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Solving bullying in school: improving school climate via establishing a supervisory system
School bullying is troublesome and complicated historical issue. School bullying can be categorized as physical bullying (e.g. physical conflict), psychological bullying (e.g. spreading rumors), verbal bullying (e.g. verbal abuse), cyberbullying, and sexual bullying. Data collected by the National Center for Education statistics shows that approximately one in three students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied during the 2010-2011 school year (2013). 33.3% reflects a high rate of school bullying from 6th grade to 12th grade. Bullying is a severe nation-wide school issue that urgently needs to be solved, not only because of its negative impacts on children’s academic performance but also because of its effect on children’s mental health. The Centers for Disease Control states that school bullying increases the risk of school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression (2015). Besides, bullying victims often resist going to school and are at great risk of dropping out. A study from the University of Virginia shows that “the drop-out rate was 29 percent above average in schools with high levels of teasing and bullying” (2012). Although the U.S. Department of Education has taken relevant measures such as OBPP to address this issue, and some federal states have passed bill such as New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act and Ohio bills that seek to combat bullying, still most of anti-bullying measures ignore the diversity and variability of bullying patterns. As grade levels rise, bullying form changes. Indirect bullying has replaced direct bullying as mainstream among older adolescents. Therefore, those programs and laws may not be effective for every age group. As a result, school bullying is still prevailing among older teens.
Figure 1 Girl getting bullied in high school hallway. Taken from google image.
In the image, others point at the girl and make fun of her and the girl bowed her head down and looks helpless.
In the past two years, public debate of school bullying state legislation has been highly intense. The Ohio Public Defenders have questioned two Ohio bills that were created to combat bullying. To address bullying in Ohio, state Senator Sandra Williams introduced Senate Bill 196 and Senate Bill 197. The fourth and fifth disciplinary steps of Senate Bill 197 are “in-school suspension for the fourth violation” and “out-of-school suspension for the fifth violation” (“updates on Ohio bills to combat bullying” 2018). Ohio State Representative Dave Greenspan says, “House Bill 360 will also ‘Enact Ohio Anti-bullying and Hazing Act’” (“updates on Ohio bills to combat bullying” 2018). Similarly, House Bill 360 also includes a mandatory suspension for first bullying violation and expulsion for second time. The Ohio Public Defenders question this legislation, arguing that it “contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline because it uses in and out of school suspensions as a disciplinary measure”. Some school districts have also “complained that the legislature has not provided them with a clear structure to deal with bullies” (“Anti-bullying bill opponents question use of suspensions as punishment” 2017). Ohio public defenders challenged the Ohio bills of anti-bullying that focus on punishing bullies. They argue that suspensions do not inherently prevent bullying. Conversely, students who have been suspended from school may have committed a crime because they were unable to receive education at school.
With an opposing opinion, groups include Psychoanalysts and parental groups who are support Ohio anti-bullying bills. To some extent, once the bill be passed, it will play an essential role to encourage school districts to develop school bullying policies. Local policies provide most explicit instructions and directives for local schools to implement those bullying strategies. (Stuart-Cassel 2011) Victoria Todd who is a child and adult psychoanalyst states she is well aware of the negative effects that bullying brings to victims, bystanders and bullies themselves. And she said she wholeheartedly support the proposed legislation which is Senate Bill 196 and Senate Bill 197 (Senator Williams Introduces Ohio Anti-Bullying Bills 2017)
). Almost all parents (96%) and teachers (97%) consider bullying as a severe topic, and the data shows 34% of parents and 66% of teachers announce that their kids and students had been bullied (Gradinger, Strohmeier, Spiel 2017). The data shows nearly all parents are intensive focus on school bullying. And for those parents, whose children have been or are being bullied, Ohio anti-bullying Bill is likely to punish bullies and give an account to their children. There is no doubt that legislation can be the most effective way to punish the lawbreakers. Hence, parents of bullying victims will support this anti-bullying bill.
Law often has limitations, which are manifested in the contradiction between the stability of law itself and the variability of society. In other words, law often lags behind the development of reality. Besides, considering the unreasonableness of the penalties involved in the Ohio anti-bullying bill. Anti-bullying legislation is not thorough in solving indirect bullying among older teens. Improving school climate through establishing a supervisory system supported by U.S. department of education is the best policy to solve bullying among older adolescents because it can give quick and effective detection of indirect bullying, and it has a precedent to refer to.
