Creating Positive School Environments through Conflict Resolution Education

State: OH Type: Model Practice Year: 2011

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"In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, stories of school shootings and student violence filled the media. Students began reporting incidences of bullying and harassment at increasing numbers. Parents and teachers expressed insecurity about the safety of students and the overall school environment. As these issues seized the attention of the country, they also took hold in Union County, Ohio. A school climate and victimization survey administered to students at Marysville Middle School in 2002 demonstrated that 33% reported being harassed at school on a regular basis. The survey also indicated that 4.5% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 6.6% did not feel safe asking questions and 11.4% did not feel safe voicing their opinions within their school and classroom environment.

Beginning in 2000, the Injury Prevention Program at the Union County Health Department (UCHD) began working to improve the climate and environment of Union County school settings and reduce violence occurring in the school community. This goal was to be accomplished by providing conflict resolution, bullying prevention, and positive discipline and classroom environment education to the staff and students in the Marysville Exempted Village School District. The staff and student education was provided through several programs that included Bully Proofing Youth which teaches students how to identify what bullies look for in their targets and how to respond appropriately. Jim Bisenius, psychologist and creator of the Bully Proofing Youth program, trained staff and provided classroom tools to identify potential problems and reduce the occurrence of harassing behavior. Through student assemblies, he taught students how to react and manage their response in a harassing or potentially violent situation through role play and student participation.

In addition, the Positive Discipline program was used which teaches educators how to create community based classrooms that foster communication skills, respect, and team learning. Facilitators from Wilmington College instructed educators at staff retreats in the Positive Discipline program and provided onsite follow-up demonstrations and assistance in the classrooms. Finally the program Games Club was implemented which teaches students conflict resolution skills through the playing of board games and activities. School guidance counselors and parent teacher organizations used this program during indoor recess and after school activities.

During this eight year implementation period, trainings and program workshops were held on an annual basis. Funding for these trainings and materials were provided through an intentional injury grant from the Ohio Department of Health. The partner schools absorbed the personnel expenses in allowing staff to attend the workshops and assisted with minimal training costs. By 2008, 100% of the elementary schools in the district were implementing the programs building wide. In addition to providing education, UCHD also continued to implement the school climate and victimization survey at Marysville Middle School.

The survey was repeated in 2005 and again in 2008. In 2008, after eight years of providing education to all staff and students at the elementary school level, the results of survey indicated that the program was highly successful. Compared with the 33% reported in 2002, only 10% of students reported being regularly harassed in 2008. In addition, in 2008, only 3.3% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 5.1% did not feel safe asking questions, and only 8.3% did not feel safe voicing their opinions. In comparison, all percentages decreased by 1.2%, 1.5%, and 3.1% respectively. Translation of these figures indicates that students are safer, feel more comfortable within their school environments, and are less likely to experience bullying and harassment at school. As demonstrated by the survey results, UCHD was very successful at improving the classroom and school env"

