Academic journal article The California School Psychologist

Prevailing Interventions to Address Peer Victimization at School: A Study of California School Psychologists

Academic journal article The California School Psychologist

Prevailing Interventions to Address Peer Victimization at School: A Study of California School Psychologists

Article excerpt

In an effort to understand how schools are coping with incidents of peer victimization, this study explored the types of related interventions currently being offered by public schools in Northern California. School psychologists' perceptions of the importance of the available interventions were also examined (N = 96). The interventions reported to be the most widely available were a) whole-school no tolerance policies and b) school to home communication. Generally, the endorsed availability of interventions decreased as the intensity level of intervention increased. Interventions endorsed as most important were a) the whole-school no tolerance policy; b) general school climate interventions; c) school to home communication; and d) education of school personnel about bullying. Analyses examining the relative use of primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions revealed that school psychologists report primary intervention as most important for reducing levels of bullying at their schools. Analyses also revealed that the differences between psychologists' ratings on each of the levels of the intervention hierarchy were significant. Implications for further scholarship and practice are discussed.

Contemporary evidence reveals that approximately 30% of American children experience bullying in their peer group, either as a victim, bully, or both, and most of this bullying occurs in schools (Kasen, Berensen, Cohen, & Johnson, 2004; Nansel et al., 2001). Moreover, chronic victimization (occurring two or more times per month), is estimated to occur at a rate of 15% to 20% (Sawyer, Bradshaw, & O'Brennan, 2008; Whitney & Smith, 1993). Students who experience bullying may avoid school, experience extreme psychological distress and even drop-out (Boivin, Hymel, & Bukowski, 1995; Fried & Fried, 1996). In the long-term, these same students may experience adult depression, suicidality, and criminality (Carney, 2000; Olweus, 1993; Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999; Rigby, 2000; Slcc, 1994). Brock, Nickerson, O'Malley, & Chang (2006) offer a recent review of the peer victimization literature. Additionally, The Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective (Jimerson, Swearer, & Espelage, 2009) provides a comprehensive overview of bullying and victimization at school.

Teachers who promote a positive caring environment, treat children fairly, and provide meaningful opportunities for learning significantly reduce bullying behavior in their classrooms (Barboza et al., 2009; Natvig, Albreksten, & Qvarnstom, 2001). Unfortunately, evidence indicates that most teachers and other school staff are ill prepared to cope with bullying. In fact, nearly 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and intervene in less than 10% of bullying incidents (Cohn & Canter, 2002). The National Regional Education Laboratory (Brewster & Railsback, 2001) emphasizes that school psychologists are in an appropriate position to encourage and inform school staff about the adoption of anti-bully ing policies and curricula. Despite this fact, research has not focused on school psychologists' knowledge and perceptions of bullying interventions. In the related discipline of school crisis management, however, Peters (2005) found that school psychologists do not feel adequately prepared to deal with incidents of school violence. Reasons for not being prepared included: training, time, workload, and the fact that it was not viewed as their responsibility.

Comprehensive Support Plans

Given the prevalence and risk involved in peer victimization, it is essential that the education community be prepared to prevent and intervene with groups of affected students. Card and Hodges (2008) recommend comprehensive, system-wide interventions for peer victimization. Characteristics of such comprehensive interventions include: school-wide assessment and policy; education of school personnel, parents, and peer groups; systematic social skills training; individualized intervention; and consistent enforcement of rules (Smith, Schneider, Smith, & Ananiadou, 2004). …

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