The first solution is to implement an intervention that shifts older adolescents from demonstrating competence to developing personal social skills and social relationships. It does not directly prevent bullying, but provides psychological interventions that reduce the negative mental health effects of indirect bullying on older adolescents. This intervention is based on the study of children’s social goals. The research indicates that children can react differently when facing bullying. Different social goals have direct impacts on children’s response of bullying. But, the study also shows that the orientation of social goal in childhood and in adolescence is parallel and consistent. The social goals can be divides to two parts which are focusing on developing and focusing on demonstrating competence. Rudolph mentions in Social Goal Orientation Predicts Children’s Responses to Peer Aggression that “development goals involve improving social skills and developing relationships (e.g., getting to know others better, learning how to be a good friend); demonstration-approach goals involve gaining positive social judgments and prestige (e.g., being viewed as important, having “cool” friends)” (Rudolph 2011). Focusing on developing leads teens to react in a thoughtful or adaptive way which means they respond positively to bullying. They are highly motivated to ease and improve interpersonal relationships with peers. Even facing severe verbal violence, it won’t pose a great threat to them because of high self-efficacy. On the contrary, others whose social goal is demonstrating competence will react in a maladaptive or involuntary way. Instead of solving problems, they will retaliate or avoid contact. This is because peer bullying, like verbal insults, affect the social prestige of teens whose social goals are demonstrating competence. In summary, the measures that transfer the social goal from the focus of ability display to interpersonal relations development can effectively relieve the psychological damage caused by indirect bullying on older juveniles. In the article, “Declines in efficacy of anti-bullying programs among older adolescents” Yeager points out that changes in the forms of bullying result in an inefficiency of third party intervention. Making older teens more focused on developing rather than demonstrating competence will effectively reduce the harm of indirect bullying such as rumors, and reduce the possibility of reverse bullying caused by excessive negative emotions.
The first solution can be difficult to implement. Entity theorists predict that this solution may be difficult to implement because teens are more likely to “endorse a performance (i.e., demonstration) than a mastery (i.e., development) orientation” when they hold entity theories. (Rudolph, 2011). Older adolescents may not be able to cope with relationship problems and teaching teens how to deal with relationship issues may be a potential risk because it can exacerbate their bullying actions. For instance, older teens can use their popularity to spread rumors, and in this way, “social skills may facilitate indirect forms of bullying.” (Yeager, 2015). Besides, this solution lack of precise instructions and assessment.
The second solution is cultivating school climate through establishing a supervisory system and implement by school district. From Wikipedia, positive school climate is related to less bullying. Improving school climate which means establishing a safe school with no violence. The solution that I proposed to solve indirect bullying among older teens is build up a solid anti-bullying supervisory system to maintain a safe school environment with no forms of violence. To maximize the effectiveness of the supervisory system, there are several prerequisites need to be met. First, Listing well-defined definitions of different forms of school bullying. Second, constantly implement fair penal measures for bullies. Third, clearly state the responsibilities of intervener(teachers). Lastly, introducing bullying related laws to both students and teachers. Clarifying the concrete definitions of school bullying is a basis for the supervisory system to carry out. Introducing bullying related laws is intended to draw an intensive attention to both students and teachers and make this system understandable and acceptable. The consistent implementation of punishment measures and informing the interveners of their roles and responsibilities are the follow-up guarantees of this system. Both of those prerequisites reflect the core component of positive school climate- “fair discipline” (American Educational Research Association 2014).
Improving school climate by setting up a supervisory system is relatively thorough way to decrease bullying rates. In this case, to make every student feel safe in school, refine the anti-bullying supervisory system is vital. Establishing an anonymous bullying reporting system and refining the school’s detection system will facilitate schools to detect indirect bullying in a timely and effective manner. An anonymous reporting system is basically designed for students who are the wittiness of indirect bullying or who passively involved in indirect bullying. Indirect bullying is difficult to prevent because it is often difficult to detect. However, an anonymous reporting system that designs for students improves the efficiency of detecting it, and this system also provides a method for indirect bullying victims to protect themselves through an anonymous mechanism. For refining school’s detection system, school can start from campus network detection. For instance, schools that allow mobile phone can install a detection system that screens for the presence of bullying-related sensitive words. Because social media serves as an assessment that helps school community to perceive school climate. (National school climate center). Establishing a solid supervisory system is an excellent way to prevent indirect cyber bullying such as rumor. In other words, a comprehensive supervisory system can effectively control bullying events caused by changes in the type of bullying children experience.
