One of the difficulties of identifying and preventing bullying is that it changes. Technology, for example, has opened up doors previously unthought-of, and modified the interactive behaviors of children both in and out of school. Educators in Colorado and around the nation are working to adapt to these changes, and implement effective anti-bullying programs in their schools.
The Bullying Prevention Institute presented an informative seminar in Silverthorne Thursday, with the goal of increasing student achievement by ensuring safe school climates. The event, one in a series related to anti-bullying research and prevention methods, is co-hosted by the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, One Colorado and the Anti-Defamation League. More than 100 participants from 44 schools, districts and agencies throughout Colorado signed up to attend the event.
Christine Harms, director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, opened the event with discussion about the definition of bullying (as opposed to verbal conflict, which is likely to happen among friends), and the importance of a positive school climate on academic achievement and overall comfort of students.
A video from the Colorado Legacy Foundation featured high school students talking about the consequences of bullying. "Grades are not the top priority when you're being bullied," one student said.
The event's keynote speaker was Dorothy L. Espelage, professor of child development and associate chair in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has been studying social phenomena such as bullying for nearly 20 years, and has published numerous papers and studies nationally.
Espelage's speech focused on realistic bullying prevention strategies. Though she says many programs that are in place aren't updated or adaptive enough to effectively prevent bullying as it occurs today, Espelage said she felt positively about educators' ability to change this.
"The climate has changed. Life has changed. We can [too], we just need to be more creative about it," she said.
The research done by Espelage and her colleague has begun to show results, which inform that bullying behaviors are linked to behaviors among peer groups. This makes bullying what Espelage calls "a social phenomenon." Knowing the motivations behind bullying will help educators create programs that effectively halt or subvert those types of behaviors.
"Peers socialize each other into this behavior," she said. "Implementation [of programs] is a challenge."
Additionally, the Bullying Prevention Institute provided opportunities for attendees to learn about best practices in bullying prevention, changes in the Colorado law, recent federal guidance and more.
"Colorado is leading the country in the development and implementation of effective bullying prevention strategies," said Leslie Herod, program officer at the Gill Foundation which supported the event. "We are proud to support these organizations as they carry out this important work to ensure that all kids, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, feel safe and supported in their school."