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Union County Health District
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Creating Positive School Environments through Conflict Resolution Education
"In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, stories of school shootings and student violence filled the media. Students began reporting incidences of bullying and harassment at increasing numbers. Parents and teachers expressed insecurity about the safety of students and the overall school environment. As these issues seized the attention of the country, they also took hold in Union County, Ohio. A school climate and victimization survey administered to students at Marysville Middle School in 2002 demonstrated that 33% reported being harassed at school on a regular basis. The survey also indicated that 4.5% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 6.6% did not feel safe asking questions and 11.4% did not feel safe voicing their opinions within their school and classroom environment. Beginning in 2000, the Injury Prevention Program at the Union County Health Department (UCHD) began working to improve the climate and environment of Union County school settings and reduce violence occurring in the school community. This goal was to be accomplished by providing conflict resolution, bullying prevention, and positive discipline and classroom environment education to the staff and students in the Marysville Exempted Village School District. The staff and student education was provided through several programs that included Bully Proofing Youth which teaches students how to identify what bullies look for in their targets and how to respond appropriately. Jim Bisenius, psychologist and creator of the Bully Proofing Youth program, trained staff and provided classroom tools to identify potential problems and reduce the occurrence of harassing behavior. Through student assemblies, he taught students how to react and manage their response in a harassing or potentially violent situation through role play and student participation. In addition, the Positive Discipline program was used which teaches educators how to create community based classrooms that foster communication skills, respect, and team learning. Facilitators from Wilmington College instructed educators at staff retreats in the Positive Discipline program and provided onsite follow-up demonstrations and assistance in the classrooms. Finally the program Games Club was implemented which teaches students conflict resolution skills through the playing of board games and activities. School guidance counselors and parent teacher organizations used this program during indoor recess and after school activities. During this eight year implementation period, trainings and program workshops were held on an annual basis. Funding for these trainings and materials were provided through an intentional injury grant from the Ohio Department of Health. The partner schools absorbed the personnel expenses in allowing staff to attend the workshops and assisted with minimal training costs. By 2008, 100% of the elementary schools in the district were implementing the programs building wide. In addition to providing education, UCHD also continued to implement the school climate and victimization survey at Marysville Middle School. The survey was repeated in 2005 and again in 2008. In 2008, after eight years of providing education to all staff and students at the elementary school level, the results of survey indicated that the program was highly successful. Compared with the 33% reported in 2002, only 10% of students reported being regularly harassed in 2008. In addition, in 2008, only 3.3% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 5.1% did not feel safe asking questions, and only 8.3% did not feel safe voicing their opinions. In comparison, all percentages decreased by 1.2%, 1.5%, and 3.1% respectively. Translation of these figures indicates that students are safer, feel more comfortable within their school environments, and are less likely to experience bullying and harassment at school. As demonstrated by the survey results, UCHD was very successful at improving the classroom and school env"
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, tragic stories of school shootings, student violence, and harassment filled the media. Students began reporting incidences of frequent and repeated bullying and harassment at increasing numbers. Parents and teachers expressed insecurity about the mental and emotional well-being of their students and their growing concern of the safety of school environments. Studies and anecdotal evidence documenting the risks associated with bullying and youth violence dominated the headlines. In many communities, schools began to lose the sense of safety and security that they once provided to students and staff members alike. Metal detectors and student searches began being implemented and zero tolerance policies for harassment and violence were established and strengthened. However, reoccurring tragedies such as those experienced in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and in Littleton, Colorado reinforced these fears and demonstrated a clear need for action. The perception of the school and classroom environment had clearly changed. As these fears and issues seized the attention of the country, they also took hold in Union County, Ohio. In 2000, in response to this growing concern and perception of unsafe school conditions, the Union County Health Department (UCHD) partnered with the Marysville Exempted Village School District to identify and address this public health problem in the Union County community.
