Highmark Foundation reports $17.1 million savings when bullying prevention programs are sustained in Pennsylvania schools

AscentiveThe Highmark Foundation has released the first savings analysis created about the impact of bullying prevention programs in Pennsylvania. One example the report highlights is a $17.1 million in potential school savings when the number of students who leave schools because of bullying is reduced.

The Cost Benefit of Bullying Prevention: A First-Time Look at Savings indicates there are cost savings for schools when they initiate long-term evidence-based programs to prevent bullying. For the first time, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Windber Research Institute looks at the anticipated financial impact of the expansion of the evidence-based Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) during a three-year period in the 49 Pennsylvania counties that the Highmark Foundation serves.

“The cost-benefit analysis report provides valuable and positive outlooks that bullying prevention programs are having a greater impact in our schools, among health care organizations, within families and throughout the community,” said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. “The Highmark Foundation is focused on supporting health care initiatives that address the improvement of service delivery systems. It is our hope that this report will serve as a change agent for bullying prevention in schools and organizations across the nation.”

The report also compares the value of reduced health care utilization and care costs when bullying is reduced. Some of the various health-related conditions or problems caused by bullying incidents include mental health disorders, headaches, abdominal pain and/or alcohol use. On average, 31.4 percent of students with these bullying-related health disorders are treated at an estimated $1,683 per student (per 18 months).

“If the number of students who bully or who are bullied decreases, fewer students will experience such health-related consequences and a direct reduction in treatment costs will result,” said Dr. Matthew Masiello, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Windber Research Institute.

This report demonstrates the Highmark Foundation’s continued efforts to address and fund evidence-based bullying prevention programs in Pennsylvania, and supports previous findings that 13 percent of Pennsylvania school children are experiencing a safer, more responsive school climate through exposure to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, as noted in Bullying Prevention: The Impact on Pennsylvania School Children, a report released by the Highmark Foundation in 2011.

The Highmark Foundation has also recommitted funding to the Windber Research Institute and the Center for Safe Schools through combined $1 million grants. The funding will support bullying prevention efforts in Pennsylvania through activities designed to fill gaps in resources, provide unavailable services and strategic development of outcomes evaluation.

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Sears Tackles America’s Bullying Epidemic Head-On

AscentiveCyber safety news from the Ascentive team

Parents of the 13 million children who suffer from an acute bullying problem[1] can now find solutions at their fingertips. Sears has announced the launch of Team Up to Stop Bullying to address America’s bullying issue, which spikes as students return to classrooms and playgrounds. Team Up to Stop Bullying is the first solutions- and service-based anti-bullying coalition striving to provide immediate solutions that parents and schools can implement today.

“Team Up to Stop Bullying provides much-needed resources to parents, children, educators and communities and will help Americans understand that bullying is a not a normal part of childhood,” said Marie Newman, bullying solutions author and managing director of Team Up to Stop Bullying. “Every seven minutes a child is bullied at school and studies show that schools with an anti-bullying program see a decrease in bullying up to 50 percent. While there isn’t one fix to every bullying problem, there are solutions and services that work. Now, for the first time, there is one simple place to connect to those solutions at sears.com/TeamUp.”

Sears Team Up to Stop Bullying initiative aims to connect those in the throes of a bullying problem to valuable resources with solutions and services provided by a nationwide coalition of more than 55 organizations. The Team Up to Stop Bullying website, sears.com/TeamUp, provides easy access to hundreds of solutions and services for parents and schools from non-profits like: Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Hazelden, publisher of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program; National PTA®; Stand For The Silent; Solutions For Bullying; It Gets Better project; The BULLY Project and End to Cyberbullying.

Celebrities will also “team up” with the coalition to spread the word. The Kardashians, Marlo Thomas, George Kotsiopoulos, Kyle Massey, Jennifer Veal, Lee Hirsch (director of the new BULLY movie) and more, are lending their voices as Team Up to Stop Bullying ambassadors.

“When you’re on the front lines of bullying it’s hard to know where to turn to find immediate solutions,” said Lana Krauter, senior vice president and president of Sears Apparel. “Sears is proud to have created Team Up to Stop Bullying to help families and communities find solutions. We’ve built a tremendous coalition of partner organizations that, like Sears, raise their hand and say that children deserve to be protected and learn in safe environments.”

