Questions of effectiveness for anti bullying programs were highlighted as schools across New Jersey this week posted self-assessed anti bullying scores.
The scores, which ranged from a low of 46 in Camden schools to a near perfect 73 in the Medford School District, raise interesting questions about how effective anti bullying programs are, even as area school districts are shelling out thousands of dollars for them.
Anti bullying requirements cost 206 New Jersey school districts — or 39.5 percent of districts throughout the state — more than $2 million in training, software and personnel between 2011 and 2012, according to a 2012 survey led by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
Haddonfield Superintendent Dr. Richard Perry said the district spends about $10,000 annually on anti bullying initiatives, most of it on training teachers and support staff.
“Overall it’s been a positive initiative and it has helped create an open dialogue about the issue because it is a problem, not only in secondary school but college.”
Where there is room to grow and learn is with social media, noted Perry.
“The social media expands beyond the boundary of the school day,” he said. “If a Twitter message is sent on a Saturday night we will investigate it, but the difficulty is trying to determine whether it relates to the bullying statute.”
In a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Texas and Michigan State University, researchers found students who attended schools with bullying prevention programs were more likely to report being victims.
In the study of 7,000 students ages 12 to 18 in the 2005-2006 school year, a higher percentage of students in schools with anti bullying programs reported experiencing bullying than students in schools without programs.
The results of the study seem to conflict with conventional wisdom and with state law, which says such programming builds safer school environments. However, it’s possible, said anti-bullying specialist and sociologist Dr. Paula Rodriguez Rust, that students who are more aware of bullying because of the programs report it more often than children who know little about it.
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