Sticks and stones: Using curriculum to stop bullying

Diego Grez. Wikipedia Commons
Diego Grez. Wikipedia Commons

Jennifer E. Beebe, PhD, assistant professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College, says that to prevent or stop bullying, schools must implement collaborative programs that involve teachers, administrators and school counselors.  

“It is integral that bullying prevention and intervention efforts address the specific needs of the students, schools and communities,” says Beebe, who conducts research in the areas of bullying and cyber-bullying.  Such interventions can include the implementation of social and emotional learning standards into school curriculum.

“It’s just as important to teach social and emotional skills to students as it is to teach them science,” says Beebe. “We can increase consciousness of positive behaviors by incorporating those ideals into the educational system. Many students may not learn them otherwise.”

Beebe recently completed a study, which examined disrespect, bullying behaviors and physical aggression among 350 elementary and middle school students in three schools in Illinois. The behaviors were negatively impacting students’ academic achievement and school attendance. In many cases, these behaviors crossed over into the cyber world. Beebe’s research was awarded the Dean’s Scholarship from The Canisius College School of Education and Human Services.

Students learned several tenets from a 12-week long intervention that was integrated into students’ regular classroom lessons for approximately one hour. “Students were taught concepts such as loyalty, obedience, bystander intervention and respect.” Beebe adds. 

The research was the result of a collaborative effort with a non-profit organization in Illinois, The COREMatters Project. The intervention is a multi-dimensional classroom experience focusing on social emotional learning, empathy and respect building instruction utilizing cooperative learning activities, role playing, classroom discussions, individual work, as well as physical activities that involve Martial Arts.

Upon completion of the year-long study (2011-2012), which included pre- and post-testing, “We found a significant decrease in teasing and bullying behaviors among the students,” says Beebe. “This is very encouraging sign. Because of these positive results, plans are underway to implement this curriculum at other schools.”

Teachers, administrators, school counselors, and parents were also interviewed for the study, reported an improvement in six key areas: respect, pro-social communication, pro-social behaviors, awareness and understanding of bullying, school climate and self-esteem/motivation/confidence.

Beebe cites previous studies when she adds that the impact of bullying can affect the physical, mental and academic well-being of an individual, resulting in high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and more frequent thoughts of suicide.

Prior to Canisius, Beebe was assistant professor in the Division of Psychology at Governor’s State University in Illinois. She has trained future mental health counselors and school counselors in a Council for Accreditation and Related Educational Program for the past five years. In addition to being a counselor educator, Beebe is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified K-12 School Counselor in New York and Hawaii.  

Beebe holds a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision from the University of Northern Colorado, a master’s degree in counselor education from Canisius College and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.