Image: David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A study entitled "Addressing Bullying Incidents: A Principal's Perspective," that was published by the Kentucky Center for School Safety just last week, on May 25, 2016, lays out some of the prime reasons that our schools have failed to make sufficient inroads and progress in stemming bullying.
The novelty, for lack of a better term, of this study - as compared to other studies regarding bullying, which focused on the students' perspective - is that this study was conducted from the school administrations' perspective, and surveyed approximately 625 principals and assistant principals across the State.
What the Study Found
To be sure, some of the findings of the study were more surprising/disappointing that others.
Here's a list of the more salient findings:
- While the vast majority of schools had a bullying prevention policy and a process to report bullying, surprisingly, only 2/3 of the respondents had received bullying prevention training despite principals’ high level of involvement in bullying cases.
- More than half of all principals were simply given a hard copy of the board policy on bullying prevention and no formal training.
- Most principals felt that their school's bullying prevention program is reducing bullying behaviors, at least to some degree.
- Far more students use anonymous routes to report bullying than any other means.
- Principals across all levels surveyed viewed the online tip line as working moderately well. (Note: Despite that finding, some schools do not have an online tip line.)
- Fewer than half of high school principals report that their parents are informed of the difference in definition between bullying and peer conflict.
- At least half of all respondents are unaware of any anti-bullying efforts being made in their respective communities.
Looking Ahead, What the Study Recommends
Tthe study recommends a number of measures that flow directly from its findings, such as assuring that all school principals and assistant principals receive comprehensive anti-bullying training, and publicizing the multiple means available to parents and students for reporting bullying incidents.
Additionally, and this dovetails with one of the surprising elements of the study's findings, the authors recommend that parents be educated on the distinctions between peer conflict and bullying, as, according to the study's authors:
"[P]eer conflict refers to a mutual disagreement or hostility between peers or peer groups of similar or equal power who are not generally seeking attention."
I'm not sure I agree with the authors on that final point, but it is certainly a topic worthy of discussion.