Grant helps fund research for fighting the bullies

By Janeal Downs
Staff Writer

The National Institute of Justice awarded a $2.66 million grant to a VCU psychology professor to study anti-bullying.

Associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Terri Sullivan, Ph.D., is the principal investigator and will oversee the grant. She stated she will use the grant to evaluate the effectiveness of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is currently located in Richmond middle schools. She described the program as aiming to enhance school safety and encourage a positive climate within schools.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program’s website states the prevention program has methods meant to reach out to parents and community members for assistance. Sullivan stated some of these methods include a school coordinating committee, weekly class meetings with students and teachers where they can talk about bullying prevention and a leadership group offered for an after school program.

Sullivan stated the Olweus Bullying Program is directed by Dr. Albert Farrell and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the new grant from the National Institute of Justice will give researchers the opportunity to evaluate the program in the two Richmond schools and add another.

Sullivan said statistics have shown a substantial number of children experience peer victimization and/or bullying behaviors.

“Over time, these behaviors can negatively impact students’ mental health and academic achievement.,” Sullivan said. “For students’ social, emotional, and academic development, it is important to promote positive student-student relationships and school climate.”

In a press release through VCU University Relations, Sullivan said there is not much research evaluating the program’s impact in the U.S.

“We hope that this project will make a positive impact in each middle school that is participating with us on this project,” Sullivan said.

This particular grant will help researchers maintain the bullying prevention program in two middle schools in Richmond and add another program.

“We will be able to look at changes in outcomes over time in the two schools where OBPP will have been implemented for five and six years, and to examine changes in outcomes that occur after implementing the program in the third school for three years,” Sullivan said. “The two schools where we have implemented the OBPP now have very active committees of school staff who are overseeing some of the day-to-day logistics of the program,”

Both VCU undergraduate and graduate students will be able to participate in the research by collecting data, observing teachers in the program, helping with leadership programs offered after school and helping with recruitment.

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