Bullying Research & Bridging the Gap in Schools

The tragic results of bullying often make headlines in the media, but what's often over looked are the simple, every day things that can make a difference in kids lives.

"We don't want your kind here. Watch your back."

This is what some kids deal with on a day to day basis.

Dr. Susan Swearer co-founder of the Bullying Research Network and associate professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says, "This is the run of the mill bullying that doesn't necessarily make headlines.

Experts from the Bullying Research Network, a virtual 70-member group of international researchers say addressing bullying can be much easier than you think.

Dr. Shelley Hymel, co-founder of the Bullying Research Network and professor at the University of British Columbia, says, "One message out there is that, maybe you're that adult for some child, take the time because some of these kids really need the help, and they're not necessarily getting it from home. It could be a coach, a neighbor, an activity leader, it could be somebody else's mom, but very often we find that kids just need someone, they need the guidance."

Dr. Swearer adds, "They need the adults, I think that's a really important message, that we need to send, that the adults in these systems are incredibly important."

Janet Eckerson is one of those adults. She's a teacher in the Crete School District.

Eckerson teaches Spanish at Crete High School and tells 10/11 the small district doesn't have a huge bullying problem. She says, "Adults need be around kids, be in the hallway, supervise and when bullying is happening, when we see kids call each other names to intervene and to not have the attitude that this is a normal thing that kids do, that they tease each other and that that's ok."

A positive climate is a message Lincoln Public Schools are working to incorporate in their good citizen initiative and everyday hero program.

Randy Ernst is the LPS Social Sciences Curriculum Coordinator. He says, "It can be a student who prevents someone from writing something bad on a locker. To be that everyday hero, to act in a way that makes things better for everybody and helps set this climate of being a good citizen."

Both educators attended a bullying think tank as part of their doctoral degree at UNL. And they agree with experts, there's a gap between the research and what happens in schools.

Randy Ernst, "I think one of the solutions would be to involve teachers more, to get to the practicioners to get to the teachers in the classroom, to be working with the researchers on this."

Dr. Swearer says, "We call this the research to practice gap, and there is a big gap research and practice and we know from conducting research studies what is going to work in schools, but getting that information to the schools and then getting the shcools and school personel, is harder than you might think

Dr. Swearer adds, "Schools are faced with many challenges and so it's understandable, so a lot of the programs that schools choose to implement have no evidence based what so ever. What we're trying to do with the Bullying Research Network, is really push that envelope and say, we have an evidence based in the bullying and peer vicitimization literature, we need to get those types of practices into schools."

Dr. Hymel adds, "They come to us when they have unique problems or when they have emergencies, and we actually learn from them, because they're able to tell us what's really going on in the schools, lets face it a lot of us haven't been in schools for quite a few years."

Experts say they're slowly bridging that gap.

At University of British Columbia where Dr. Hymel is a professor, she says they're working with the teacher education program to incorporate bullying and social situations into the curriculum.

She says, "Teachers for example who establish in their classroom that your classmates are your colleagues, they're people you work with, you can go to them for help, as opposed to establishing that your classmates are your competitors, lets see who does the best on this test, makes a huge difference in how the classroom operates and how kids treat each other."

Watch the special report Wednesday at 10:00 on 10/11 News.