June 30, 2011 — Bullying is no longer considered a rite of passage, or simply a matter of child’s play. Every day, it seems the headlines highlight another tragic ending to the story of a victim of bullies. Whether that bullying took place virtually on a Web site or at school, educators are forced to deal with the effects on a daily basis. Experts from across the U.S. will meet at the University of Utah (the U) in Salt Lake City July 13-15 to address this issue at a national conference for school teachers, administrators and parents.
Each year, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring housed within the U’s College of Education, organizes a conference, held in varying locations across the U.S., to examine an issue relevant to educators. This year’s conference, “Beyond Bullying: Transforming Schools the Caring Way,” is the 27th such event. Organizers will use interactive workshops and training sessions to introduce best practices for maintaining a non-threatening atmosphere in K-12 schools. Graduate students in educational psychology are encouraged to attend the conference, and will receive University of Utah credits for participating.
The two days will include panel discussions and workshops to focus on topics such as cyber-bullying, how bullying is depicted in popular films, and the newest science and proven methods in preventing bullying, among other topics. An awards ceremony also will honor seven elementary, middle and high school students with an “Outstanding Student Award.” One of the student awardees, sixth-grader Sierra Shoudt, will help conduct a workshop on cyber-bullying with a principal from her school district in Pennsylvania.
Unlike other national academic conferences that host hundreds of people in big auditoriums, “Beyond Bullying” is designed to create an atmosphere of intimacy and production, where small working groups will develop plans that will be employed by educators within the Community of Caring network to change the overall climate at schools.
“This is different from reducing bullying behavior,” says David Parker, associate director of the Shriver Center. “While that is important, the focus of our conference is to encourage members of school communities to transform that community into a safe space where bullying can’t even take hold.”
Parker says he hopes the conference will empower educators and students to change their overall way of thinking about bullying. Along those lines, a publication of “teacher reflections” from the conference will be produced and available to all teachers for use in the classroom.
The following are highlights of the conference that may provide the most interesting opportunities for coverage by the media. A full conference schedule and map are available at http://tiny.utah.edu/beyondbullyingschedule, or by calling 801-587-8990. All times listed below are MDT and all locations are in Fort Douglas, east of the University of Utah main campus.
• Keynote address and interactive panel discussion: Susan Swearer
July 13, 9:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m., Officers Club
Swearer is co-director of Bullying Research Network and associate professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also co-edited the recently published “Bullying in American Schools: A Social-Ecological Perspective on Prevention and Intervention” and has written over 50 professional publications on bullying and mental health. She is frequently sought out for her expertise on the risk factors and outcomes of bullying. In March, Swearer presented at the White House Conference on Bullying.
• Cyber-bullying (technology)
July 14, 10:45 a.m. – noon, Officers Club West
The workshop will examine the issues facing schools today and develop a plan that schools can use to help teach about cyber-bullying. It will be conducted by a school principal from Pennsylvania who brought the Community of Caring program to her school district, which she says has seen some great results. In addition, one of the workshop presenters, with a unique perspective, is a 6th-grade student from the same school district.
• Examining the Bully from Reel to Real (pop culture)
July 14, 2:45 p.m. – 4 p.m., Guest House Meeting Room C
David Parker, associate director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring, is presenting this workshop to discuss how the bully character is portrayed in popular culture and feature films. Activities will teach strategies to help children understand this sometimes unrealistic portrayal. Parker’s background includes social work, theater and education. He is the author of “The Best Me I Can Be,” a 32-book series published by Scholastic, Inc., that has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.
• Social Emotional Learning and Bully Prevention (science)
July 14, 2:45 p.m. – 4 p.m., Officers Club East
This presentation on bullying prevention is by Brian Smith, a research scientist, and Mia Doces, a program developer from Seattle’s non-profit Committee for Children, created to prevent bullying, child abuse and violence. The session is designed to discuss the latest science behind bully prevention, provide an overview of social and emotional learning, and introduce ways to use these tools in research and in the practical application of the classroom.
• Featured speaker: Linda Dunn, Bennion Community Service Center
July 14, 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m., Officers Club
Linda Dunn, director of the University of Utah’s Lowell Bennion Community Service Center, will give insight about how to engage youth in community service activities so that they stay involved and become lifetime civic participants. From 2003-2007, Dunn served as the executive director for the Utah Campus Compact, a collaboration of Utah’s public institutions to promote service-learning and student involvement in community service. She began her stint as director of the university’s community service center in 2009. As director of the Bennion Center, she works to incorporate service into the academic careers of students and engage the university with the greater community through partnerships and outreach efforts.
• Outstanding Student Awards presentation
July 14, 3:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., Officers Club
Seven students from New York, Utah and Pennsylvania will receive the 2011 Outstanding Student Award. They were nominated by teachers and school administrators for modeling the core values upon which Eunice Kennedy Shriver based the Community of Caring when she founded the program.
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY OF CARING
Housed within the University of Utah’s College of Education, the Community of Caring is a K-12 program founded in 1982 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Its curriculum has been adopted by almost 1,400 schools in the U.S. and Canada. The organization works with schools to transform their overall climate and culture. The work is built on the foundation of five core values upon which it was founded: caring, respect, responsibility, trust and family.