Researchers from SIU-Carbondale are partnering with 40 schools in southern Illinois to assess school safety, bullying and ways to promote a safe, supportive learning environment.
SIU-C associate professor of psychology Mary Louise Cashel is one of the lead investigators in the study. She says the three-year project began in the spring when they surveyed students, teachers and staff in grades four through 12 about their perceptions of the school climate.
"How inclusive do they feel it is? To what degree is diversity embraced, supported? More specifically, what experiences - with respect to bullying - have they either directly had or observed?"
She says defining bullying isn't always clear to students and school personnel. Cashel says one of the problems is that the term bullying has become so common.
"Many people will just assume that any kind of aggression, or peer conflict, is bullying and that's not necessarily the case. It really has to do with the characteristics of the kids that are involved, the nature of the interaction."
The three-year project - funded through a $786,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice - started this spring as researchers sent surveys to the schools to gather baseline data for the study.
She says this summer groups of school administrators and school policy makers will go through training sessions to address bullying. Also this summer, a group of teachers will receive training on classroom intervention strategies. There will also be training for playground and bus monitors because they are on duty at times when bullying typically occurs.
The final component of the study involves establishing an anonymous, internet-based reporting system for students.
The schools involved in the study are located in Jackson, Perry, Union, Pulaski and Alexander counties and make up Regional Office of Education Number 30.