BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Graduate School of
Education will become the site of a national center for the
prevention of bullying, abuse and school violence, thanks to the
largest gift in the school's history.
The gift from UB alumna Jean M. Alberti, PhD, a clinical and
educational psychologist based in Chicago and former local
elementary teacher, will establish UB as a proactive national
resource on the prevention of bullying and other antisocial
behavior among school children. The center's first activity is a
daylong symposium today in UB's Slee Hall. More than 400 teachers,
administrators, child psychologists, law enforcement officials and
others interested in the bullying issue attended.
The Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse
and School Violence will research, identify and disseminate a
variety of interventions that share the common goal of preventing
this type of abuse.
"We need to change the way people look at this problem to
reflect the message that bullying is child abuse by children," said
Alberti, who participated in the daylong symposium. "No one I've
ever heard or read about talks about bullying in that language.
Until we change the language, we can't change people's
understanding of the problem.
"My hope is that this new center will change people's thinking
by changing the term to 'bullying abuse,' thereby generating new
conversations, initiatives and research about the prevention of
Mary H. Gresham, dean of UB's Graduate School of Education, said
Alberti's "incredibly generous gift" will support and encourage
efforts to end bullying abuse, "which is indeed child abuse, as
perpetrated by other children."
Alberti chose UB's Graduate School of Education for the gift
after Gresham learned about Alberti's concept of bullying as child
abuse and invited her to deliver a lecture on it at UB in 2008.
"Dean Gresham has enthusiastically made connections with other
UB departments, educators in the public schools and others outside
of education who are interested or involved in this issue," said
Alberti. "Their interest and enthusiasm for the center's creation
were critical to my decision to locate it at UB."
To mark the opening of the new center, UB's Graduate School of
Education hosted today's symposium, "Prevention of Bullying, Abuse
and School Violence," which featured a keynote address by Dorothy
Espelage, a renowned expert on the prevention of bullying from the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Alberti opened the
presentations with the address "Bullying is Child Abuse by
Children." The conference also featured examples of successful
interventions from local school and law enforcement officials, and
included sessions on cyberbullying, character education and
evaluations of existing programs.
Activity in the Alberti center will address problems faced by
victims, bullies and bystanders. It is also intended to help
schools create a social climate that promotes tolerance of
diversity and individual differences to break the cycle of negative
behavior between victims and bullies.
This will include sponsoring faculty research to identify best
practices and public lectures to encourage awareness and
collaboration, as well as encouraging alliances among teachers,
administrators, students and parents, Gresham said.
"We believe that this is a multifaceted problem best addressed
through sharing our knowledge, skills and resources," Gresham said.
"Partnerships are essential to our success."
Gresham emphasized the driving force to establish this center
came from Alberti's passion to address what has been an increasing
problem locally and nationwide.
According to Alberti, educators trained in psychology know that
children learn from the consequences of their behavior. "A lack of
negative consequence equals a positive reward," she said.
"Children learn to bully to get what they want and to intimidate
the victim and the bystanders who might be tempted to help,"
Alberti said. "Those bully abusers grow up to be spousal abusers,
elder abusers, employee abusers and abusers of their own
"So the problem will continue to grow exponentially because
bully abusers get away with it -- unless we curb it now."
Bullying has been a topic of heated discussion in the media
recently, with national celebrities Bill Cosby, Larry King and Tyra
Banks weighing in on high-profile incidences of bullying.
"I've been disturbed, like many people, by the apparent increase
in bullying in our nation's schools," said Alberti. "These media
cases are the tip of the iceberg. Literally, millions of children
suffer from being bullied every year. Many of them stay home from
school out of fear from this bullying. Those who do attend class
are preoccupied about what awaits them in the hall, cafeteria,
restroom and bus, which sabotages their school performance.
"The effects of such abuse have lifelong consequences. A major
consequence is depression, founded on hopelessness and
helplessness, leaving the sufferer with a crippling sense of
powerlessness. This makes it a mental health issue as well as a
public health issue," Alberti added. "And it's not limited to the
few victims the public hears about who commit suicide or those who
turn to school violence."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.