University at Buffalo Expert Praises Federal Government's Anti-bullying Initiative

Release Date: October 26, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Department of Education's recent nationwide letter urging educators to combat bullying in their schools is a strong and significant message that this abusive behavior will no longer be tolerated, according to a University at Buffalo education professor instrumental in the university's new center to prevent bullying and school violence.

"This letter indicates that the Department of Education is directing schools to clearly and significantly address the issues of bullying and student harassment," says Janice DeLucia-Waack, associate professor in Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology and a member of the search committee for the director of UB's Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying, Abuse and School Violence.

"What makes most sense is establishing a clear code of conduct that states positive respectful behavior is expected, and also outlines what is bullying and harassment -- as well as stating clear consequences for those behaviors."

The letter, sent to schools, colleges and universities throughout the country and all addressed "Dear Colleague," outlines legal obligations to protect students from various forms of harassment. The letter also provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.

At the same time, President Obama announced the next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools and scheduled a conference for early next year to raise awareness of the tools available to prevent it. In New York State, Gov. David Paterson on Sept. 8 signed a comprehensive anti-bullying bill called the Dignity for All Students Act.

"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up," Obama says. "It's not."

DeLucia-Waack says it is not clear there is a dramatic increase in bullying and student harassment. However, the use of technology, as in the case of the Rutgers student who committed suicide after he was harassed on the Internet, shows technology is a factor in bullying that was not present years ago.

DeLucia-Waack also said all school personnel needed to have specific anti-bullying training, including those who supervise hallways, buses and the cafeteria where incidents often occur. This training needs to include what bullying is and how to intervene appropriately.

"Based on the Response to Intervention model developed by the Department Of Education (and mandated to be implemented in New York State schools by 2012), classroom guidance to teach appropriate social skills must be provided to all students," she says. "And then individual and small group interventions must also be utilized for those students who are bullied or are bullies to remediate the problems.

"Proactive education to help all students develop empathy, respect and social skills is the key to prevention and effective remediation of bullying."

UB earlier this year announced plans to establish a national center for the prevention of bullying abuse and school violence, thanks to a gift from Chicago clinical and educational psychologist and UB alumna Jean M. Alberti. It was the largest gift in the Graduate School of Education's history.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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