(Editor’s Note: This opinion piece, written by bullying/cyberbullying prevention pioneer Nancy Willard, is important reading for anybody interested in identifying, addressing, and preventing bullying and cyberbullying in schools. Nancy has long been known to speak truth to power, regardless of the consequences. As a result, she is sometimes vilified for her candor, as many of the comments appended to her article demonstrate. But she is totally correct in observing that bullying prevention programs have proven largely ineffective, not necessarily because their methodology is flawed, but because implementation is impeded by lack of resources and lack of public and political support. The focus is on “fixing” the kids when it’s the adults who are broken. — Mike Tully
P.S. Full disclosure: Nancy Willard is a close friend and valued colleague for many years.)
Prevention programs based on major misconceptions
Last November, the top administrators of Lane County’s three largest school districts made public statements related to bullying. In part, they stated: “Regardless of the uncertainty associated with the election, schools still are safe places.”
In December, 2016, the Oregon Department of Education issued a statement that read in part: “It is especially important now for all students, families and other members of the greater community to know and be reassured that our schools remain safe and respectful places of learning for all students.”
Unfortunately, data on bullying in Oregon and Lane County show that these statements are not accurate.
On the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teen survey, conducted by the Oregon Public Health Division, students are asked about their experiences being bullied in the last 30 days. Bullying is defined for them as someone being repeatedly hurtful. In Oregon, 29.9 percent of eighth-graders report being bullied. This rate appears to be significantly higher than on two national surveys.
In Lane County, the student-reported rate of being bullied in eighth grade was much higher — 34.2 percent of reported someone was repeatedly hurtful to them at school in the last month!
In a recent well-publicized incident, two Creswell High School administrators texted messages disparaging former students. There are three concerns associated with this incident: First, that they would do such a thing. Second, that both students left Creswell schools because of concerns related to bullying — indicating a lack of attention to the concerns at the school.