Graduate Students Examine School-bullying Issues at Quest

Submitted by SUNY Oswego

OSWEGO — Two Quest presentations at SUNY Oswego, by graduate education students Katherine Gleason and Lindsay Therrien, will offer various angles on the persistent problem of school bullying.

Both curriculum and instruction students whose projects started in Faith Maina’s EDU 508 research methods class, Gleason and Therrien will offer two of more than 200 presentations, poster sessions and performances at the April 13 celebration of scholarly and creative activities at SUNY Oswego.

“I feel that as the years go by, bullying is becoming worse,” Therrien said. As a teacher in a K-8 school, she sees bullying on almost a daily basis. With some types of bullying, including the rise in cyberbullying, leading to student suicides, the topic is a very serious one, she said.

In “Bullying in the K-8 School,” Therrien explores results of her survey of 133 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, another 133 parents and 27 teachers, administrators and other school employees. “I think my research is important because it gives a clear idea as to the rate that bullying may occur in a school setting,” she said.

In addition to surveys incorporating both “concrete and open-ended questions,” Therrien said, she “set up observations during arrival, instructional time, lunch and dismissal. This enabled me to collect both quantitative and qualitative data regarding knowledge of bullying within the school, as well as bullying behaviors.”

Teachers’ view

Gleason’s presentation, “How Do Teachers Deal with Bullying?,” looks at common challenges gathered through interviews of professionals — including those in teaching, administration, social work and guidance counseling — on such topics as communication gaps, “mean girl” cliques and cyberbullying.

Lack of communication was a persistent research problem, ranging from difficulties in getting timely cooperation from bullies and victims to some school professionals’ reluctance to share information for confidentiality concerns. For example, Gleason heard from one teacher who had not been told two students in a class had clashed earlier in the day, making the teacher unprepared when the situation reignited.

Cyberbullying proves especially thorny for teachers, Gleason said, because it is new, pervasive and often evades their notice. “Some schools have no-electronics policies, but they’re not always enforced,” Gleason explained. “You’re not sure if students are writing down their homework assignment or telling the guy or girl next to them that they’re going to beat them up after school.”

Seeking solutions

Education, observation and preparation are the main counters Gleason recommends. Being well read on the topic and taking advantage of anti-bullying professional-development opportunities create a good foundation for educators, she said. Knowing how to spot warning signs of bullying and being able to speak frankly with students can lead to an active anti-bullying presence.

Schools should not hesitate to have students involved in the solution, Gleason noted. “One social worker mentioned putting together a task force of student peers to help other students with bullying,” she said. “Students want to have their voices heard, and this is a good way.”

Therrien found many teachers and parents in favor of schools having zero-tolerance policies and better training. “A lot of parents feel that there should be more programs available and implemented on bullying behavior and how to handle and prevent it,” she said. “There is a major concern for consistency in school communities, and there is the need for all staff to be on the same page when it comes to discipline.”

Times and Campus Center room numbers for Gleason’s and Therrien’s Quest presentations on April 13 will be available at