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Blunting Bullying: MA Students Learn to “STAND UP”

PHOTO: Bullying persists in Commonwealth schools, facilitated by social media. Middle school and high school students are learning prevention practices at an anti-bullying summit today in Boston. Photo credit: Diego Grez/Wikipedia.
PHOTO: Bullying persists in Commonwealth schools, facilitated by social media. Middle school and high school students are learning prevention practices at an anti-bullying summit today in Boston. Photo credit: Diego Grez/Wikipedia.
November 21, 2014

BOSTON - Graduate students from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University will help middle and high school students learn bullying-prevention practices as part of a program called STAND UP.

In 2010, the Legislature passed a landmark anti-bullying law. An act passed earlier this year directed schools to develop bullying-prevention plans. Dr. Elizabeth Englander of Bridgewater State oversees the summit, being held today at a conference facility in Fenway Park.

"It's very, very hard to deal with situations like bullying effectively once they've happened," she said. "Prevention is really the name of the game."

One emphasis is on enlisting students to help their classmates look past the prejudice, stereotypes and miscommunication that can breed bullying. In its fourth year, the summit has evolved from being, at first, essentially a rally into a series of workshops and training.

The summit is sponsored by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, whose vice president, Janet Anderson, said bullies have new "tools" thanks to social media.

"That's something we've seen on the increase, only because it is such a new thing," she said. "You know, with Facebook and Twitter, that is definitely something we've seen on the increase in schools over the last five years."

Englander said she sees an upside.

"The real goal, I think, of the law that was passed in 2010 was to increase awareness, make people think and plan about how to deal with this problem," she said. "Studies have found that numbers do appear to be going down in Massachusetts."

Anderson said she believes it isn't inevitable that young people will pick on their peers.

"I hear people say that there's always been bullying," she said. "I don't hear educators say that it won't go away and we can't do anything about it. I don't hear that coming from educators."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA