new Commission is constituted, much progress on bullying can come from this law. (More details to follow).
January 8, 2008
Now on the Governor’s Desk --
Among the measures approved by the Senate and Assembly:
BIAS CRIMES AND BULLYING CRIMES motivated by national origin or the victim’s gender identity, which includes transsexuals, would be considered bias crimes. The bill would also establish a state commission that would study how to make antibullying laws more effective.
1/2/08: Bullying and school success
Important new study strengthening the association between bullying and school 'success', including such variables as attitudes toward weapon-carrying, grades and a sense of belonging in a school. (See Research page for the abstract.)
New article on Parents page - on involving parents.
There are new items on the 'Research', 'Cyberbullying' and 'Parent Campaign' pages (this site).
11/13/07: International bullying conf.
Audio and other reports for last week's major anti-bullying conf. in Florida will be available soon on the conf. and association website - www.stopbullyingworld.com.
10/4/07: International bullying conf.
UPCOMING CONFERENCE (NOV. 5-8) IN FT. LAUDERDALE @ HARD ROCK HOTEL.
FOR INFORMATION: WWW.STOPBULLYINGWORLD.COM
This is the 2nd annual conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association, an organization founded by Stan Davis, with participation of U.S. Olweus team leaders. The quality of the conference is excellent (last year's was in Atlanta), with the line-up this year the best I've ever seen. Keynoters include Ken Rigby, the Australian researcher on whom we rely for important systematic reviews of bullying interventions, as well as lots of original research; and seminar presenters include James Prochaska, one of the most important researchers in the country, creator of the 'stages of change' model - who recently has done work on bullying; Nancy Willard, a leading advocate and expert on cyberbullying issues (her new book, Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats, is a very useful resource for parents and schools); Susan Limber (a major U.S. Olweus associate, who was a primary developer of the national campaign); Dorothy Espelage, another well known U.S. expert; and Stan Davis (whose new book, Empowering Bystanders, is an important addition to his seminal work, Schools Where Everyone Belongs). The website www.stopbullyingworld.com is not only worth visiting for the conference announcement and registration but has other useful material on bullying, and is a good addition to Stan's original site, www.stopbullyingnow.com. Membership in the Association is also available.
8/15/07: Hazing - a book review
Dr. Michael Greene, Coalition Research Director, has just published a review in which he recommends a book (just published as well) on Hazing. See attached review.
See Research page for new item.
8/8/07: New cyberbullying law
See attached press release about passage of new NJ cyberbullying law. Assemblywoman Greenstein and colleagues certainly deserve credit for taking this logical step to extend the coverage of the existing law. This should be seen as a reflection of increasing awareness of an increasingly common form of bullying. However, the limitations of the existing law and its approach are inherited, of course: no funding for schools to implement programs, no meaningful tracking and reporting system across all schools for bullying incidents, no mechanisms to ensure that schools do more than just create policies on paper but actually meaningfully address bullying, etc. Nonetheless, we are grateful for the legislators' continuing interest and work, which contributes to NJ's deserved status as a progressive state on this issue, at least in terms of awareness.
Cyberbullying law NJ
6/6/07: A law development in CT
Interesting legislative development in CT, which should be of interest to NJ.
CT legislation proposed
5/22/07: Congrats to TSA-NJ
I'm especially reminded at times of the critical work on behalf of children, beyond a specific focus on bullying, being done by the organizations participating in the Coalition. Tourette Syndrome Association of NJ is certainly doing such work. Here's a recent article on just one of TSA-NJ's many great programs.
5/20/07: Eliot Aronson interview
A while ago, came across this interview with Eliot Aronson, one of the country's leading social psychologists and developer of the 'jigsaw' collaborative learning method, whose book, "No One Left to Hate," published after Columbine, is one of the most important works on school bullying. Worth reading (book and interview)! Aronson interview - NY Times
4/24/07: LW program
Since the LW decision, an active campaign is underway to inform the public about the decision and its implications. The next upcoming program is organized by ICLE at NJ Law Center on May 30th. Here are the details: LW program
4/11/07: Maine anti-bullying guide published
(1) A guide for schools was published in 2006 by a state of Maine government commission and made available to everyone today by the Equity national listserv. The guide, which relies heavily on the work of Stan Davis, is the most comprehensive, well written (and beautifully presented) and useful document I've ever seen for use by schools ready to meaningfully, effectively address bullying. Although we (NJ Coalition) are working with OBCCR (NJ's Bias Crime office) to craft a NJ-specific framework for a 'kit' to distribute to NJ schools, as previously noted, this Maine guide can provide immediately available and more than adequate guidance to any school right now. Here's the guide: Maine bullying guide
(2) Upcoming conference (international bullying prevention association) (Nov 07) featuring Ken Rigby, the Australian researcher, as a keynote. This looks to be an excellent conference and NJCAP will be represented there, among other possible NJ organizations. Attendance encouraged!
3/8/07: New legal rights brochure
New brochure on legal rights of (and advocacy resources for) bullied children!! Click on this: RIGHTS BROCHURE or, for the brochure in Spanish, click on this: RIGHTS BROCHURE - SPANISH. To order copies of the brochure, contact ACLU-NJ or the Coalition.