Agency Community RolesUCHD served as the lead agency for the conflict resolution education program. Through an unintentional injury grant from the Ohio Department of Health, UCHD employed an injury prevention coordinator who oversaw all aspects of this project. The injury prevention coordinator served as the contact person for the Marysville school district and worked with school administration and staff to develop the evaluation tools, secure contracts with facilitators, plan and implement all educational trainings and workshops, and provide assistance with the recruitment of volunteers for program implementation. Costs and ExpendituresIn the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, stories of school shootings and student violence filled the media. Students began reporting incidences of bullying and harassment at increasing numbers. Parents and teachers expressed insecurity about the safety of students and the overall school environment. As these issues seized the attention of the country, they also took hold in Union County, Ohio. A school climate and victimization survey administered to students at Marysville Middle School in 2002 demonstrated that 33% reported being harassed at school on a regular basis. The survey also indicated that 4.5% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 6.6% did not feel safe asking questions and 11.4% did not feel safe voicing their opinions within their school and classroom environment. Beginning in 2000, the Injury Prevention Program at the Union County Health Department (UCHD) began working to improve the climate and environment of Union County school settings and reduce violence occurring in the school community. This goal was to be accomplished by providing conflict resolution, bullying prevention, and positive discipline and classroom environment education to the staff and students in the Marysville Exempted Village School District. The staff and student education was provided through several programs that included Bully Proofing Youth which teaches students how to identify what bullies look for in their targets and how to respond appropriately. Jim Bisenius, psychologist and creator of the Bully Proofing Youth program, trained staff and provided classroom tools to identify potential problems and reduce the occurrence of harassing behavior. Through student assemblies, he taught students how to react and manage their response in a harassing or potentially violent situation through role play and student participation. In addition, the Positive Discipline program was used which teaches educators how to create community based classrooms that foster communication skills, respect, and team learning. Facilitators from Wilmington College instructed educators at staff retreats in the Positive Discipline program and provided onsite follow-up demonstrations and assistance in the classrooms. Finally the program Games Club was implemented which teaches students conflict resolution skills through the playing of board games and activities. School guidance counselors and parent teacher organizations used this program during indoor recess and after school activities. During this eight year implementation period, trainings and program workshops were held on an annual basis. By 2008, 100% of the elementary schools in the district were implementing the programs building wide. In addition to providing education, UCHD also continued to implement the school climate and victimization survey at Marysville Middle School. The survey was repeated in 2005 and again in 2008. In 2008, after eight years of providing education to all staff and students at the elementary school level, the results of survey indicated that the program was highly successful. Compared with the 33% reported in 2002, only 10% of students reported being regularly harassed in 2008. In addition, in 2008, only 3.3% of students did not feel encouraged to succeed, 5.1% did not feel safe asking questions, and only 8.3% did not feel safe voicing their opinions. In comparison, all percentages decreased by 1.2%, 1.5%, and 3.1% respectively. Translation of these figures indicates that students are safer, feel more comfortable within their school environments, and are less likely to experience bullying and harassment at school. As demonstrated by the survey results, UCHD was very successful at improving the classroom and school environment and reducing the occurrence of violence in Union County school settings. Keys to the success of this program included strong partnerships with the school district, support of school administration, access to training ImplementationThe primary objective of the conflict resolution education program was to provide training to elementary school staff in the Positive Discipline and Bully Proofing Youth programs and establish policies to ensure program use in order to reduce occurrence of harassment and improve school climate. To accomplish this, the following tasks were completed: Contacts with school administration and staff were established within the Marysville Exempted Village School District and support for the project was garnered. The Games Club program was created and materials produced. The school climate and victimization survey was designed, administered, and results were analyzed and shared with partners. Partnerships with the trainers and facilitators of the Positive Discipline and Bullying Proofing Youth programs were established. An elementary school was selected for program implementation. Positive Discipline and Bully Proofing Youth trainings were held for the staff and students at the elementary school. A partnership with the Parent Teacher Organization of the school was established and volunteers for the Games Club program were recruited. The Games Club program was implemented. Follow-up trainings and materials were provided to the staff and students at the elementary school along with ongoing support from the Union County Health Department. The remaining elementary schools completed the same program implementation process. Follow-up trainings and support continued to be provided to train new staff members and students, address school challenges, and enhance the partnerships. Meetings were held with school administration to discuss and encourage policy and systems change. The school climate and victimization survey was administered two additional times. Data from the school climate and victimization survey was used to evaluate program progress and effectiveness. The conflict resolution education program at the Union County Health Department began working with the Marysville Exempted Village School District in 2000. From 2000 to 2009, the tasks listed about were completed. During the first two years of the program, the primary focus was on establishing partnerships within the school district, researching effective trainings and programs, creating materials including Games Club, and designing the school climate and victimization survey. From 2002 through 2004, Games Club was tested at several elementary schools, the school climate and victimization survey was administered and results reviewed, and initial partnerships with the trainers and facilitators were formed. In 2005, the full training program was implemented at one elementary school. From 2005 through 2009, the remaining schools all implemented the program building wide. Additional trainings and follow-up support was provided each year to each participating school. The school climate and victimization survey was administered in 2005 and again in 2008.
