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Volume 53, Number 4 Fall 2020
Edited by Susan M. Wolfe, Susan Wolfe and Associates and The University of Washington
Written by Jie Ni, Amy Kerr, Paul Flaspohler, & Jiawei Sun, Miami University
School bullying is a worldwide phenomenon associated with negative outcomes for victims and perpetrators. Recent studies indicate that 20% of students in the United States (Yanez & Seldin, 2019) and 26% of students in China (Han et al., 2017) have been victims of school bullying. While prevalence rates vary widely among studies, it is clear that school bullying remains a significant problem in both countries despite anti-bullying efforts.
Though school bullying has been well-researched in many contexts, few studies have examined bullying across cultures. Those that exist focus largely on similarities and differences in prevalence rates and demographics of children involved in bullying. Research that extends this work to include comparisons of other factors influencing bullying and attempts to explain differences that may exist can further inform efforts to reduce bullying. We aimed to conduct an exploratory review comparing research on school factors related to bullying in the U.S. and China. Our review included research published in English and Mandarin Chinese.
Researchers in both the United States and China have examined bullying within a socioecological framework (e.g., Lee, 2011; Zhang & Shi, 2014). Conceptualizing bullying within an ecological systems model can help us understand the variety of ways in which individual child, family, school, and cultural factors may influence bullying.
In both countries, research has examined individual child factors related to school bullying and found them to be some of the strongest predictors of a child’s involvement in bullying (Lee, 2011; Zhang & Shi, 2014). Additionally, studies frequently examined factors in the microsystem, such as family dynamics, student relationships with peers and teachers, and other school factors (Lee, 2011). However, there has been less focus on examining influences on school bullying at other systems levels. Of particular interest to us are the broader cultural values and norms contained in the macrosystem (e.g., individualist/collectivist orientation) and how they may influence school bullying either directly or indirectly, via their impact on peer and teacher relationships and school climate (Lee, 2011). As cultural norms and values also help shape educational systems, this may represent an additional pathway through which cultural values may influence school bullying.
We found that while specific school factors that were examined in the U.S. and China exerted similar influences on bullying across the two contexts, the bodies of research had different areas of emphasis. Recent research on school bullying in the United States has largely focused on the influence of school climate and found that a more positive school climate, where students experience high levels of support and respect from peers and teachers, is associated with lower instances of bullying victimization (Gage et al., 2014; Aldridge et al., 2018). Additionally, school climate can interact with other factors to influence bullying. For example, students with high self-esteem may be more likely to bully others, but only if they have a negative perception of their school climate (Gendron et al., 2011).
While research on bullying in China explores some factors related to school climate, we did not find any studies published in Chinese that directly or fully examined this construct. Instead, research focused mainly on the influence of teachers and school structures and found that teachers in China may not receive sufficient training to effectively address school bullying (Xu, 2018) and may fail to recognize and address verbal or relational bullying (Zhang et al., 2015). Similar results have also been found in the U.S. (Veenstra et al., 2014).
Research in China has also examined how the structure and culture of the educational system may be related to bullying. Traditionally there has been a lack of attention to social skills and “people-oriented” (人文教育) education in China’s educational system (Xu, 2018), due to a focus on exam-oriented education. This may lead bullies to be indifferent to the feelings of others and contribute to difficulties in addressing school bullying. Additionally, Song (2009) states that typical Chinese methods of school management may promote a culture of bullying. The typical school management style in China, which can be translated as “high-pressure management and digestive treatment” (高压管理, 消化处理), refers to a strict management system where students’ freedom is somewhat restricted. One example of this can be seen in a practice of many schools in China, in which they try to persuade students involved in bullying (whether a bully or a victim) to transfer to another school after bullying has occurred. Unfortunately, these types of practices do not help students who are experiencing bullying victimization and may contribute to high stress levels for students and increase the prevalence of school bullying in China.
In addition to research in traditional Chinese schools, some studies examined bullying in China’s New Education Experiment schools (新教育实验学校), which focus on teacher professional development and creating an enjoyable learning experience (WISE, 2019). These schools may be more similar to schools in the U.S. In the New Education Experiment schools, it was found that higher levels of school belonging were related to lower involvement in school bullying (Yang et al., 2017), similar to findings in the U.S. (Nansel et al., 2001).
Considering the varied focuses of research on school bullying published in the United States and China, it is difficult to make direct comparisons between the two countries. However, the emphasis of different factors in research may be one example of how cultural norms and values shape educational priorities and school structures, which can influence school bullying. The strong emphasis on achievement, exam performance, and respect for teachers in Chinese schools (Hu, 2019) may stem from a desire to have a high achieving student body with minimal disturbances. However, this can come at the cost of failing to attend to students social and emotional development or provide support to victims of bullying.
