An evaluation of the early implementation of school-based bullying prevention programs in Massachusetts
Errichetti, Karen Sautter
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Background: A quarter of U.S. children are bullied annually. State legislatures have responded to high profile media exposure of bullying and increased public concern by passing legislation aimed at preventing bullying among school children. Methods: The RE-AlM (Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance) framework was used to evaluate public school district responses to a Massachusetts 2010 anti-bullying law (MGL Ch. 71, Section 370). Massachusetts parents, school committee members, law enforcement leaders, and superintendents were surveyed about their perceptions of the law and its implementation. Comparative analyses were conducted using chi-square tests for categorical data. School district stakeholders in four diverse Massachusetts communities also were interviewed in depth to identify factors affecting adoption, implementation, and maintenance of school bullying prevention. Findings from these case studies were analyzed using standard qualitative analysis techniques and software. Results: The law had broad reach across Massachusetts public schools, with high levels of awareness of the law's existence (93.4%) and support for the mandate (81.3%) from an array of school constituencies. Across all stakeholders, there was a low degree of belief that bullying rates had decreased after the law's implementation. Superintendents were more likely than school committee members or parents to believe school bullying interventions were effective. There was no evidence to suggest that school districts modified or realigned their anti-bullying strategies in response to the legislation. School districts have complied with the letter of the law, but adoption of the law has been challenged by competing priorities, absence of community consensus about the importance of the problem, concern about the evidence base for anti-bullying curricula, and the appropriateness of delegating responsibility for bullying prevention to schools. Conclusion: The anti-bullying mandate catalyzed school districts to standardize their response to bullying, but there is no evidence to suggest an impact on bullying rates. The narrow focus of a bullying law could redirect resources away from equally important priorities and programs related to socio-mental health and root causes of bullying. Findings suggest that re-direction of narrow regulatory efforts mandated by the law into collaborative development of broader health promotion programming with local flexibility may address bullying more effectively.
Thesis (Dr.P.H.)--Boston University