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Crossroads Collaborative offers Anti-Bullying Suggestions

Bullying among youth and young adults remains a pervasive nationwide problem, one that the UA Crossroads Collaborative and its partner organizations have been striving to call attention to and to address.

In partnership with Nuestra Voz, a YWCA Racial Justice Program with local youth, Crossroads Collaborative members have released a set of recommendations to aid educators, youth and other members of the general community in the prevention of bullying.

The recommendations and findings stem from a long-range study and are detailed in a new research brief, "Bullying in Tucson Public Schools: Rates, Reasons, Prevention Programs, and Recommendations," released by the Crossroads Collaborative. The brief offers a review of youths’ experiences in Tucson – what they want and need to know – and what adults and community groups can do to be supportive and to help.

Crossroads Collaborative members will release the report during an event hosted by the End of Bullying Task Force of the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding in partnership with the Tucson Unified School District. Congressman Ron Barber, founder of the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, will open the evening and welcome attendees. The event will be held Oct. 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Tucson High School, 400 N. Second Ave.

In order to understand students’ experiences of bullying, racism and injustices, school climate surveys were administered throughout the Tucson region. A group of 403 middle and high school students from 11 Tucson area schools responded to this survey. The team defines bullying as aggressive words or actions that are intentional and also emphasize an imbalance of power. Most often, bullying is repeated over time.

While findings indicate that more than half of the students surveyed reported never having bullied others, youth also reported being uncertain about the actions or words that represent bullying and whether they have bullied others. Overall, students reported having been bullied most often on the grounds of their sexual orientation, for weight-related reasons and for getting good grades. Students also reported being bullied because of their physical appearance, for being placed in special education programs, for speaking with an accent or for being from another country.

Among the recommendations, researchers with the Crossroads Collaborative suggest that community members can be advocates for youth by contacting state legislators, school superintendents and school board members. They can also support legislation and policies that will stop bullying and thereby protect all youth from bullying.

As adult advocates, support of anti-bullying policies that protect youth from being bullied or experiencing discrimination on the basis of their identities – such as sexual orientation, gender identity and disability – is an effective way to intervene in bullying and improve school safety for all youth.

Also, advocating for bullying prevention and intervention programs is necessary for youth of all ages.

For schools and educators, professional development for school personnel on how to stop bullying is crucial, and educators should monitor and stop bullying in their schools.

Teachers and other school personnel should be prepared to intervene when students are bullied, regardless of the reason. Many individuals believe that bullying is normal for youth. However, all school staff should be educated in order to understand that bullying is not only harmful, but it can and should be stopped.

Also, recommendations for youth encourage them to speak up and speak out against bullying and to report acts of bullying to teachers and school staff. Youth can advocate for inclusive anti-bullying policies, organize school assemblies, invite guest speakers, design class projects and either start or join school clubs that oppose bullying and promote safe schools.

To further educate youth about bullying and to aid students in anti-bullying action, the Crossroads Collaborative partnered with Nuestra Voz to host a summer camp in June 2011 during which 22 youth participated. The week-long educational camp about youth, sexuality, health and rights also informed youth about the intersections of racial, economic, gender and educational justice.

Adela C. Licona is a UA associate professor of rhetoric, and Stephen T. Russell is interim director of the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences and also director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families. The Crossroads Collaborative, funded by the Ford Foundation, brings stories and numbers together through action-oriented research with academics, youth serving organizations, and youth from the community to develop knowledge, increase understanding, amplify youth voice and share what we learn with the broader community.

Contacts: Adela C. Licona at 520-621-1057 or aclicona@email.arizona.edu; Stephen T. Russell at 520-621-1231 or strussell@arizona.edu.