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The Effects of Childhood Bullying into Adulthood

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When the Center for Disease Control named bullying an "Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)" in 2017, it validated the 30-year effort examining the long-lasting effects of childhood bullying into adulthood. The research efforts have suggested these principles: bullying is prevalent, being a target of bullying has a multi-symptom, negative impact, and the impact of being a target is long-lasting. Professors Patricia McDougall and Tracy Vaillancourt reviewed the literature in order to determine how far the negative impact can reach and which effects have the deepest impact.

The researchers selected 17 prospective studies to review. Prospective studies take a population and look at effects of over a long period of time, and so these studies looked at the effects of painful childhood experiences, including bullying, into adulthood.  The following are some of the findings:

Mental Health. McDougall and Vaillancourt found a "direct" pathway between childhood bullying and me…

Looking at School Discipline from a Community Lens: More on Restorative Practices

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The International Institute for Restorative Practices defines Restorative Practicesas "an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities." This focus on communities shifts how we look at behavior and discipline at school, zooming out to see the impact of actions and words on the community as a whole. 
Looking specifically at discipline, Restorative Practices remains focused on the community. The goals of Restorative Discipline, articulated by Lorrainne Stuzman Amstuz and Judy Mullet, are marked shift from focusing on the individual alone. They have been adapted here: To understand the harm and develop empathy for both those who have been harmed and those who have engaged in harmful behavior. This is a shift from a punitive stance where the focus is on the student and his/her behavior. Restorative discipline also takes into account the harm to people and relationships and seeks to unders…

The Social Capital Window of Restorative Practices

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The goal of Restorative Practices is to build and strengthen strong school communities. Eighty percent of the efforts is for building the relationships that provide the backbone of strong school communities; 20% of the efforts aims to restore and heal those relationships that are harmed.

At the basis of Restorative Practices is the Social Capital Window, a broad categorization of school or classroom environments. The University of Michigan's Professor Wayne Baker defines social capital as the resources available within networks. including information, ideas, cooperation, support, and power. The Social Capital Window, also called the Social Discipline Window, categorizes social norms and behavioral expectations into four types of environment, based on degrees of support and control and reflecting the impact of different types of leadership. The Social Capital Window is an adaptation of Diane Baumrind's Parenting Styles from the 1960s. 

The degree of Support is indicated by th…

Integrating Restorative Practices and Bullying Prevention

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We have reached an understanding that effective schools have one common and critical characteristic: a safe and supportive school community. We also know that a safe and supportive school community is the heart of restorative practices and that bullying cannot flourish in these environments. Despite this common understanding, we remain unsure how to integrate restorative practices and bullying prevention within a comprehensive school-wide initiative.

Restorative practitioners, bullying prevention experts, mental health practioners, and policymakers came together to provide this direction. The result of their two-year effort is the white paper entitled Integrating Bullying Prevention and Restorative Practices in Schools: Considerations for Practitioners and Policymakers. With the goal of connecting research- and evidence-based bullying prevention programs with restorative practices, the workgroup first described the problem of bullying, shared best practices in bullying prevention, an…

Restorative Practices as a Promising Approach to Bullying Prevention

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In October 2016 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy, and Practice, the results of a study commissioned by the NAS to determine what we know and what more we need to know about bullying behavior and its impact. Restorative practices is mentioned in the chapter focusing on the research on preventative interventions. In short, despite the growing interest in implementing restorative practices as a way to prevent bullying, little research supports its effectiveness. The panel calls for research in this area in order to support this claim.

That call is being answered. RAND, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, is currently engaged in the first randomized control study of the effectiveness of restorative practices on improving school culture and in addressing behavioral issues. The study will also examine changes in suspension rates, staff and student attendance, student achievement, and more. …

The State of the Science of Bullying

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The mission of StopBullying.gov, a website created through a partnership of the United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Education, is to provide "information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying."  The website is the most comprehensive online resource for bullying. The "Facts about Bullying" page reflects the most current knowledge about bullying, including definition, statistics, bullying and suicide, and laws and policies. Also on this page is the section "The State of the Science."

While bullying research remains a growing field of inquiry, studies have shown the impact of bullying during childhood and adolescence into adulthood and have confirmed the complex nature of bullying. Even though unanswered questions remain, studies have provided conclusive evidence about bullying. Common understanding includes the prevalence …

Middle School Bullying Prevalence and the Importance of Social Frameworks

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All forms of bullying behavior peak during middle school, with the highest percentage of students reporting being bullied in the 6th grade. Several structural or logistical reasons help to explain this, such as the transition between elementary and middle schools, the introduction of passing time with less adult supervision, increased class sizes, and multiple teachers during a school day. Bullying happens, though, on a social level. Bullying behavior might be better understood by also using these frameworks: social engagement theory, social development theory, and social structure.

