To the Editor:
Your article “Studies Probe ‘Ecology’ of Bullying” (May 19, 2010) reports researchers’ findings on the need for employing a multipronged approach in creating a school climate that effectively combats bullying. It also quotes an article in the journal Educational Researcher that says “there isn’t a single, large-scale clinical trial of a schoolwide bullying-prevention program.”
The Ophelia Project, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe social climates, is beginning research trials on such a program this fall, though a collaboration with Mercyhurst College, in Erie, Pa. The program, Creating a Safe School, or CASS, challenges students, parents, teachers, administrators, and all members of a school community to reassess their current beliefs about relationships and peer aggression, and to create an environment rooted in civility and respect.
The program represents a systemic change process that takes two full years of implementation to set in place. Students take part in weekly meetings, faculty members are trained in a minimum of two full in-service days, and all adults in the school community are invited to attend monthly awareness and prevention programs.
What makes CASS stand out is the use of students as mentors, to promote positive social norms and provide support when peer aggression arises. It is a community-building initiative that empowers members of a school as agents of change in creating a safe social climate, one in which bullying is not allowed to persist.
Leigh Anne Kraemer
A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 2010 edition of Education Week as Bullying Prevention: Testing a New Program