Yeshiva University News » Bullying

In Yeshiva College Course, Students Examine Trends in School Violence From Multiple Perspectives

Schools are supposed to be safe places, where children learn, grow and acquire the skills and knowledge they need to build successful lives. But what happens when they aren’t? In the last decade, news stories about violent outbreaks and bullying in school settings have brought this question and others to the forefront of American awareness. How are our children and institutions impacted when violence—whether in harder-to-spot forms like bullying or more alarming behaviors like muggings or assaults—becomes pervasive in our school systems? And, more importantly, how do we prevent it from happening?

Violence and Education class

Students gave a group presentation on the impact of school violence on teacher turnover.

At Yeshiva College, students in Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Kimmel’s “Violence, Schools and Education” course are seeking answers.

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Wurzweiler Gains Exclusive Screening Rights to ’Bullycam’; Will Incorporate Film Into Curriculum

In an effort to better educate its students about the dangers of bullying, and how to fight them, Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work has gained the exclusive screening rights to “Bullycam: The Video Diary of Kelly Wilson, a film depicting the relentless bullying of a high school teen from the perspective of the victim.

Wurzweiler initially held an advance screening of the film, which won Best Narrative Feature at the Metropolitan Film Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival, and the Buffalo/Niagara Film Festival, as well as the Thin Line Award at the Thin Line Film Festival, before its premiere in 2011. It elicited such a strong reaction then and in the months that followed that Wurzweiler decided to revisit it as a potentially critical component of the social work curriculum, focusing on its unique ability to help students better understand the many forms bullying often takes among children and teens today and empathize with the emotions and motivations of victims after witnessing a firsthand account. Read the rest of this entry…

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Dr. Rona Novick Offers Four Steps Towards Positive Social Leadership

As September approaches, our thoughts begin to turn towards academic pursuits: Which teacher will be best? How much homework will there be?

Rona

Dr. Rona Novick

But perhaps students returning to school are most plagued by issues relating to social skills and challenges: Will I make friends? Who will be nice to me? Will I fit in?

Schools are social places. Students spend a considerable amount of time in groups, both as part of their learning and in unstructured activities. Collaboration is a critical life skill, and learning to be a responsible and caring social leader is a wonderful goal. Although developing social skills, empathy and social leadership is a complex, ongoing process, parents can set the stage for success, and help children obtain healthy social attitudes with some fairly straightforward September adjustments. Read the rest of this entry…

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Wurzweiler Hosts Advance Screening of “Bullycam”

With reports of young suicides linked to bullying on the rise and recent New York legislation obligating schools to investigate cyberbullying, Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work hosted an advance screening of “Bullycam: The Video Diary of Kelly Wilson,” a feature film from the perspective of a bullied high school student, on July 9.

"Bullycam" cast and crew take questions from the audience.

Nearly 100 people from across the New York area came together on the Wilf Campus to see the film, which was presented in collaboration with the Museum of Tolerance New York. “Bullycam” is a fictional narrative which purports to be the camcorder diary of Kelly Wilson, a teenager seeking to expose the bullies who torment her by capturing their abuse on video with the help of her best friend. The film is the feature debut of New York City filmmakers Brian Sizensky, Mike Marshall and Vera Hadzi, and has won awards at the Metropolitan Film Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival and the Buffalo/Niagra Film Festival. It has not yet been released to theaters. Read the rest of this entry…

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Looking Beyond the Upcoming “Bully” Documentary, Dr. Rona Novick Offers Another View of Bullying

I haven’t yet seen the much anticipated and publicized soon-to-be-released “Bully” movie. I am certainly pleased with the attention and awareness it has already generated, with movie stars, advocates, educators and politicians weighing in on the R rating it was given for “language.” When I have wondered aloud to friends and colleagues why the movie makers, hoping the film would be shown to schools and other teen or children’s groups, would include material that might be inappropriate, I’ve been told that the harsh language may be central to bullying, and removing it, bleeping it or any other editing would compromise the power of the story.

Rona Novick

Dr. Rona Novick is a clinical child psychologist and noted parenting expert.

I am very hopeful that a film that is receiving such widespread national attention will make a difference. But the conversations I am having even before seeing it are causing me some worry. I worry about what I often experience in consulting with school and parent groups that I call the “not here” phenomenon. This is the all too common denial, as I describe or discuss bullying, that such things do not happen in “our school” or are not done by “my child.”

The “Bully” movie, I would expect, likely portrays powerful examples that clearly exemplify bullying, children using harsh language, physically violent acts, emotional harassment writ large. So much of the devastating bullying I see would not play on the big screen. It is the popular girl who flicks her hair, sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes as a less popular classmate joins her lunch table, all barely noticeable by others but painfully felt by the victim. It is the overweight boy who joins the laughter of his classmates when they use the nickname “blubber” they have given him, making it appear to all that this is typical male middle school bonding. It is the subtle social machinations and undercurrents that tell students who to avoid as a social “cootie” and whose good graces to cultivate. So much of it looks fairly innocent and so much of it is complex and continuous and without understanding the larger social context it is difficult to discern. I once visited a third grade classroom and observed one girl ask another for a pencil. “Did you see that?” the astute teacher asked, “she is such a bully.” I responded that I didn’t see any evidence of bullying and the teacher enlightened me. The pencil requester is the richest girl in the class. While holding her fancy, fluffy topped pen, she asked her peer, a rather disorganized student in tattered shirt, who lives in the poorest area of town to borrow a pencil to highlight that she has nothing, and often needs to get her school supplies from class donations. What looked to me as an innocent gesture could now be seen as a cruel, deliberate and hurtful interaction.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture, because it is so specific, can make material less relatable and easier to deny. When we see images of ravished far-away lands and starving children, do we realize that within US borders, many children are malnourished and hungry? Do pictures of industrial dumping and waste prompt us to pick up the litter in our environs? I hope that this movie, in documenting evident and painful realities of bullying that translate to the big screen will help parents, educators and students become more aware. I hope it will help all of us see both the obvious and the subtle bullying that is under our noses and not see bullying as a story that happens to someone else, a tragedy “that doesn’t happen here.”

