How do bullies use anonymous social media sites, such as YikYak and Kik, to taunt their victims, often leading to suicide? What can school systems do to improve school climate? Which strategies can be used to address workplace bullying? How can bystanders intervene without feeling at-risk themselves?
These were among the questions explored during Auburn University’s sixth national Anti-Bullying Summit, held June 23-24, 2016, in Peachtree City, Georgia. The Summit, co-hosted by the Truman Pierce Institute and the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, attracted nearly 300 participants from 13 states, Washington D.C., Singapore, and Canada. Thirty-eight breakout sessions and four keynote events provided opportunities to network and learn from each other as well as from experts in counseling, cyberbullying research, school safety, and model intervention programs.
Auburn University professionals who led sessions were Sandy Armstrong, director of East Alabama Regional In-Service Center; Kevin Coonrod, Auburn’s. Ombudsman; Adrienne Duke, assistant professor and extension specialist, Human Development; Sandy Resa, education consultant, Truman Pierce Institute; and Debra Ward, Alabama Cooperative Extension.
Keynote speakers were Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Judge Steven Teske, Dr. Rebecca Ang, and Ms. Trisha Prabhu.
Dr. Hinduja’s topic, “Empowering Teens to Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral” particularly resonated with the student attendees from Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and of Greater Lee County. Dr. Hinduja is a Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe social networking.
Dr. Ang shared extensive research on “Reducing Aggression and Bullying Through Multi-pronged Schoolwide Approaches.” She serves as Associate Professor and Head of the Psychological Studies Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Dr. Ang has published extensively in the field of developmental child psychopathology, aggressive and bullying behavior, and related prevention and intervention work.
Judge Teske’s presentation, “Smart on Bullying: Strategic Tolerance, Not Zero Tolerance” utilized data showing that school bullies often become adult prisoners. Zero tolerance policies exacerbate school dropout rates, thus the bully gets no counseling or structured intervention. Under Judge Teske’s leadership, Clayton County, Georgia created a school-justice partnership to eliminate the negative impact of zero tolerance policies. Today his model has been replicated in many jurisdictions nationwide. Since its inception, graduation rates have steadily increased and juvenile and adult crimes rates have dramatically decreased.
The Choice Bus, sponsored by the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, was also on-site at the Summit as a complement to Judge Teske’s concerns. The Choice Bus, which includes a replica of a jail cell for visitors to visit, is an experience-based learning tool designed to show young people the likely consequences of choosing to drop out of school.
The Summit paid tribute to four Anti-Bullying Heroes (individuals or groups) who have taken a strong stance to eliminate bullying in their schools or communities:
- Franklin Schargel (Albuquerque, New Mexico) has published extensively on the topic of bullying and has developed proven anti-bullying programs for school and community agencies.
- NFL Hall of Famer Darrell Green (Reston, Virginia) leads the “Strong Youth, Strong Communities” initiative sponsored by Summit corporate partners Centene and Cenpatico. “Strong Youth, Strong Communities” emphasizes raising youth’s awareness of active thinking, sound judgment, and creating and enacting a healthy “living constitution” for success in life.
- Oakley Perry (Jeff Davis County, Georgia) serves as a National 4-H Healthy Living Youth Ambassador and was a panelist at the Federal Partners for Bullying Preventions Summit. He helped launch “Bully Buster” Ambassador programs in Georgia.
- Huntsville, Alabama, City Schools (Organizational recipient) has implemented the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” as a year-long program throughout its 39 schools, the first state in the Southeastern ADL region to do so.
Ms. Trisha Prabhu spoke via video to the Hero Award recipients, commending their accomplishments in confronting bullying. Ms. Prabhu, a 2015 student winner, developed “ReThink,” a free software program that reduces vicious messaging by prompting social media users to “ReThink” before “Sending.” Prabhu had planned to be present but was recruited by President Obama to participate in the 2016 Entrepreneurs Summit in Washington during the same time frame.
Plans are already underway for the 2017 Anti-Bullying Summit. Please contact Alan Spencer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Linda Dean (email@example.com) if you have questions or suggestions for future presenters.