Bullying in our schools is at pandemic levels.

Children are bullied in every school across  America, no matter their race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic background.  Bullying behavior contributes to the cycle of violence at home, with bullies and victims perpetrating higher rates of domestic and child abuse.[1] Bullying behavior is also correlated with criminal activity, with 60% of former bullies having at least one conviction by the time they were 24; and 5% having three or more convictions.[2]

Victims of bullying are proven to suffer with low self-esteem, depression, poorer health, suicidal ideation, anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration, and frequent absences.[3] As students become alienated from school, academic performance declines.[4] Bullied students earn lower grades and score lower on standardized tests.[5] The emotional distress of bullying impedes students’ ability to concentrate and do well on exams.[6] Studies
prove that victimized youth are more likely to use and abuse substances and alcohol earlier and more often than those that are not victims.[7]

Due to the impact of bullying behavior upon our youth, and the ever increasing ethical and legal obligations upon our primary and secondary schools, new solutions are required to ensure safe academic, social, emotional and physical youth development.  Clique In sought to alleviate some of the burden placed on schools faced
with decreased budgets and increased obligations.  It is Clique In’s goal to improve behavior modification programs for schools through our facilitation of a method that quantifies behavior patterns as they are occurring so that student progress can be measured, monitored and motivated in real time.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Clique In implemented a pilot program in the Margate City School District, in Margate City, NJ.   The program sought to attach a value to student displays of empathy, inclusive behavior, respect and tolerance to facilitate youth interactions; and uniqueness, individual talent and community service to facilitate student self-assurance.  All 353 students in the third through eighth grades participated in the program.

Behaviors were reinforced concurrently, using constant and intermittent reinforcement rates. The teachers were asked to provide their students with a sticker each time a behavior was identified.  Clique In also provided the students opportunities to participate in lotteries on a variable intermittent schedule throughout the school year.  Clique In varied the eligibility requirements to be entered into the lottery.   Examples of reasons for lottery eligibility include achieving a certain number of overall points, achieving a certain number of points within a particular category, and earning any points during a set period.  Each student’s progress was tracked by category, teacher, and grade.

The Eugene Tighe Middle School (“Tighe”) students demonstrated 5635 positive behaviors with 92% of students participating in the program.  The 5th grade yielded the highest number of points, with a 99% participation rate.  Students continued their participation in the program throughout the school year.  Lottery weeks yielded 40% higher point totals than non-lottery weeks.  Clique In did not have direct contact with Tighe students when conducting lotteries until January, at which time the average number of student points increased by 68%.

Of the teachers responding to a survey, 90.5% said they were more aware of opportunities to recognize the behavior traits as a result of the program, and 76% thought their students were more aware of the behavior traits as a result of the program.  All teachers indicated the program took very little time to implement.  Eighty Six percent of student feedback was very positive, 10% was neutral, and 4% was negative.

The William H. Ross (“Ross”) students exhibited 1257 positive behaviors. However, the program was not implemented until January, 2012, and teachers also rewarded students under an existing school  program.  With the exception of one week in which Ross rewarded behavior for participation in a separate event, lottery weeks yielded 32% higher point totals than non-lottery weeks.

Significantly, Clique In demonstrated that school wide motivation levels can not only be maintained for the course of the school year, but increased with third party facilitation.  Coupled with the level of simplicity identified by the teachers, this suggests that third party management of the behavior modification process will aid schools in maximizing their student behavior modification goals without undue intrusion.

Maintaining motivation to achieve positive behaviors throughout the school year allows more opportunity to improve peer interaction. The tracking system will be useful in fostering a sense of connection between  school staff and students.   By ensuring that positive behavior outputs are being reinforced by the teachers, and  students are recognized on a regular basis, we can increase the likelihood that students develop a sense of belonging to the school.   Facilitating this sense of connection between students and at least one adult in the school has been identified as a critical measure to prevent many anti-social behaviors including, but not  limited to school shootings, drop outs, and truancy.[8]

Further, prevention efforts are enhanced through the process of quantifying behavior, tracking each student’s behavior outputs and providing real time identification of behavior trends. Students needing support can now be identified through their lack of participation, or minimal participation, and provided assistance before escalating to negative social behaviors.

By applying the Clique In methodology, complicated school wide behavioral issues, such as bullying, can now be addressed without budgetary, personnel and time barriers.

For a full write up of the Clique In pilot program, email Gail Murphy at gailmurphy@cliquein.org.

[1] www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_overview_yrbs.pdf

[2] Source:  All statistics from United States Justice
Department 2010 Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report, unless otherwise
[3] CDC’s
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 22, 2011.
[4] Nakamoto, J. and Schwartz, D. (2010), Is Peer Victimization
Associated with Academic Achievement? A Meta-analytic Review. Social
Development, 19: 221–242.
[5] Cornell, D. and Lacey A. (2011), The Impact of Bullying Climate on
School-wide Academic Performance, University of Virginia, Virginia Youth
Violence Project.
[6] Juvonen, J., Wang, Y. and Espinoza, G. (2010), Across Middle School
Grades Bullying Experiences and Compromised Academic Performance; The Journal
of Early Adolescence ; University of California Los Angeles.
[7] Victimization from Mental and Physical Bullying and Substance Use
in Early Adolescence, Shannah Tharp-Taylor,*Amelia Haviland, and Elizabeth J. D’Amico.
[8] Violence Prevention in Our Schools, Promoting a Sense of Belonging (2002), Robert Brooks, PhD.