A UT-Arlington criminology professor released a study recently suggesting anti-b

ullying programs in schools can actually create more bullies. He based a large p
ortion of his study on surveys from 7,001 6th-10th grade students in 195 U.S. sc
hools.
You may have seen Dr. Seokjin Jeong on CNN or his work plastered all over the In
ternet. He's becoming pretty popular because his findings are in opposition to t
he common perception that the bullying prevention programs actually help protect
students from harassment and "peer victimization" -- what he calls it -- by the
ir peers.
In the study (http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jcrim/2013/735397/) Jeong reveals
he thought the surveys would produce the opposite conclusion -- that the program
s really did help. But since they didn't seem to be helping in the majority of t
hose 7,001 students' opinions, he hypothesized there are a few reasons for it.
Jeong said in a news release from UT-Arlington, "One possible reason for this is
that the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language fro
m these anti-bullying capaigns and programs. The schools with interventions say,
'You shouldn't do this,' or 'You shouldn't do that.' But through the programs,
the students become highly exposed to what a bully is, and they know what to do
or say when questioned by parents or teachers."
I talked with local counselors about Jeong's study to see if they agreed with hi
m, and some said it's something they've thought about before. (In case you misse
d Sunday's story detailing their reactions, go to http://lubbockonline.com/educa
tion/2013-10-26/schools-anti-bullying-programs-may-see-more-bullying-result-rese
arch-shows#.Um_fwHC-ri4.)
"Intuitively, to me it makes some sense," said Dr. Paul Douthit, a psychotherapi
st in the Tech Health Sciences Center pediatrics department, about Jeong's findi
ngs. "Oftentimes when you focus a great deal on something, inadvertently you can
make it bigger, make it more tantalizing. This is something we've know for a lo
ng time."
Amber Lanngehennig, a counselor at Laura Bush Middle School, said she's careful
to address bullying in a way that doesn't give students ideas in how to bully.
Likewise, Lubbock Independent School District doesn't show anti-bullying videos
which give examples of bullying in order to define it -- only videos on what to
do if you're a victim or a witness. The district also focuses on teaching studen
ts to show empathy for one another.
Jeong's study touches briefly on the parental role in bullying, stating, "Both p
arental and peer support represent significant predictors of peer victimization.
While parental support may play a protective role against peer victimization, l
ack of involvement and support from parents is likely to increase the risk of bu
llying victimization."
Jeong concludes bullying prevention programs simply aren't enough. Schools shoul
d focus more on their effectiveness and systemic change within the schools rathe
r than just the programs' implementation touching on individual risk factors.
I'm curious to see what you all think of Jeong's findings. Comment away!