RI kids’ advocacy organization pushing to prevent bullying

Parent Guide: Bullying Prevention >>

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The children’s advocacy organization, Rhode Island Kids Count, held a roundtable discussion Tuesday morning to coincide with the release of a report on how to prevent bullying in the state.

The “issue brief,” “Preventing Bullying in Rhode Island Schools,” tracked how schools across the state are examining bullying behavior with their students and educating about better, more respectful interactions. Kids Count also issued recommendations as a result of the study.

Parts of the report are derived from results of student surveys for middle school students and high school students, including “SurveyWorks!” commissioned by the Rhode Island Department of Education for the 2013-2014 school year.

Many schools have developed or adopted prevention programs, “but more evaluation needs to be performed to maximize outcomes,” the report authors said. Two leading programs, the “Olweus Bullying Prevention Program” and “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” are being used in various Rhode Island districts; both take into account theories of positive youth development and building a positive culture in schools.

The report outlines six types of bullying that are employed — verbal bullying, relational bullying, cyberbullying, coercion or peer pressure, damage to property, and physical bullying — and a “spectrum” of bullying activities, from “little abrasive things,” to violence.

“Being made fun of or called names and being the subject of rumors are the two most common forms of bullying experienced by children and youth in the U.S.,” the report authors said. Over the past 15 years, all fifty states and Washington, D.C. have adopted anti-bullying laws.

But, improvement is happening: the surveys showed bullying declined for high school, middle school and elementary school students from prior years to the 2013-2014 survey.

Kids Count’s recommendations include more tracking and assessment of bullying, as well as developing benchmarks for measuring how effective programs and interventions are.

The report also spotlighted sub-groups of students who are at increased risk of being bullied, including youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT); youth with physical, emotional, and/or learning disabilities; and youth who are overweight.

There’s also a phenomenon called “bully-victims;” it’s possible to be both a victim of bullying and a perpetrator of bullying. This kind of student, in particular, can face elevated levels of depression, poor self-esteem, heightened aggression, and contemplate suicide — and is more likely to be rejected by peers, have poor social skills, be impulsive and easily provoked, and have trouble in learning. In a student survey earlier this year by the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, the Kids Count report said, a majority of students reported they both “gave and took” bullying.