Lawrence School Student Survey on Bullying
By Jason Culp, Associate Director of Upper School and Bill Musolf, Lower School Dean of Students
We have recently had the opportunity to receive and analyze results from two surveys on bullying that were administered to Lawrence School students in grades 1-12, and are pleased to share those results with the wider community.
To provide some context and history, during the summer of 2007 several Lawrence School faculty and administrators were trained in the implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Olweus is the most-researched and among the most effective bullying prevention programs currently available. Recently, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program received the endorsement of the American Academy of Pediatrics as an effective method by which schools and communities can positively impact bullying behavior.
During the 2007-2008 school year, Lawrence School piloted aspects of the Olweus program in selected classrooms and grade levels to learn more about the program itself and to resolve any potential implementation challenges.
In the spring of 2008, all Lawrence School students in grades 1-12 completed the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire (OBQ). The OBQ is a “standardized, validated multiple-choice questionnaire designed to measure a number of aspects of bullying problems in schools” (Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, 2007, p.4). The OBQ assists Lawrence School in the effective implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and allows us to measure change in behavior and school climate over the course of time (Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, 2007).
“The OBQ gives the school detailed information about bullying behavior, attitudes, and related issues in the school environment. This, in turn, increases awareness on the part of school staff, students, and parents to address bullying issues” (Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, 2007, p. 5). Full implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in all classes, at all grade levels began during the 2008-2009 school year and included training programs for both staff and students.
In our first survey administration, Lawrence School results were comparable to the national averages of other schools participating in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Considering the smaller size of Lawrence School and the emphasis placed on helping students develop pro-social skills, we were both surprised and disappointed by these initial results.
However, the good news is that positive trends are beginning to emerge as we interpret the results from the second round of Olweus Bullying Questionnaires that were administered in the spring of 2009. We’d like to share the following highlights with you:
1. Related to the percentage of girls and boys who feel afraid of being bullied by other students in school, both the Lower and Upper School campuses showed overall reductions between 10 and 15%, bringing Lawrence School’s scores for this category in at fully half of the national average.
2. Related to the percentage of girls and boys who perceive that they have been bullied 2-3 times per month, rates in the Lower School remained relatively stable, with results at the national average. In the Upper School, reductions were noted in this area, with drops of as much as 17% in selected grade levels and scores at the middle school level now coming in below the national average.
3. Related to the percentage of girls and boys on both the Lower and Upper School campuses who try to help the bullied student when they see or learn that a student their age is being bullied, survey results show increases of 15% on both campuses. These results place Lawrence School students significantly above the national average for this behavior. Conversely, significantly fewer students report a tendency to simply watch what happens when bullying incidents occur.
4. Related to the percentage of students who report being bullied on their transportation to and from school, Lower School achieved reductions of 17%, while the Upper School shows reductions of 10%. These results place both schools well below the national average for bullying issues occurring on school transportation.
5. Students on both the Lower and Upper School campuses are less likely than national comparisons to report disliking school.
As with any project of this magnitude, there are areas in which the surveys revealed a need for additional attention and planning. If we are to achieve our goals related to bullying prevention, we will need to focus our efforts in the following areas:
1. Assisting students in recognizing when behavior crosses the line and is defined as bullying, versus when an incident is a mild, developmentally typical social conflict. We will be intensifying our efforts at helping our students understand what is bullying behavior, both from the viewpoint of the student being bullied and the student engaging in bullying behavior.
2. Assisting students in developing an awareness of the fact that spreading rumors about other students is a form of bullying. Interestingly, while results for all types of bullying behavior within the school showed reductions in this survey administration, the prevalence of rumors increased dramatically.
3. Addressing bullying “hot spots” on both campuses. At the Lower School, the survey results reveal that the playground is the area where bullying most frequently occurs. At the Upper School, we now know that the hallways and lunchrooms are the areas where bullying most frequently occurs. As such, we will be examining our supervision plans for these areas and determining how to effectively address this issue.
4. Continuing to encourage students to report bullying concerns to school personnel. While some students report their concerns, the evidence shows that the majority do not. The more we can help students understand the importance of letting us know what is happening, when it is happening, the more effective school personnel can be in resolving the concerns.
5. Lastly, we will continue our efforts at empowering the bystanders-those students who witness bullying behavior, but do not intervene to stop it. While we know that this is a difficult challenge for students, it is the aspect of bullying prevention that has been shown to be the most powerful and effective. As such, we will emphasize the power students hold in helping to create a school climate that is safe and welcoming for every student.
If you have questions about the survey process or the implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, please contact Mr. Culp at the Upper School and Mr. Musolf at the Lower School. We would be happy to talk with you further about our efforts at bullying prevention on both campuses.
Moving forward, both campuses will continue the implementation of the Olweus program during each school year. As always, one of the most important aspects of effective program implementation is the partnership between home and school. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with you in addressing bullying concerns as they emerge, and supporting all of our students in their efforts to create a supportive, kind and caring community – at school and home. We look forward to continuing this journey with you, and thank you for your support.To e-mail the authors: Jason Culp at firstname.lastname@example.org Bill Musolf at email@example.com