Sears encourages those affected by bullying to team up in three ways:

1.     Visit sears.com/TeamUp to Find Solutions to Bullying or Take the Power Pledge

  • Find a solution to your child’s unique bullying problem or find a service provider who can assist you or provide counsel in implementing solutions.
  •  Commit to stop bullying and support a movement for positive change in our schools by taking the Power Pledge online at sears.com/TeamUp. The pledge includes committing to never demean, humiliate or be disrespectful toward anyone, to be inclusive and accepting of everyone and to celebrate unique differences. Visitors can also donate to Team Up to Stop Bullying, which benefits non-profit solutions-oriented anti-bullying organizations.

2.     Buy the “BULLY” documentary T-shirt: Show your support with the Team Up to Stop Bullying T-shirt, available for $9.99 at sears.com/TeamUp. Sears is donating $3.75 from the purchase of T-shirts now through October 31, 2012 to Donorschoose.org to benefit The Bully Project®‘s 1 Million Kids program. Donorschoose.org is a charitable organization committed to working with The Bully Project to end bullying and The Bully Project is the outreach arm of the recent “Bully” documentary.

3.     Shop back-to-school at Sears: Sears customers can shop to stop bullying on Sears’ “Super Back-to-School Saturday” (August 11). Customers can download a one-day-only savings pass online at sears.com/TeamUp for 15 percent off on in-store purchases of apparel, footwear and fine jewelry. Sears will donate five percent of in-store purchases using the savings pass (up to $70,000) to its non-profit anti-bullying coalition of partners.

 

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Cyberbullying – Monitoring Children’s Social Media Usage Is Important, but So Is Allowing Their Mistakes

AscentiveCyber safety tips from the Ascentive team

Facebook has provided millions of people worldwide with an unmatched outlet for sharing information about their lives. Through the social network giant, establishing community with old friends and new has never been easier.

But Facebook also presents an assortment of issues — especially for parents, according to a Kansas State University parenting expert.

 

Chuck Smith, professor of emeritus of family studies and human services at the university’s College of Human Ecology, says increased usage of Facebook by children has sparked questions of how to prevent cyberbullying and protect their personal privacy. Simultaneously, some parents have been forced to consider how much information they should share about their children on Facebook.

 

But despite the risks, Smith says using Facebook is worthwhile for children if parents remain aware.

“Facebook is a tool that could be used for good or bad,” Smith said. “It’s up to parents to help their children understand how to use it well and be vigilant about misuse.”

 

Online bullying is Smith’s primary concern among young Facebook users. Preventing online bullying should involve parents retaining essential control of a child’s Facebook account, he said. This allows parents to read all posts and ensure the highest levels of security settings are in place. Appropriate security settings are beneficial in a variety of contexts, including Smith’s other primary concern with young Facebook users: online predators.

To counteract possible negative influences, Smith advises parents of children under 16 years old to have the family use the computer in a common area — something that may not sit well with some children.

“The impact on relationships could be with children regarding parents as too intrusive in their personal lives,” Smith said. “Though as long as the children are living in the home, parents have every right to be vigilant.

“For parents, vigilance changes with the child’s age, but you still have to be responsible.”

Parents should instruct their children on responsible sharing of information early, but parents also should allow a reasonable amount of freedom for children to make their own mistakes, Smith said. Failure to allow a meaningful amount of freedom could be detrimental to the parental-child relationship.

“The younger generation is very much an online generation,” Smith said. “We have to be realistic and teach them about the danger and responsibility of posting online and considering what they might say and how they might react. Parents who are overly restrictive might lose their opportunity.

Standards of responsibility also exist for parental social media usage — especially when it concerns their children. Smith advises parents consider their own security settings before sharing certain information about their children. The same principle applies for any sort of related information, including when the family will be on vacation.

“You have to be aware of who you have given permission to view the page,” Smith said.

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Philadelphia-Based Frontier Virtual Charter High School Surrenders Charter, Agrees to Terminate Operations

AscentiveTech news from the Ascentive team

Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis has announced that the Board of Trustees of Philadelphia-based Frontier Virtual Charter High School has voted to voluntarily surrender its charter.

An extensive investigation by the Department of Education revealed that the school failed to adhere to the conditions of its charter by not delivering core educational programs to students.

“Today’s action is in the best interest of students and provides families sufficient time to make other arrangements for the upcoming school year,” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said today.

“Over the past year, Frontier fell short in providing its students with the core academic programs parents and students expect of our public schools,” Tomalis said. “These issues were not just the normal difficulties typically experienced by a first-year organization, but they go to the heart of Frontier’s ability to provide quality educational opportunities to students within the confines of its charter, as well as the Charter School Law.

“Charter schools serve as quality alternatives to traditional public schools and meet the academic needs of more than 105,000 students across Pennsylvania,” Tomalis added.  “For the past 15 years, charter schools have not only become a valuable fixture of Pennsylvania’s public education system, but they have made a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of students.

