School Climate Project

The Project

Why we are concerned about Bullying:

The latest academic research shows that the stress of being bullied may elevate cortisol levels in the brain to the point where a bullied student’s ability to store and recall academic information may be seriously impaired.  Research also shows that targets of bullying can suffer a variety of mental and physical difficulties ranging from depression and anxiety to eating and sleep disorders.  At its most extreme, bullying has led to suicide, to violent outbreaks, and to targets who decide to “get even” by bringing a loaded gun to school.  Bullying, therefore, can lead to academic and emotional troubles as well as to violence.

Bullies, bullied, bystanders and School Climate:

Typical targets of bullies are the children who are “different”.  Often this may be the child who is “too smart”, “too pretty”, “too wealthy”, or the child who is painfully shy or overweight, or has a foreign accent.  Truly, the whole school is involved: those who aren’t bullies or bullied are often bystanders, witnesses to emotional cruelty and acts of violence that lead to feelings of “bystander guilt” and a student-wide perception that their school is unsafe.  To help, we need access to school climate information that has been collected from the whole student body.  Once we have a detailed picture of how the student body is feeling, we can introduce school climate programs that are custom-built to the needs of the specific student population.

Program Description:

During the Health or Physical Education class, students spend approximately 30 minutes completing a series of online questionnaires.  Our strictly confidential questionnaires ask students about how connected they feel to their school, if they are concerned about being bullied at school, if they are anxious or depressed, etc.  Our questionnaires were selected together with the Yale University Department of Psychology, and have been validated over the past 20 years by leading research universities including Yale, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, and the National Institutes of Health.  Our questions are straightforward in style and are mostly multiple choice.  Our database has been programmed to create aggregate reports designed to help each school evaluate the quality of the school climate.  The completed questionnaires are scored by a computer and the encoded results are transmitted to our database system - we only see code numbers, not names.

Those students whose score suggests that they are having difficulty with being bullied at school will be asked if they would like to complete The Surviving Bullies Video Book.  The Video Book is designed to be fun and engaging.  It’s composed of five missions (chapters) of written advice, interactive questions and over 50 short video clips of teenagers giving practical advice on how to cope with being bullied. 

We are partnering with each school to make their school safer, to improve their school’s climate, to motivate bystanders to become proactive and to improve the academic performance and emotional health of children who are being bullied.

Academic Research:

The School Climate Project is a groundbreaking anti-bullying program - nothing similar to it has been done before.  As such, anonymous aggregate student data will have tremendous value to researchers who are trying to understand the impact of bullying on teenagers.  Any and all data released to academic researchers will have no personal identification whatsoever.

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