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Virginia Schools Students Face New Type of Study Program This Fall

Virginia schools students recently have returned to school. Along with the studies and coursework they expected to face, they have a new program with which to deal — a bullying prevention program.

Bullies are prevalent in all schools today. It has been a growing problem for the past decade. The emotional trauma experienced by victims of bullying is, in some cases, beyond belief. The results of bullying, both upon the victim and the bully, also are significant. We have seen some of these results in our news headlines — shootings at schools, suicides, self-mutilation through cutting, depression and extreme emotional distress — and these only the victims. Bullies, many times, develop very serious violent behavior with many ending up in prison; abuse their spouses, children and/or elderly parents; and sexually abuse others.

Bullying has become a real problem in the Virginia schools, with 12,709 incidents of crime and violence against Virginia schools students reported in the 2003-2004 school year. These incidents included physical assault with and without weapons, threats, bullying and one attempted rape. Another 89 incidents were reported on Virginia schools property that involved firearms. Another 21,128 incidents of fighting with no or minor injuries were reported by the Virginia schools, and 1,336 incidents of fighting that resulted in serious injury.

Bullying occurs when one or more students repeatedly subject other students to negative actions over a period of time. Bullying includes intentional physical attacks (such as hitting), obscene gestures, intentional exclusion from a group, and verbal attacks (such as threatening, malicious teasing, and spreading rumors).

Bullies are impulsive and hotheaded. They generally (but not always) have more physical strength than other children their age. Bullies lack empathy and have dominant personalities, a need to control and prove they are tough. They defy authority, do not conform to rules, have a positive attitude toward violence, and have poor conflict-resolution skills. Many times, bullies are children from abusive families — but not always.

The Virginia schools are determined to stop the abuse in their schools. They have teamed with the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Commonwealth University to implement the Olweus Bully Prevention Program, which began this fall. The program is funded by a grant of 0,615 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for each of the three years the program will run, between 2006 and 2009.

The Olweus Program was first used throughout Norway and addresses individual and bystander behaviors. It promotes social skills to eliminate the negative interaction between bullies and victims. It will promote parent and community education and collaboration within the Virginia schools.

According to State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube, M.D., M.P.H., the Olweus Program will directly address the behavioral tendencies that lead to becoming a bully or a victim. It will work to prevent all forms of violence in the Virginia schools that is directed by or at children and adolescents.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found the program has many benefits. The Olweus Program:

• Reduced student reports of being bullied and bullying others by 30 to 70 percent;
• Significantly reduced students’ reports of general antisocial behavior, such as vandalism, fighting and theft;
• Significantly improved classroom order and discipline; and
• Fostered a more positive attitude toward schoolwork and school.

The Virginia schools expect similar results across the commonwealth. Lessening bullying in the Virginia schools, means the Virginia schools students can put more focus on their coursework and scholastic achievement, and teachers can focus less on discipline and more on teaching. It is a plus for everyone.

About the Author: Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Patricia has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more information on Virginia schools visit

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