Online Programs Grad Organizes Conference to Point Spotlight on Bullying and Teen Suicide
“There are 160,000 students who will not attend school today out of fear of being bullied. The psychosocial aspects of being a victim of bullying ranges from depression and anxiety to substance and alcohol abuse to suicide.” – Terry Driskill
Terry Driskill, MA, MA, LPC is a licensed professional counselor who practices in Louisiana. He’s working toward a Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs with a dissertation focused on the topic of bullying. To spread the word about bullying prevention and teen suicide, Terry is organizing the Blake Sims Louisiana Conference on Bullying and Teen Suicide, to be held on February 9, 2017 at the Hilton Garden Inn in West Monroe, Louisiana. . Terry completed a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University, Online Programs in 2013.
With National Bullying Prevention Month winding down, we recently caught up with Terry to talk about the conference and how his work can help people to better understand the problems of bullying and teen suicide.
Why did you decide to focus your dissertation on the topic of bullying?
I became interested in studying bullying after the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999. At that time, the shooters were thought to have been bullied during school because of their gothic clothing. I wanted to know if school shootings had a relationship with bullying. Some will say bullying has no causal relationship with school shootings, but [I believe there is a] relationship between school shooters and bullying.
In a Birth Cohort study in Finland, a group of children were followed from birth to age 24. At age eight, these children were interviewed, along with parents and teachers. The study showed that a child who was bullied at age eight is more likely do be an offender at the age of 24. This is an area of future research, to find out if there is a direct relationship between bullying and school shooters.
What have you found in your research that’s surprised you?
It surprised me that girls are becoming more physical in bullying. Normally, the boys [engage in] physical aspects of hitting, pushing, shoving, and other physical acts. The girls are known mostly for “relational bullying” through social media and cell phones. The trend seems to be moving towards increased physical bullying for females.
Why did you decide to plan this conference?
The conference is named after my cousin, Blake Sims, who was a Louisiana educator in a small rural parish. He was a teacher, principal, and coach for over 30 years. His son was an educator and coach and his daughter, Kristy Sims Curry, is the head ladies basketball coach at the University of Alabama. His wife, Ann, was also a teacher and coach in the same rural school district.
The professionals coming in for the conference are [experts in the field].
· Dr. Sue Limber is from Clemson University and her special area is bullying and legal matters
· Dr. Charisse Nixon is from The Pennsylvania State University and her special area is resilience and relationships in bullying behaviors. Dr. Nixon is the co-author a national survey with 13,000 students.
· Stan Davis is a retired school counselor, has over 30 years of studying bullying behaviors, and was the co-author of the national survey with Dr. Nixon.
· Maureen Underwood, a licensed clinical social worker who has spoken nationally and internationally on teen suicide. This is the “A” team in bullying and teen suicide in America. I will have a web site going live this week in which to register. There are plans for a National Conference on Bullying and Teen Suicide in 2018.
Do you have any tips for bullying prevention?
· In my research there have been a few common denominators for bullying prevention.
· There have to be clear rules in the school on aggressive behaviors such as bullying.
· There has to be clear boundaries within the school, home and community so kids know what unacceptable behaviors is.
· Parents need to spend quality time with their children talking about rules and boundaries in the home. The child needs to know it is safe to talk with mother/and/or father about what happens at school. Keep communication open.
· The school staff has to take bullying behavior serious because the psychological outcomes of bullying are serious.
· The school staff and others who have direct contact with children need to have training on recognition, intervention, and prevention of bullying in the school. The external components such as security cameras, metal detectors and zero tolerance does not work.
· The community needs to be educated on bullying and how to detect it and intervene.
· Everyone who has contact with students daily should be and need to be involved in preventing bullying.
Why the sudden spotlight on bullying? Is this a new phenemonon?
Bullying is not a new-found behavior. It was cited as early as 1530, but the systematic research on bullying did not start until the 1970’s in Sweden, when Dr. Dan Olweus conducted the first research on bullying behavior at the request of the Swedish government. This request was made when three boys committed suicide as a result of bullying over a long time frame.
Bullying is recognized by the Centers of Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and academia. It’s defined as a serious aggressive behavior that is repeated over time with the intention of causing bodily or psychological harm to a child who is smaller in stature, with an imbalance of power between the bully and victim.
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