BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Department of Education's recent nationwide
letter urging educators to combat bullying in their schools is a
strong and significant message that this abusive behavior will no
longer be tolerated, according to a University at Buffalo education
professor instrumental in the university's new center to prevent
bullying and school violence.
"This letter indicates that the Department of Education is
directing schools to clearly and significantly address the issues
of bullying and student harassment," says Janice DeLucia-Waack,
associate professor in Department of Counseling, School and
Educational Psychology and a member of the search committee for the
director of UB's Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of
Bullying, Abuse and School Violence.
"What makes most sense is establishing a clear code of conduct
that states positive respectful behavior is expected, and also
outlines what is bullying and harassment -- as well as stating
clear consequences for those behaviors."
The letter, sent to schools, colleges and universities
throughout the country and all addressed "Dear Colleague," outlines
legal obligations to protect students from various forms of
harassment. The letter also provides examples of harassment and
illustrates how a school should respond in each case.
At the same time, President Obama announced the next steps to
address bullying and harassment in schools and scheduled a
conference for early next year to raise awareness of the tools
available to prevent it. In New York State, Gov. David Paterson on
Sept. 8 signed a comprehensive anti-bullying bill called the
Dignity for All Students Act.
"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal
rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up," Obama says.
DeLucia-Waack says it is not clear there is a dramatic increase
in bullying and student harassment. However, the use of technology,
as in the case of the Rutgers student who committed suicide after
he was harassed on the Internet, shows technology is a factor in
bullying that was not present years ago.
DeLucia-Waack also said all school personnel needed to have
specific anti-bullying training, including those who supervise
hallways, buses and the cafeteria where incidents often occur. This
training needs to include what bullying is and how to intervene
"Based on the Response to Intervention model developed by the
Department Of Education (and mandated to be implemented in New York
State schools by 2012), classroom guidance to teach appropriate
social skills must be provided to all students," she says. "And
then individual and small group interventions must also be utilized
for those students who are bullied or are bullies to remediate the
"Proactive education to help all students develop empathy,
respect and social skills is the key to prevention and effective
remediation of bullying."
UB earlier this year announced plans to establish a national
center for the prevention of bullying abuse and school violence,
thanks to a gift from Chicago clinical and educational psychologist
and UB alumna Jean M. Alberti. It was the largest gift in the
Graduate School of Education's history.
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.