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Webinar Series on National Academies Report: Key Findings

Sep 21, 2016|By: Elizabeth Edgerton, MD, MPH, Health Resources and Services Administration

The recently released National Academies report, Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice (May 2016), presents a lot of actionable findings and recommendations. Our partners at the Children’s Safety Network (CSN) hosted a webinar series this summer, highlighting three major topic areas covered in the report: The Consequences of Bullying, Bullying Prevention Law and Policy and Preventative Interventions for Bullying. Each webinar featured bullying prevention experts who were co-authors of the report, and they shared their own insights and supporting research. The webinars have been archived for future viewing.

The Consequences of Bullying 

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt presented key findings from the report focused on the effect bullying has on those involved. Bullying has significant short- and long-term biological and psychological consequences for children – whether they are the target, perpetrator or even bystanders. Highlights included:

  • Bullying has significant short- and long-term psychological consequences for involved children
  • Individuals who are involved in bullying in any capacity are more likely than peers who are not to contemplate or attempt suicide; however, there is not enough evidence to conclude that bullying is a causal factor for youth suicides.
  • The effect of bullying on perpetrators largely depends on their social status.
  • Adults who were bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety and suicidality, at ages 23 and 50.

Groups who are particularly vulnerable to bullying:

  • Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender ( LGBT) youth experience bullying at a rate double that of heterosexual youth.
  • Of transgender or gender non-conforming youth, 82% reported bullying experiences in the past 12 months.
  • Youth with disabilities experience bullying at 1.5 times the rate as those without disabilities.

Bullying Prevention Law and Policy

Jonathan Todres and Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler discussed how laws and policies can help prevent bullying, as well as their limits in doing so. The National Academies report focused on federal and state law, rather than local policies. Highlights included:

  • There is no specific federal law that addresses bullying; however, several laws offer protection to recognized protected classes (such as students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - IDEA).
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted or revised laws on bullying; 49 states and DC include electronic forms of bullying in their anti-bullying statutes. However, definitions of bullying and approaches to address bully vary among the state laws, and few have been evaluated.
  • In some states, schools are limited to responding to that which occurs on school grounds, and other locations such as school events or school buses. In other states, schools have broader authority to take action on anything that might affect the school environment for the child who is bullied.

Preventative Interventions for Bullying 

Drs. Catherine Bradshaw and Dan Flannery walked the audience through preventative interventions, particularly multi-tiered prevention efforts, which show the most promise in stopping bullying before it starts. Highlights included:

  • Multi-tiered approaches use universal, selective, and indicated prevention programs and activities. For example, a universal program might include lessons on social-emotional skill development for all students.
  • It is important to implement schoolwide prevention efforts that support positive behavior, establish a common set of expectations for behavior across all school contexts, and involve all school staff in prevention activities.
  • Families play a critical role in bullying prevention by providing emotional support to promote disclosure of bullying incidents and by fostering coping skills in their children.

You can also read our June 2016 blog post on the release of the National Academies report.

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