1. Provide training to elementary school staff in the Positive Discipline and Bully Proofing Youth programs and establish policies to ensure program use in order to reduce occurrence of harassment and improve school climate. Performance measures: Both process evaluation and outcome evaluation measures were used to evaluate successfulness of this objective. The following performance measures related to process evaluation were used: Number of staff trainings held. Number of school staff members participating in the trainings. Number of elementary schools that hosted trainings. Number of meetings held with school administration to discuss policy development. The following performance measure related to outcome evaluation was used: Number of building policies enacted. Number of students reporting regular harassment. Number of students reporting a positive school climate. Data collection: Data regarding all performance measures were collected by the injury prevention coordinator at UCHD. Process evaluation data included sign in sheets at all staff trainings, the tracking of trainings held, number of partner schools, and minutes from policy development meetings. Outcome evaluation data was also collected by UCHD and included the number of policies enacted and number of staff and students affected. Outcome evaluation data was also collected through the school climate and victimization survey which was administered in 2002, 2005, and 2008. Data was collected, compiled and tabulated by UCHD. This survey collected data regarding the occurrence and frequency of harassment and the overall school climate and environment. Evaluation results: Through the collection of the process and outcome evaluation data, UCHD was able to report that 100% of the staff and student bodies at all five of the Marysville elementary schools were trained in Positive Discipline and Bully Proofing Youth during the program implementation period. In addition, UCHD was able to report that at a minimum one training was held annually at each elementary school for staff and students. Finally, 4 of the 5 elementary schools wrote and implemented policies requiring the use of the program building wide. More significantly, UCHD was able to report that there was a 23% reduction in the number of students reporting regular harassment and a less than 5% reduction in the number of students feeling unsafe at school. As evidenced by these results, the primary objective of the conflict resolution education program was achieved. Feedback: These evaluation results were shared with district and school administration throughout the program implementation period and again at the conclusion of the project. This data was also used to garner support for the program within the school communities and convince school administration from the different elementary buildings to participate and enact policy change. The main lesson learned from these results was that small successes lead to larger program successes. By sharing results of these process and outcome evaluation measures with other school principals along the way, momentum for the project was gained which ultimately led to the 100% school participation rate and the decrease in harassing behaviors. 
The stakeholders of the conflict resolution education program are the Union County Health Department and the Marysville Exempted Village School District. When this program first began in 2000, strong partnerships were formed with the Marysville school district. The data produced by the school climate and victimization survey evidenced to the school district that changes were greatly needed, thus garnering their initial support. As the program was implemented and the improvements were documented by the survey results, the partnership with the school district and the commitment to the program was strengthened. From 2000 through 2009, the program was funded by the Union County Health Department mainly through an injury prevention grant from the Ohio Department of Health. These funds were used to provide the trainings, materials, and staff time needed to oversee program implementation. In 2009, the grant cycle ended, thus significantly reducing funds available outside the school district. However, despite this drastic change in funding, the conflict resolution education program has continued through the design of the program and the support of the stakeholders. During the program implementation period, the entire staffs from each elementary school were trained in the programs. Training materials including school implementation guidebooks and staff handbooks were purchased for each school. Follow-up trainings were routinely held to train new staff members and provide technical support. Due to this comprehensive approach, when the grant funding ended in 2009, all the elementary schools were up-to-date with training and materials. The schools were also in the position to provide some onsite training since there were many staff members who had been implementing the program since its inception. Along with the program design, the support of the stakeholders is also a key to sustainability. The Union County Health Department is committed to providing an annual follow-up training to assist with program implementation by new school staff members. The Marysville school district has also shown its commitment to the program by encouraging staff members to attend these trainings and through the continued implementation of the program policies. As described above, The Union County Health Department is committed to supporting the continuation of the conflict resolution education program within the Marysville school district. The partnerships formed with the program trainers and facilitators are still in place and an annual training for school staff will continued to be offered. In addition, the Union County Health Department is committed to purchasing additional supplies including staff handbooks as they are needed by the schools. The school administrations are contacted prior to and during the school year by the injury prevention coordinator at the Union County Health Department to review program progress and discuss future needs. While the grant funding from the Ohio Department of Health for this project is no longer available, the Union County Health Department routinely searches for additional funding or partnerships that could potentially enhance this program. However, as demonstrated by the commitment of the stakeholders, the conflict resolution education program continues to serve the staff and students of the Marysville Exempted Village School District.
 
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