Social engagement theory. Our nervous system's most important function is to ensure our safety, but as humans, we need more than safety; we need connection. When we are safe, we "spontaneously interact" with one another, using facial expression, eye contact, and tone of voice; in other words, we use our social engagement system. At the moment the brain perceives danger, it seeks reassurance. …

Feeling Safe at School: A National Downward Trend

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Since 1993 the Center for Disease Control's Department of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) has asked high school students the following question on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS): "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you not go to school because you felt you would be unsafe at school or on your way to or from school?" Before discussing the 2017 findings and 14-year trend, let's explore the concept of safety

In 1943 American psychologist Abraham Maslow first proposed his Hierarchy of Motivation. This human development theory frames a hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. The model asserts that the physiological needs of food, warmth, and more must be met before safety needs are met, and so on. In this sense, safety is a broad term and describes security, stability, order and freedom from fear.

From a trauma perspective, this sense of safety is no less critical in human development. Dr. Bruce Per…

The Puzzling Persistence of Bullying Behavior

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Since 1990, the Center for Disease Control's Division of Adolescence and School Health (DASH) has surveyed over four million US students on health behaviors that contribute to physical, social, and emotional problems in adolescence and adulthood using the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). The survey has evolved over the years, reflecting growth in our understanding about youth behavior and technology use. For example, the YRBSS now includes questions about and adverse childhood experiences. The YRBSS included questions about bullying behavior in schools beginning in 2009 and about cyberbullying (electronic bullying) in 2011.

In June 2018 DASH released "YRBSS Data Summary and Trends Report: 2007-2017," presenting  trends of bullying and cyberbullying since each was added to the survey. The following are a few highlights:
Overall, the rate of bullying on school property has remained stable since 2009. About 20% of US students report being bullied.The number …

More Misdirection in Bullying Prevention

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In addition to zero tolerance and advice-only support, other misdirection in bullying prevention is important to discuss.

Expecting bystanders to solve the problem is problematic and irresponsible. As Barbara Coloroso has suggested, the bystander role is complex, holding varying degrees of complicity in bullying. The following cannot be overstated: adults are the first line of defense in a bullying situation. The power imbalance that separates bullying from other acts of aggression needs adult intervention. Children/young adults need to identify power structures and understand social injustice, and they will need guidance for this process. Bystanders alone cannot solve the bullying problem.
Implementing piecemeal efforts can bring more harm to the school culture and to the most vulnerable in a school population. Motivational speakers and special assemblies are often used in schools as bullying prevention strategies. While students and staff may report being entertained, inspired, even…

Misdirection in Bullying Prevention

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Before embarking on a bullying prevention path, schools should take stock of what is already in place and reflect on how effective these efforts have been. This is especially important, as some of the traditional ways of approaching bullying prevention result in more damage to the school culture and to students themselves.
For example, zero tolerance, the rigid and inflexible approach to enforcing school policy, was listed in 2016 by the National Academies of Science as a non-approach to bullying prevention. Zero tolerance damages a school culture with its emphasis on control and an absence of growth and support. It also becomes interconnected with disproportionality, as students of color are suspended and/or expelled at higher rates than white students. Reports of bullying incidents decrease, not only because of the harsh penalties imposed, but also because of the fear of retaliation. The stakes are just too high.
Some adults believe that bullying is best resolved by the children and y…

In Support of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model

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The most effective bullying prevention initiatives are always a part of a systemic and comprehensive school reform effort.  Successful educational reform expands a school-only focus to include the greater community. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model provides the template for successful school reform efforts.

The WSCC Model was developed through the powerful partnership of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). It joins health and well-being with education and learning.

For 30 years, the CDC's Coordinated School Health Model has provided the blueprint for health education policies and practices across the United States at district, regional, state, and national levels. The WSCC Model reflects an expanded and updated Coordinated School Health Model.

The ASCD's Whole Child Initiative was launched in 2007 as a way to shift from focusing on academic achievement as a measure of student s…

Bullying 101

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It is a time to unite us in our efforts across the United States in keeping our children and young people safe, happy, and healthy. As we begin this month-long bullying prevention focus, it is also a good time to bring forward some essential understandings.

1. What is bullying? Bullying is an act of aggression with three specific characteristics: it is intended to do harm, it is repeated or has a high likelihood of being repeated, and it involves an imbalance of power. All three characteristics must be present in order for a behavior to be considered bullying.

2. What are the types of bullying? Bullying can be physical, verbal (oral and written), social (or relational), or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. 

3. Is bullying a rite of passage? In 2016 the National Academies of Science concluded that bullying is not a rite of passage. Furthermore, because of the nega…