Saturday, December 20, 2014

State hires KU team to define, devise policies on bullying


Bullying was supposed to go away.

Our campuses were supposed to become more tolerant places after that dreadful day in Littleton, Colo., 14 years ago when two students — outcasts who were openly tormented by other students — went on a shooting rampage that killed 12 students and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves.

That was supposed to serve as a reminder of the ills of bullying — and the terror it might create. Fourteen years later, it’s still an issue.

Bullying remains a problem — one that likely will never be completely eradicated.

A 2007 state law identified the problem in Kansas, but most school districts continue to have trouble implementing the anti-bullying policies required by the law.

Now, the Kansas Department of Education has chosen a research team from the University of Kansas to develop a program aimed at preventing bullying in schools. It will begin training sessions with school districts in October.

We wish those chosen for the project luck but understand the Herculean challenge with which they are being charged.

It is doubtful that developing a website and holding training sessions at schools statewide, while creating a model policy that schools can change to fit their specific circumstances, will completely wipe out the problem.

Maybe that’s because no one has come up with an iron-clad definition of the word, Anne Williford, an assistant professor of social welfare at KU and the leader of the research team, said. That’s the first step, she told the Lawrence Journal-World. To be considered bullying, the behavior has to occur over time and demonstrate a difference in status between the bully and victim, she said.

“Bullies have greater social status or are just generally more powerful among their peer group,” she said. “Preying on weaker students helps them maintain that power.”

Once a clear definition is established, schools then have the challenge of implementing consistent procedures for reporting bullying — and providing intervention.

It sounds logical, in theory. And any effort that is being made should be considered a positive. It is an indicator that the problem has been identified as something that still exists — even after state law was put in place. However, the reality is that it is going to take far more than policies and training sessions to put an end to an age-old problem.

— The Hutchinson News 

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