Anti-Bullying Campaigns May Not Work

Back to February 2014 Ed Reporter

Anti-Bullying Campaigns May Not Work

No Bully Zone-300As reported in the Education Reporter in December, research by a University of Texas professor, published in the Journal of Criminology shows that school bullying-prevention programs often do not work and may actually increase children’s inclination to bully. Prof. S. Jeong studied 7,000 students from 195 schools in 50 states and found that bullying-prevention programs expose students “to what a bully is” and that students may actually be learning bullying skills from prevention programs.

Two students from different states committed suicide within days of each other after viewing anti-bullying videos that end with a bullied student committing suicide.

A 15-year-old sophomore at Carterville High School in Illinois killed himself on Oct. 17 by shooting himself in the chest. His father criticized the bullying video his son had watched that ends with a student taking his own life, saying, “You’re dealing with kids. Kids don’t look at the long-term situation — they look at the short term, they look at the pain they feel now, how can they end that pain.”

In Sparks, Nevada a 12-year-old student brought a gun to school, shot two classmates, then killed a teacher before killing himself on October 21, 2013. This occurred shortly after all Sparks Middle School students viewed the anti-bullying documentary “Bully.” Students report that the film tells two stories “in which bullying drove one student to commit suicide by hanging and another to bring a gun on a school bus.”

Parents are troubled by the events. One Sparks Middle School mother whose daughters are in 7th- and 8th-grade said, “I don’t understand why that would be shown in the schools. They are trying to be very proactive [about bullying], but I don’t know if it’s coming across to the kids that way. Because at this age, children can be influenced by many things.”

The Sparks Nevada Police Department believes that the bullying film is evidence. “Detectives are reviewing the video to see if it has any bearing on the investigation,” said a police official.

The Los Angeles Times reports that some feel that anti-bullying campaigns work to decrease the problem. But they also mention the report in The Journal of Criminology which came to a different conclusion, stating: “Students attending schools with bullying-prevention programs were more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention programs.”

Parents from around the country contacted Mr. Lewis, the father of the Illinois student who committed suicide. Some parents were concerned about the bullying videos. Lewis suggests that maybe parents should be notified before schools show such videos and allowed to see them before they are viewed by students. He said about such videos, which can be graphic, “it can affect people, especially kids that are in a dark place.” (Los Angeles Times, 10-28-13)

With increased focus on bullying, parents and school districts must carefully question whether anti-bullying campaigns are making the problem worse. They should take a critical look at campaigns offered to schools before they are presented to children.