Using Group-Prevention to Target School Climate
Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but its presence in our schools and its harmful effects not only in childhood and adolescence but throughout life is one of the most pressing reasons behind finding and implementing successful, sustainable prevention programs. If children do not feel safe in school, how can they be expected to learn? Providing a safe, supportive school environment is crucial in fostering academic and socioemotional success (Cohen, McCabe, Michelli, & Pickeral, 2009). This school environment, also known as school climate, reflects the quality of life experienced while at school and consists of students’, parents’, and other school personnel’s experiences (National School Climate Council, 2012). Research has shown that positive school climates promote academic achievement and social development (McEvoy & Welker, 2000), while negative school climates lead to increased aggression (i.e., bullying, assault), lower levels of academic achievement, and truancy (Astor, Guerra, & Van Acker, 2010). Regarding the prevalence of bullying in schools, recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES] show that, in 2015, approximately 21% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 experienced bullying while at school. Overall, 13.3% reported verbal harassment and 5.1% reported physical harassment. While females reported higher rates of overall bullying, specifically bullying relating to verbal harassment, males reported higher rates of physical assaults. Based on this study, bullying appears to occur more during middle school. Also, Black and White students reported more instances of bullying than Hispanic students.
Although there have been many programs that have worked to address socioemotional concerns in school systems, the majority of these programs have been found to be ineffective for a variety of reasons. However, the Safe and Welcoming Schools project at the University of Georgia focuses on improving school climate using prevention methods that are tailored to the school’s needs, and early findings related to the program’s effectiveness have been encouraging (Raczynski, n.d.).
I would like to invite others to share their experiences with programs that have effectively used prevention to target school climate and/or bullying within secondary schools.
Shana Ingram firstname.lastname@example.org
Astor, R. A., Guerra, N., Van Acker, R. (2010). How can we improve school safety research? Educational Researcher, 39, 69-78.
Cohen, J., McCabe, E. M., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180-213.
McEvoy, A., & Welker, R. (2000). Antisocial behavior, academic failure, and school climate: A critical review. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(3), 130-140.
National School Climate Council. (2012). School climate. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/
Raczynski, K. (n.d.). The Safe and Welcoming Schools Partnership: A university-school district collaboration for improving school climate. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/safe-schools/university-school-district.pdf
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 (NCES 2017-064), Indicator 11.