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Bestselling Author Visits Cleveland for Forums on Bullying and School Climate and Safety

Posted on October 4, 2013

On September 26, the Schubert Center hosted Emily Bazelon, author and senior editor at Slate.com, for a talk titled Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. The talk presented a brief overview of the research and findings covered in Bazelon’s recent New York Times bestselling book by the same name.

Bazelon walked the audience through the current landscape of anti-bullying policies and practices. She noted that the majority of states currently have anti-bullying laws, but that the way each state defines bullying can impact the wellbeing of school children. Definitions of bullying that are too broad can have unintended negative consequences or target children that are not truly bullies. Bazelon discussed the different types of bullies and bystanders and noted how bullying is a complicated issue. She highlighted the challenges of social media–youth often use the anonymity of many sites to say something they would likely not say to or about someone in person. Without the experience of seeing another student’s reactions to their words, many students struggle to learn how to empathize with bully victims. Finally, Bazelon discussed what parents, students, educators and policymakers can do to combat bullying. She emphasized the need to teach students to be “upstanders.” The power of bullying often lies in the fact that victims of bullying are ostracized and isolated. Teaching students to stand up for targets of bullying or to reach out a hand to victims after the fact can help stop future bullying incidents. Bazelon cautioned however that zero tolerance school discipline policies, for example, are not effective approaches to addressing bullying behavior. Rather, national models such as school-wide positive behavior interventions and support (PBIS) is an evidence-based practice that has been shown to increase positive school climates and decrease bullying behaviors.

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In addition to the lecture, Bazelon also met with local stakeholders from the greater Cleveland community and schools for a discussion, “Lessons from the Field and Implications for Best Practices and Policy” and was held at John Hay High School. Respondents included Eugenia Cash and William Stencil from Cleveland Metro School District Humanware/Social and Emotional Learning, Danei Chavez of Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board; Annemarie Grassi of Open Doors Academy, Jill Jackson from the Ohio Department of Education, Gail Price and Orange High School teacher, and Summit County Juvenile Judge Linda Teodosio. Moderated by Schubert Center Child Policy Director Gabriella Celeste, the respondents discussed their current approaches to fostering positive school climates in Greater Cleveland schools. For example, CMSD currently implements its Humanware Initiative which uses evidence based practices and curricula to promote social and emotional learning among its students and has revamped its disciplinary practices to expand in-school supports, including Planning Centers rather than relying on out of school suspensions and expulsions for certain behaviors. Bazelon offered insight on effective practices and policies that are happening nationally.

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Bazelon also met with CWRU students, including those in Professor Jim Sheeler’s undergraduate journalism course, for an informal discussion on journalistic writing, book publishing, translating research for a broader audience, and other topics of interest to the students.

Visit our Facebook page to view photos from her visit.

Click here to view more information about this event.

Click here to download an issue brief on the importance of fostering a safe school climate to increase student success, written and published by the Schubert Center.