After a high-profile bully related suicide, I asked a group of middle schoolers in a faith based school if they thought this could happen in their school. Quickly and in unison they replied, “no, never, not here.” I told them, that’s exactly what the students at the school of this young suicide said until it happened to them. Bullying is in every school and every community.  Maybe not looking like it does in the movies. Maybe different from the over the top portrayals in Hollywood or in child and teen literature. It’s hidden in the social details and small comments and everyday actions that can be brutally cruel and cripplingly painful. It is time we commit our attention, our resources and our efforts to battling bullying. If we continue to say “this doesn’t happen,” if we fail to see it and if we fail to address it, we expose our children to much more danger than an R rated movie.

Watch the “Bully” trailer below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1g9RV9OKhg&feature=youtu.be

The author, Dr. Rona Novick, is the director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and a senior fellow at YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership. A noted clinical child psychologist, parenting expert, author and lecturer, Novick helped develop the BRAVE bully reduction and social emotional leadership development program at YU School Partnership. Read her blog, Life’s Tool Box, a guide for parents and educators.

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Azrieli’s Rona Novick Empowers Students and Educators to Combat Bullying

The Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach realizes that bullying is no laughing matter and that preventing it is crucial.

Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration

Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration

While this issue has been a nationwide concern, the Hebrew Academy adopted the interactive Bully Resistance Anti Violence Education program that empowers students around the country to face up to and prevent problematic social phenomena within the school and outside as well in the upper elementary and middle school grades, two years ago through a grant from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Since the school adopted the B.R.A.V.E. program, it has hosted nationally acclaimed bully prevention professor Rona Novick, Ph.D. from Yeshiva University in New York, who has discussed pro-active measures for bully prevention should such issues arise. Novick returned recently to discuss the measures to both students and parents.

“I want to give the students the tools to become responsible social citizens so that when they see someone being treated poorly, they know how to step in and step up,” Novick said.

Read full article in The Sun Sentinel and article on “Taking Bullying by the Horns” in The Jewish Exponent.

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Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli and director of its Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies.

Aug 5, 2008 — Many adults recall being bullied or witnessing bullying during their school years and assume that the phenomenon is a given in any school situation. But according to Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and incoming director of its Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies, research shows there are positive steps that parents and educators can take to combat bullying.

Novick, who joined Azrieli in 2007 and will assume her new position as the head of doctoral studies in January 2009, is a licensed clinical psychologist with a PhD from Rutgers University. She said bullying and related problems such as taunting, name-calling, and social exclusion are more serious than most adults acknowledge.

“It is common that children who are harassed and bullied suffer severe long-term effects, including depression and suicidal feelings,” Novick said.

Her classroom-based program called Bully Reduction/ Anti-Violence Education and Social Leadership Development (BRAVE) has been widely implemented in both public and Jewish schools around the country and will soon be piloted in Israeli schools.

She has vast experience in the field of education and child psychology (she is also associate professor of child and adolescent psychology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine), and helping children deal with various forms of violence is one of the hallmarks of her career.

She has dealt with the effects of 9/11 on children in numerous articles, and has treated children in area hospitals including Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Beth Israel Medical Center. Her current project is part of a career-long goal to bring psychological expertise into the classroom to help educators make better decisions. “Bullying is a social issue that requires a social context and an audience,” said Novick. “Often that social context is the school peer group.”

Novick pointed to statistics that say 85 percent of bullying cases are witnessed by other children, with typical reactions ranging from ignoring the bullying to taking an active part in it. Encouraging those witnesses to at least not join in, and at best help stand up for the bullying victim, is a key part of her program.

The BRAVE program begins with a mock trial of cartoon-character bullies and bystanders accused of bullying, which “allows students to explore the definition of bullying and come to understand the impact ‘innocent’ bystanders have when they do not become involved in helping those victimized.”

Novick said it is also important to give teachers and administrators appropriate tools for dealing with bullying, as some of the best procedures may be counterintuitive. “Schools may want to publicly take bullies to task. In doing so, however, they may actually make the situation worse for a victim,” she explained.

A better way to respond to a case of reported bullying, Novick said, would be to assign the bully an adult mentor who could serve as a role model to “help them see the error of their ways, and corral their smarts and their energies for positive rather than negative social action.”

Since January, Novick has been doing carefully controlled research on bullying and the viability of her BRAVE program at five Jewish middle schools across the country. The application of the program in Jewish schools is supported by the Institute for University-School Partnership at Azrieli.

The program includes student workshops to help children find the appropriate responses to real-life bullying situations. Later, trained BRAVE instructors conduct monthly sessions with students to further ameliorate bullying in the school and build students’ coping skills.

Novick said preliminary results appear to indicate that the phenomenon of bullying is as prevalent among Jewish day schools as it is in comparable public schools. “Our schools are in no way immune,” said Novick, the author of Helping Your Child Make Friends and editor of the book series, Kids Don’t Come With Instruction Manuals.

“We teach the notion of bein adam l’chaveiro [treating one’s fellow man properly] as part of Torah values, but we still see children bullying and taunting their fellow students. “If we’re teaching it, why aren’t students getting it?” asked Novick.

Her program addresses bullying as the primary focus, but the point is really about creating a more socially responsible generation of Jewish youth and giving children the leadership skills to stand up for those who are being harassed.

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