Concretely, “The US Department of Education created a program called Safe and Supportive schools, which supports the development of statewide climate assessment systems and the evaluation of school climate improvement processes.” (Allison and Payne 9). There is no doubt that the government is willing to support the program of school climate development. As far back to 2013, the Safe and Drug Free schools division of the US Department of Education started to allocate more than $155 million to “support 11 states to develop statewide school climate assessment and improvement systems to sustain positive school climate.” (Cohen, 2013). The schools with fair discipline shows a lowest rate of bullying and student victimization. From figure 2, schools with low structure and low support have almost twice the rate of bullying as schools which have positive school climate. Research shows that “high schools with an authoritative school climate, characterized by high levels of both disciplinary structure and adult support for students have lower levels of bullying and other forms of student victimization” (American Educational Research Association 2014).
Figure 2 reported bullying and student victimizations percentage with different school climates
Taken from American Educational Research Association
Compared to the first solution, this solution is more robust because it has explicit strategies to carry out. The first solution which applies social psychology to bullying prevention is just an idea. Its specific implementation method and its effects need to be evaluated. Besides, applying social psychology theories to coping with bullying have limitations on target groups. To master social skills can be risky for older teens because it may be a strong weapon to bully others if teens misuse this skill. Conversely, improving school climate via establishing a supervisory system is applicable to all aged teens. Moreover, refer to the precedent that U.S. DE allocate a large amount of fund for improving school climate in 2013, it implies that promoting school climate by another method will not be too hard to get financial support from U.S. government. The second solution is not only a solution to cope with bullying, but it also has many benefits. In school levels, maintaining a positive school climate is a prerequisite for a school to gain a good reputation. In individual level, students studying in a school with a positive school climate are more likely to their academic achievement.
However, improving school climate is a long-term project that needs to be followed up. And there exist a “‘translation gap’ between research and practice” (Allison and Payne 10). The problem derives from differences between schools, which vary from region to region, and the governmental support for this initiative needs to be tailored to local conditions. In other words, every school should customize an appropriate plan since every school have their own condition. The reason that Allison and Payne question this is because the research findings may not apply to the reality of each situation. To Promote school climate, there are various ways. However, if schools integrate specific bullying prevention with school climate improvement, such as establishing a supervisory system, things will be easier. A refined supervisory system is “a popular evidence-based school discipline framework, school-wide positive behavioral interventions and support (SW-PBIS), addresses bullying by defining.” (Bosworth, Garcia, Judkins& Saliba 2018). This solution is targeted on comping with indirect bullying between older teens. As a result, local schools may also be more flexible in implementing this solution. Because the scope of this solution has been narrowed and it will be easier to assess and exam before implementation. Allison and other researcher’s worries are not necessary. Therefore, establishing a supervisory system to promote school climate is worth considering in addressing bullying issue.
School bullying is complex issue that need supports from all parts of society, including the government and private foundations. The cost of improving school climate is not a small amount of money. So, it is important to advocate for this method. Anti-bullying advocacy groups should take effective advocacy measures to persuade foundation. And convince more people to become supporters of improving school climate.
Aubry, Jason. “Anti-bullying bill opponents question use of suspensions as punishment.”
WCMH, 18 Dec. 2017: 1. Print.
This is an online news which published by WCMH. The news is talking about Ohio anti-bullying bill. The Ohio Public defenders question this bill which use suspensions as a punishment. I use this news to lead opposed voice.
Allison, Payne. “Creating and Sustaining a Positive and Communal School Climate:
Contemporary Research, Present Obstacles, and Future Directions” National Institute of Justice, 2018
This is a book written by Payne Allison who got his Ph.D. degree in Villanova University. It published by National Institute of Justice in 2018. It includes several sections, which are school climate introduction, school climate assessment, related school climate outcomes, influence of school climate, measures of improving school climate. I focus on the influence of school climate and measures of improving school climate. The author mentions that supportive and positive school climate contributes to academic achievement and lowering bullying. He also demonstrates five suggestions on improving school climate. I plan to integrate his suggestions in my main argument.
Bosworth, Kris, et al. “The Impact of Leadership Involvement in Enhancing High School Climate and Reducing Bullying: An Exploratory Study.” Journal of School Violence, vol. 17, no. 3, 2018, pp. 354–366., doi:10.1080/15388220.2017.1376208.
This is a journal article written by Kris Bosworth, Rafael Garcia, Maryann Judkins& Mark Saliba. It published in 2018 which it a very new resource that has great reference value. It is talking about the role of leadership in school climate intervention and support. I integrate some specific measures of improving school climate in my paper.
