La Sierra center, NAD education join forces against bullying
September 10, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
Name calling, hitting, ostracizing, abusive text messages—when aggressively repeated within a power imbalance, such behavior is called bullying and can lead to disastrous consequences including debilitating low self esteem and suicide.
According to the U.S. Department of Education bullying is on the rise throughout America’s schools. The department reported that during the 2008-09 school year, 28 percent of youth ages 12-18, or roughly 7 million students said they were bullied at school and about 1.5 million, or 6 percent reported episodes of cyber bullying. The pervasive problem has captured media coverage and involvement by national leadership. In 2006, the Pacer Center, co-sponsored by the National Education Association and other groups, established October as National Bullying Prevention Month. In March 2011 the White House held its first Conference on Bullying Prevention.
In early August this year, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Education took a stand as well and through a partnership with La Sierra University’s Center for Conflict Resolution began offering free of charge to all K-12 schools within the division a survey from the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. The two-part instrument will “collect data on bullying and create a common-language framework for the discussion of bullying and violence prevention among educators,” according to the NAD. The conflict resolution center will also help a limited number of schools, selected on the basis of readiness, implement a pilot of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, or OBPP. The center is also making available an online training course for principals and head teachers.
“This isn’t just some marketing campaign with a slogan and some posters. It is a systems change that takes into account all of the factors that lead to bullying/violence surfacing in the school or youth program environment,” said Richard Pershing, a Riverside-based attorney and director of the conflict resolution center. The NAD announced the program during the NAD’s 2012 Teachers’ Convention in early August in Nashville, Tenn. A team from the center, including a trainer certified by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, held workshops and presented an exhibit of information.
“As a result of it being a systems change, it can take two to three years to see results. Even though that is a long time, it is the only approach proven to be effective and sustainable,” Pershing said. “We believe that SDA education is particularly suited to this approach because the approach is about community, the very thing that makes SDA education possible.”
The Olweus survey for the NAD’s more than 1,000 elementary and secondary schools includes such questions as, “how often have you been bullied at school in the past couple of months?” and asks how often a child was “called mean names, was made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way.”
The Center for Conflict Resolution, tasked with a Versafund Bullying Prevention Grant Initiative from nonprofit Adventist foundation Versacare Inc. in Corona, chose the Olweus program as it proved to be the only effective, evidence-based bullying and violence prevention initiative available, Pershing said. “We also saw that it was a good fit for the SDA church because the OBPP focuses on creating a culture that reinforces the positive behaviors that prevent bullying/violence from occurring in the first place,” he said.
The intent of the Versafund grant initiative is three-pronged: to provide SDA education with a common definition of bullying that is evidence based and can be studied in conjunction with the millions of survey responses already in the Olweus bullying prevention data base; to provide metrics so SDA education can study and monitor itself; and to provide SDA education a common approach to bullying/violence prevention, said Pershing.
The Olweus approach, created by Dr. Dan Olweus, a Swedish research professor of psychology and founder of broad-based research of bullying problems, relies on more than 35 years of international research including comparative studies with schools that implemented OBPP and those that didn’t. Results showed significant reductions in bullying through OBPP as well as improved academics.
News of the center’s NAD partnership and bullying prevention initiative has spread throughout the division. Schools and conference leaders in Canada, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Florida and California have contacted the conflict resolution center seeking information, said Pershing. Schools outside of the NAD are also expressing interest. Attorney Dulce Peña, a La Sierra business school and conflict resolution center faculty member traveled to Brazil in August to teach conflict resolution and to vet questions about ways to implement the Olweus program in the Brazilian SDA school system of 60,000 students.
Versacare chose to help fund the anti-bullying initiative based in part on conversations with conflict resolution consultants and general knowledge of the pervasiveness of the bullying problem, stated Robert Coy, Versacare board president and vice chairman and board vice president Ron Wisbey. “We do realize that the need for bullying education/prevention within the SDA church educational system is no different than in the public sector,” Wisbey said. “We were convinced that this was an important area for the center to pursue. I personally have surveyed the Olweus survey and the Bullying Prevention 101 [program] and realize that this organization is out in front on this subject.”
Versacare does not become involved in operational or strategic decisions made by the Center for Conflict Resolution, stated Wisbey and Coy.
Coy, a former deputy general counsel with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, together with Wisbey and Pershing, who serves as legal counsel and trustee with Versacare, were instrumental in conceptualizing the Conflict Resolution Center which is housed within La Sierra’s Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business. The center serves as a vehicle for promoting to Adventist organizations the strategy of peace building through mediation.
For additional information contact the Center for Conflict Resolution.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University