Unanimous NJ Supreme Court decision in LW case today! (See attached summary.) Various organizations (ACLU, Division on Civil Rights, GLSEN, others) will be issuing their own (more expert) analyses starting this afternoon. But I wanted to get the word out to the Coalition's various organizations and contacts. The decision (as I read it, as a non-lawyer) is a huge win for all of us concerned about childhood bullying. The decision strengthens our ability to help more more children avoid the trauma of bullying than anything since the original work of Olweus. The decision has ramifications for a change in the culture of schools and how school leaders conduct themselves that are broader than even the clinical and research work done so far. I hope I'm not overestimating the effect, but I believe that now, both in NJ and nationally, the legal community will realize the importance of their involvement on every level with this issue, and that school leaders will realize even more the importance on every level (including legally) of truly (effectively) addressing bullying.
Stuart Green, MSW, MA
NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
Only two items to report: (1) No Supreme Court decision yet in LW. (2) Coalition members continue to work with Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations to produce a 'core package' of anti-bullying materials for distribution (by NJDOE and others?) to all NJ school districts.
NJ Supreme Court to review LW case, Monday, November 13rd, 10am!
notice re LW case
The main news is above: The Court's review of LW has tremendous importance and implications for addressing bullying, both in NJ and nationally. However, here's some other news ...
(1) The Coalition's Law Conference, conducted by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, at NJ Law Center on 9/30/06, was a successful start to the process of educating lawyers about childhood bullying. Attendance was about 50, mainly lawyers (and a judge or two) but also including some parent leaders and school administrators.
(2) NJ Coalition has begun a process of strategic planning, with assistance from Tourettes Syndrome Association of NJ, NJ Center for Character Education, NJ State Bar Foundation, Youth Consultation Service, NJ School-Age Child Care Coalition and NJ Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations (OBCCR). Much work is being done to chart the future course of the Coalition. Annoucements of decisions and progress will be posted here soon. Among the options being discussed and developed include the possibility that a Governor's Commission will address childhood bullying. This has already occurred in Illinois. Indeed, Governor Corzine just appointed a Commission on school violence. This was mainly in response to the recent adult-conducted school shootings, but there is apparently interest in including bullying as one of the issues addressed. Another option being considered is incubation with another, larger, organization, with the eventual goal of independent status as a 501c3. Enhancement of the website (the one you're reading at the moment - see below for a notice) and working with OBCCR (also see below) were other 'action items' identified.
(3) NJ State Bar Foundation has offered assistance with website enhancement through the services of a Foundation staff member, for which we're appreciative and grateful. It takes time and work even to make use of the services of a consultant, so this hasn't quite begun, but improvements on the site should be seen at some point soon.
(4) Coalition organizations are working with OBCCR to develop a 'core package' of anti-bullying materials which can be distributed to schools (school administrators in particular) statewide.
(5) The Coalition's next event will be an evening Dinner with Stan Davis, author of "Schools Where Everyone Belongs" in Glen Rock, NJ on Monday evening, January 8th. For those who haven't read Davis' book or followed his career, he is one of the most charismatic and experienced anti-bullying advocates in the country, an early and major promoter of Olweus' whole-school model. He has invaluable wisdom about bullying and especially about how to be supportive of children in school. Those interested in participating should contact the Coalition, at (908) 522-2581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants should, as usual, be senior staff or directors of non-profit or governmental organizations with an interest in childhood bullying. There will be a modest charge (to be announced), as well as the cost of a good dinner (each participant pays for himself or herself). The number of participants will be limited to allow for 'dinner table discussion' of bullying-related issues.
New report from GLSEN re huge prevalence of gender-identity-related bullying. GLSEN report
Scruggs case (CT) dismissed!
The outrageous and unjustified decision of a Connecticut court convicting a mother (!) of contributing to the suicide of her severely bullied child has now been overturned by the CT Supreme Court. Scruggs case conviction overturned
The lawsuit trend continues ... Kentucky 7-06
3rd Annual Bullying Prevention Conference (organized by U.S. Olweus team), in Atlanta. http://www.stopbullyingworld.com/2006%20international%20BP%20conference.pdf
Update: NJ Coaltion meeting was held June 19th at NJ Law Center in New Brunswick. The meeting consisted of a 'presentation core' (short presentations and Q/A sessions) from 12pm to 2pm, with organizational meeting time before and after. One conclusion of the organizational discussion was that the Coalition needs strategic development at this point, based on a consensus that the organization is serving a need and should be continued. A strategic planning meeting will be held at Overlook Hospital in Summit during the first week of September; a notice will be sent out to interested participants.
NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
(posted 4/06): Research abstracts update (selected full studies and commentary to be posted): 1st quarter 2006 abstracts
(posted 4/06): New handout: Bullying: Legal Issues (focus on children with special needs): Special Needs - Legal Issues
(posted 2/06): Proposed new law on bullying in CT which may be a model for gaps in law and process which currently exist in NJ's approach. See what you think!
Click on Legal Issues page.
(posted 2/06): Great new review of evidence for programs addressing youth violence, including bullying. Click on Research page.
(posted 2/06): New Coalition handout: "Helping Bullied Children"
Click on Resources page.
(posted 2/06): New Coalition handout: "What Works" (by Michael Greene).
Click on Resources page.
(posted 2/06): Article on anti-bullying laws by Michael Greene and Randy Ross. Click on Research page.
(posted 12/05): Read all about it ... Appellate Division decides LW case! (and it's good news ... ): Click on Legal Issues page.
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