“The department is ultimately responsible to students, parents and taxpayers for ensuring that Pennsylvania’s students have access to quality cyber charter programs,” Tomalis said.  “It is of the utmost importance that all charter schools – brick-and-mortar and cyber – adhere to the conditions of their charter and the requirements of the Charter School Law to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used to provide students with high-quality academic programs.”

Pursuant to the Charter School Law – Article 17-A of the Public School Code – the department is responsible for granting a charter to a cyber charter school and revoking a cyber school’s charter if, after a thorough investigation, it is determined that further operation of the school would be detrimental to students.

In January 2012, the department notified Frontier’s administration that it would conduct a routine site visit in March to determine whether the school was meeting the goals of its charter and if it was in compliance with applicable laws.

During the March visit, department staff was unable to complete their onsite review due to not being provided access to the school’s records and not being permitted to interview school personnel. Following that visit, the department made repeated requests to Frontier for access to its records and instructional materials, as well as student and staff records.

During this process and without prior notice to the department, Frontier abruptly terminated its principal and teaching staff, further inhibiting the department from completing its assessment of the school.

Through its investigation, the department discovered that student records, which Frontier is required by law to maintain, were not in Frontier’s possession.

After a thorough review of the materials and information obtained during the review process, the department decided to seek termination of Frontier’s charter for the following reasons:

Failure to provide or reimburse students for all equipment, technology and services necessary for the online delivery of curriculum and instruction;

Failure to properly monitor student attendance, work progress, truancy and grades;

Failure to maintain the financial ability to provide services required by the Charter School Law;

One or more material violations of the conditions, standards or procedures contained in its written charter;

Failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management or audit requirements; and

Blatant violation of the Charter School Law.

This action by Frontier’s Board of Trustees puts an end to the department’s plan to seek revocation of the school’s charter.

On its website, the Department of Education maintains lists of all brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools authorized to operate in Pennsylvania.  These lists can be accessed by visiting www.education.state.pa.us, clicking on “Programs” and then selecting “Charter Schools” in the drop-down menu.

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Study Reveals Children view Cyberbullying differently from Bullying

AscentiveCyber safety tips from the Ascentive team

University of British Columbia research comparing traditional bullying with cyberbullying finds that the dynamics of online bullying are different, suggesting that anti-bullying programs need specific interventions to target online aggression.

“There are currently many programs aimed at reducing bullying in schools and I think there is an assumption that these programs deal with cyberbullying as well,” says Jennifer Shapka, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC who is presenting this research at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Vancouver.

“What we’re seeing is that kids don’t equate cyberbullying with traditional forms of schoolyard bullying.  As such, we shouldn’t assume that existing interventions will be relevant to aggression that is happening online.”

Shapka is presenting a study that involved 17,000 Vancouver, B.C. students in Grades 8 to 12 and a follow-up study involving 733 Vancouver, B.C. youth aged 10-18.

Results of the studies show that about 25-30 percent of youth report that they have experienced or taken part in cyberbullying, compared to 12 per cent of youth who say they’ve experienced or taken part in schoolyard bullying. However, “Youth say that 95 per cent of what happens online was intended as a joke and only 5 per cent was intended to harm,” says Shapka. “It is clear that youth are underestimating the level of harm associated with cyberbullying.”

According to Shapka, the findings suggest that in cyberbullying adolescents play multiple roles – as bullies, victims, and witnesses – and “downplay the impact of it, which means that existing education and prevention programs are not going to get through to them.”

“Students need to be educated that this ‘just joking’ behaviour has serious implications.”

Being victimized online can have consequences for a person’s mental health, developmental wellbeing, and academic achievement, according to Shapka. In extreme cases, there have been reports of suicide.

Traditional bullying, or schoolyard bullying, is often associated with three main characteristics: a power differential between bully and victim, a proactive targeting of a victim, and ongoing aggression.

Shapka says, research is beginning to show that cyberbullying does not necessarily involve these three characteristics. Traditional power differentials – size and popularity – do not necessarily apply online. There also seems to be more fluid delineation between the roles youth play; it is not unusual for an individual to act in all capacities – bullies, victims, and witnesses – online.

Previous work by Shapka and her colleagues has shown that in contrast to traditional bullying, cyberbullying is rarely associated with planned targeting of a victim.

A number of Internet safety campaigns suggest parents keep an eye on their children’s online activity but Shapka says this kind of micro-managing can undermine healthy adolescent development.

“An open and honest relationship between parents and children is one of the best ways to protect teenagers from online risks related to cyberbullying, Internet addiction, and privacy concerns related to disclosing personal information online.”

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