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Related Topics
Bullying PreventionReview - Bullying Prevention
Creating a Positive School Climate And Developing Social Competence
by Pamela Orpinas and Arthur M. Horne
American Psychological Association, 2005
Review by Barry McNamara, Ph.D.
Mar 13th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 11)

The authors' stated goal for writing this book was to provide applied and practical strategies, but not to provide prescriptions.  They recognize that schools need diverse strategies that meet their particular needs if they are to reduce bullying.  This is not a manual.  Rather it is a thoughtful approach to a timeless problem, which emphasizes the most recent research and focused on "evidenced based" programs.  The book is divided into there sections: chapters 1-3 focus on understanding the major issues related to aggression, bullying and victimization; chapters 4-7 discuss general interventions; chapters 8-10 address specific interventions for persistent bullies.  The appendix provides excellent resources for school personnel.

In chapter 1, the authors provide the reader with definitions of key terms with excellent vignettes that bring the terms to life.  It also includes an excellent table on research related to bullying and aggression that allows the reader to follow up on the studies cited within the text.  This focus on research is evident throughout the text and provides the reader with a wealth of references.  This approach to the problem is evident throughout the book.  Readers are presented with the most recent research on the topic and can follow up with a further examination of the literature.

Chapter 2 discusses the protective factors involved in aggression and bullying.  This will enable school personnel to better appreciate the complex issues involved.  By understanding these factors they will be better able to develop and implement an effective anti-bullying program. 

Chapter 3 discusses theoretical models for understanding bullying and aggression.  This is often neglected in books on bullying and this reviewer believes it is a critical omission.  Opinas and Horne recognize that a meaningful and thoughtful program must have theoretical underpinnings or it will be no more than a cookbook approach to a significant problem.  Perhaps one of the reasons that bullying has persisted for so long is the casual way in which programs are put into place.  This book will provide schools with an excellent source of information that will foster meaningful discussions of what they need in their district or their building that will have a high probability of success.  It will enable them to decide based on scientific evidence, not merely beliefs.
            Chapter 4 discusses the School Social Competence and Bullying Prevention Model: The School Components of a positive school climate are presented with supporting data.  The major components are: excellence in teaching, school values, awareness of strengths and problems, policies and accountability, caring and respect, positive expectations, support for teachers and the physical environment.  The discussion provides challenges to erroneous beliefs about bullying and victimization and about teacher interventions to reduce bullying.  This will be helpful for those responsible for staff development because a critical barrier to overcome is the erroneous beliefs teachers and administrators hold regarding this issue.

Chapter 5 addresses the role of the student in this model.  The major components are: awareness, emotions, cognitions, social skills, mental health and learning abilities.  Each component is followed by a list of specific objectives that will assist classroom teachers.  Once again, clear, explicit examples are provided for the reader in boxed, highlighted fashion.

In chapter 6 the authors highlight the importance of evaluation.  This is a chapter that belongs in every book that deals with any program in schools.  This reviewer applauds the authors for providing the reader with such compelling reasons why this is so critical.  Again, this is not a cookbook.  They discuss the importance of evaluation, types of evaluations and ways to gather evidence.  They are clear about the need to be culturally sensitive and use multiple measures.  Anyone who follows their advice will be able to made decisions about the effectiveness of their program that can be supported by evidence.  And moreover, allow them to make data based decisions about ways to alter or refine the program.

Chapter 7 provides a useful overview of universal bully-proof programs, with selected programs. This is incredibly useful to schools which already have a program and want to insure they are covering all the salient components.  The references and websites are particularly helpful.

The last three chapters deal with persistent bullying, counseling, family interventions and supporting victim.  This is an area of relative neglect.  What can schools do when the problem is reduced but continues with a small number of students? These chapters will enable schools to address these students. The content, examples and annotated bibliography will be invaluable for administrators and teachers.

Finally, DO NOT IGNORE the appendix.  Opinas and Horne provide the reader with resources for bullying prevention that should be on every school's website and/or bulletin board.  The authors set out to provide readers with diverse strategies to address aggression and bullying in schools.  They have clearly met their goal.  This is a scholarly, yet eminently practical book.  All school personnel would benefit from the content.  Too often, school programs have been implemented without the thoughtful analysis necessary for success that this book provides.  However, even for those who want a "how to" manual or "cookbook" approach to bullying prevention, this book has much to offer.  The chapter on anti bullying programs (7) is thorough and the examples throughout are useful to all practitioners.  Yet, this reviewer's hope is that administrators and teachers will read this book and finally recognize that this is a serious problem that deserves serious, thoughtful conversations about what their school needs to do.  Schools need to spend as much time to ways to create a positive social climate as they do to ways to improve math and literacy test scores.  Reading this book will be a good start, as Opinas and Horne have elevated the level of discourse.

© 2007 Barry McNamara

Dr. Barry McNamara is a Professor of Special Education at Dowling College, NY, and is author of several books, including Keys to Parenting a Child With Attention Deficit Disorders and Keys to Dealing With Bullies, both coauthored with Francine McNamara, Learning Disabilities: Appropriate Practice for a Diverse Population and Learning Disabilities: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Classroom Practice.


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