Cohen, J. (2013). Creating a positive school climate: A foundation for resilience. In Goldstein,
S., & Brooks, R.B. (eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (411-423). New York, NY: Springer US.
“Creating a positive school climate: A foundation for resilience” is a book written by Jonathan Cohen, published in 2012. Basically, the author introduces the definition of school climate, the history reformation of school climate and current school climate measurements. I cite the data that government’s expenditure of school climate development. I use it to show a rough cost and the supporter.
Gradinger, Petra., et al. “Parents’ and Teachers’ Opinions on Bullying and Cyberbullying
prevention” Zeitschrift für Psychologie1(2017): 76-84. Hogrefe. Web. 28.Nov. 2018.
This journal article is written by Petra Gradinger. Dagmar Strohmeier and Christiane Spiel. It published in 2017. I integrate this resource to provide different group’s opinion on states legislation.
“How is School Climate Measured?” Measuring School Climate (CSCI) – National School
Climate Center, 2018, www.schoolclimate.org/about/our-approach/how-is-school–climate-measured
This is a summary of school climate measurements from National school climate center which is an official government website. It mentions social media is one dimension for school community to assess school climate. I use this resource to support why a positive school climate is related to safe campus network.
Recommendations. American Educational Research Association, 2013.
This is a book published by American Educational Research Association in 2013. It contains 11 chapters. At the first several chapter, it introduces bullying by its definition and prospect. The second half of the book deals with school climate and its impacts on bullying.
Parkhurst JT, Asher SR. Goals and concerns: Implications for the study of children’s social
competence. In: Lahey BB, Kazdin AE, editors. Advances in clinical child
psychology. New York: Plenum; 1985
This resource is not relevant to my essay. I use this resource to illustrate the term – “social goal”.
Rudolph, Karen D., et al. “Developing Relationships, Being Cool, and Not Looking Like a Loser: Social Goal Orientation Predicts Children’s Responses to Peer Aggression.” Child Development, vol. 82, no. 5, 2011, pp. 1518–1530., doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01631.x.
This is a psychological journal article written by Karen D. Rudolph, Jamie L. Abaied,
MeganFlynn, Niwako Sugimura and Anna Monica Agoston. It published in 2011. In it, the
authors elaborate a theory that children’s different social goals orientations are an indicator of
their adaptive or maladaptive responses. This theory contributes to the analysis of bullying
process and implement an intervention. My first solution is derived from this article.
“Senator Williams Introduces Ohio Anti-Bullying Bills.” Senator Steve Wilson | The Ohio Senate, www.ohiosenate.gov/senators/williams/news/senator-williams-introduces-ohio-anti-bullying-bills.
Stuart-Cassel, Victoria, et al. Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies. Distributed by ERIC Clearinghouse, 2011.
This is journal typed book written by Victoria Stuart-Cassel, Ariana Bell and J.Fred Springer. It
published in 2011. The book main book is the data analysis of U.S. states bullying related laws. I
do not use this resource a lot. I integrate it in my voice debate part and cite a data form from it.
Yeager, David Scott, et al. “Declines in Efficacy of Anti-Bullying Programs among Older
Adolescents: Theory and a Three-Level Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, vol. 37, 2015, pp. 36–51., doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2014.11.005.
This is a typical scholar journal article written by David Scott Yeager, Carlton J. Fong, Hae Yeon Lee from University of Texas and Dorothy L. Eselage. from University of Florida. The authors lead developmental changes in bullying form, bullying causes and the efficacy of general bullying tactics. Then they provide a meta-analysis studies of the efficacy of bullying prevention programs among groups of different ages. The result shows the efficacy of bullying prevention programs are varied among different ages. I use the conclusion in my background introduction to lead to my two solutions of historical reserved problem.
“Updates on Ohio bills to combat bullying.” Daily Times 18, April 2018
This article is written by Melissa Martin who resides in Ohio. In it, the author mentions the updated bills is based on Senate Bill 196 and 197 and House Bill 360 which both treat suspension as a punishment. I integrate this evidence in opposing voice of school bullying solutions.
 “The Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) is the state agency responsible for providing legal representation and other services to people accused or convicted of a crime who cannot afford to hire an attorney. The office, which is overseen by the Ohio Public Defender Commission, is divided into Administrative, Appellate Services, Policy & Outreach, and Trial Services divisions.” (opd.ohio.gov)
 Goals have been defined as “conditions or states of affairs that people are committed to pursuing through their own actions” (Rudolph 2011)
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