Anti-bullying initiatives have been popping up in many schools throughout the area, but a new study said these programs may have the opposite effect on kids.
The study out of the University of Texas, Arlington, said students at schools with anti-bullying programs are actually more likely to be victims of bullying than students who attend schools without those programs. It suggests that students are being taught what a bully does and how it makes someone feel, but they’re also learning how to avoid getting caught.
The findings contradict what anti-bullying programs are supposed to do in schools, such as protect children from psychological and emotional stress.
Statistics show more than 70 percent of middle and high school students are affected by bullying, but local experts say there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for this problem.
Local school districts say anti-bullying programs are not set in stone and can change based on the needs of the students. Officials say they look at dealing with bullying on many different levels and found that collaboration between families, school districts and the community offers the best results.
Principal of Longfellow and LDI Middle School, Penny Reedy, says the new research is one-sided.
“An anti-bullying program is one piece of the puzzle that you use in the school,” said Reedy.
Reedy has been working with students for the past 15 years and said many schools implement a variety of programs to ensure students' safety.
“We have a school culture that talks about how do we treat each other, how do our teachers role model those things for our students, so we can feel safe and say this is the way we should do things,” said Reedy.
Associate Superintendent for the La Crosse School District Troy Harcey agrees with Reedy and said the school district doesn’t subscribe to a singular anti-bullying program. It’s a mix of programs that involve the students, parents and community.
“Our efforts are trying to promote a civility; how we expect to treat one another in the Coulee region,” said Harcey.
Childhood family therapist Jeff Reiland with Gundersen Health System said the programs that focus on the treatment of others, rather than bullying itself, are the most beneficial.
“The better programs are the ones that give kids ideas of how to be kind, how to be compassionate, how to integrate that into the curriculum and those programs tend to be more robust,” said Reiland.
It is up to each school district to decide how to incorporate anti-bullying programs into their curriculum.
“Not all schools implement the same bully prevention programs the same way,” said Reiland.
However, local experts said collaboration with the community garners the best results.
“We know that when we have support from the home, the school and the community we can have a long-lasting positive effect,” said Harcey.
Officials say an increase in the number of bullying incidents doesn’t necessarily mean more students are being bullied, it could mean that children are starting to feel more comfortable talking about the issue and reporting it to adults.
If you are looking for more information about anti-bullying programs in the area, we have additional information on a new website News 8 created at www.thecompassionproject.me.