Sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education
A project under the School of Social Welfare's Center for Children & Families

Researchers to host anti-bullying summit

Monday, August 11, 2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas will host an Anti-Bullying Summit, bringing some of the world’s leading scholars on the topic together with educators in area schools to discuss the latest research, prevention and intervention strategies as well as how schools can put them to work.

The summit, part of the Kansans Against Bullying Project, will take place Sept. 18-19 at KU. Organized by Anne Williford, assistant professor of social welfare, and Paula Fite, associate professor of psychology at KU, will match research, theory and scholarship with service as educators can learn how to apply the latest research in their schools.

Williford and Fite recently led efforts to help schools across Kansas develop anti-bullying policies as part of the Kansans Against Bullying Project. The project was supported by the Kansas State Department of Education.

“What we heard consistently around the state was that the policy piece was helpful,” Williford said. “But we also frequently heard ‘OK, we have a policy in place, but how do we enact it?’”

The recurring question on how to put anti-bullying policies to work led to ongoing conversations amongst several researchers. Williford and Patricia Hawley, professor of educational psychology at Texas Tech University and a former KU faculty member, began work on a special anti-bullying issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, exploring anti-bullying programs and policies as well as how they can be effectively enacted. Research shows that, while some anti-bullying interventions have had large effects in other countries, programs have been only modestly successful in North America. The special issue invites leading scholars to advance their perspectives on how to improve the precision and effects of anti-bullying interventions in North America. The summit is thus an extension of this special issue and presents an important opportunity for researchers and educators to address the topic together.

“Essentially what the summit is intended to do is tackle the modest effects we commonly see for anti-bullying interventions and stimulate dialogue among leading scholars in the field and with area educators and community professionals on how we can collectively improve our efforts,” Williford said. “While even a modest reduction in bullying is clearly a good start, we as a field think we can do better.”

The summit’s morning session will feature several leading anti-bullying researchers from the United States and Canada — including Hawley, Shelley Hymel of the University of British Columbia; Jamie Ostrov of the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York; and Karin Frey of the University of Washington — presenting on topics such as improving anti-bullying interventions through applying cutting-edge evidence and psychological theory, exploring the role of peer group dynamics and the importance of friends in prevention efforts, and looking specifically at early intervention strategies for young children.

The sold-out afternoon session is free and open to educators, administrators, community professionals and parents who want to put anti-bullying practices to work. Dorothy Espelage, the Edward William Gutgsell & Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will kick off the afternoon session with a keynote address on practical strategies to prevent and effectively intervene with bullying. Eric Vernberg, professor of clinical child psychology and director of the Child and Family Services Clinic at KU; Sheri Bauman, professor at the University of Arizona; and Williford will lead sessions about preventing cyberbullying, developing and enacting evidence-based interventions in schools and communities, and effectively training adults to deliver bullying interventions and support students in these behaviors.

More information on the Anti-Bullying Summit, presenters and details are available online. The summit is sponsored by KU’s School of Social Welfare.

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