In the U.S., schools aim to attend to students’ social-emotional development as well as their academic achievement. However, bullying prevention efforts are typically delivered at a universal level and students are then expected to take responsibility for their own behavior. This approach may neglect to address the needs of some students who may be more at-risk for bullying others or being victimized, who may benefit from additional support or intervention.
These different areas of emphasis between the two educational systems are reflected in the research on school bullying, and each country stands to learn from the other in order to reduce school bullying. Research on bullying in China focuses mostly on individual students and situations, while neglecting prevention at a more universal level. On the other hand, research on bullying in the U.S. has largely focused on universal prevention efforts and there appears to be much less information about how teachers can provide more targeted intervention or support for individual students or small groups at risk for involvement in bullying. Researchers and educators in China may benefit from exploring how universal bullying prevention, which has been well-studied in the U.S. and other Western contexts, can be effectively implemented in Chinese schools. Likewise, researchers and educators in the U.S. may benefit from greater exploration of how teachers can address the needs of individual or small groups of students who are at-risk for involvement in bullying. Additionally, both countries may benefit from further research on how to effectively address bullying once it has occurred.
We encountered multiple challenges during this review. In addition to differences in the focus of research on school factors and bullying in the two countries, differences in specificity and classification of groups made comparisons between the two bodies of research difficult. Many studies in China do not differentiate between school bullying (校园欺凌) and the broader concept of school violence (校园暴力), while research in the U.S. tends to focus specifically on school bullying (with school violence being a separate line of research). Additionally, research in the U.S. typically classifies students as victims of bullying, perpetrators, or both (bully/victims). However, research in China tends to simplify the classification of students as “not involved” or “involved”, without differentiating between the various roles students might play.
Examining the problem of school bullying from a systems perspective and exploring the less-studied influences of culture may help inform efforts to address school bullying at the universal, targeted, and individual levels (Bradshaw, 2013). We plan to extend this work by conducting a systematic review of how school climate and related factors influence bullying in the U.S. and China and hope to explore how similarities and differences found may relate to cultural differences. In these cross-cultural comparisons of influences on bullying, both cultures stand to learn from the other in how they may best address school bullying and promote healthy school environments.
Aldridge, J. M., McChesney, K., & Afari, E. (2018). Relationships between school climate, bullying, and delinquent behaviours. Learning Environment Research, 21, 153-172.
Bradshaw, C. P. (2013). Preventing bullying through Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS): A multitiered approach to prevention and integration. Theory into Practice, 52, 288-295.
Gendron, B. P., Williams, K. R., & Guerra, N. G. (2011). An analysis of bullying among students within schools: estimating the effects of individual normative beliefs, self-esteem, and school climate. Journal of School Violence, 10(2), 150–164.
Han, Z., Zhang, G., & Zhang, H. (2017). School bullying in urban China: Prevalence and correlation with school climate. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(10), 1116.
Hu, T. (2019). “重典”还是“重教”：中美校园欺凌治理方式比较. ["Emphasis on Code" or "Emphasis on Education": A Comparison of School Bullying Management in China and the United States.] Journal of Nanyang Institute of Technology, 1, 23-28.
Lee, C-H. (2011). An ecological systems approach to bullying behaviors among middle school students in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(8), 1664-1693.
Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA, 285(16), 2094–2100.
Song, Y. (2009). 关注学校因素：校园暴力丛生带来的视角转换. [Focus on school factors: The perspective change brought by the proliferation of school violence]. China Educational Law Review, 0, 249-260.
Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Huitsing, G., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2014). The role of teachers in bullying: The relation between antibullying attitudes, efficacy, and efforts to reduce bullying. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1135.
WISE. (2019, September 11). New Education Experiment. WISE Qatar Foundation. https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/new-education-experiment-china/
Xu, Y. (2018). 从家庭教育与学校教育浅谈新时期中校园暴力的成因与解决措施. [Discussion on the causes and solutions of school violence in the new era from family education and school education]. Legal System and Society, 16, 183-184.
Yanez, C., & Seldin, M. (2019). Student Victimization in US Schools: Results from the 2017 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. NCES 2019-064. National Center for Education Statistics.
Yang, F., Yu, B., Zhu, Y., & Xu, Q. (2017). 校园欺凌与学校归属感的相关效应：来自新教育实验的证据. [The correlation effect of campus bullying and school belonging: Evidence from the New Education Experiment]. Curriculum, Teaching Material and Method, 5, 113-120.
Zhang, Z. & Shi, H. (2014). 基于社会生态学观的校园欺负行为研究进展. [Research progress on school bullying based on social ecology]. Chinese Journal of School Health, 5, 794-797.
Zhang, Z., Shi, H., Wang, Q., Li, M., & Wang, Y. (2015). 中文语境下城市中小学生校园欺负行为的定性研究. [A qualitative study of urban primary and secondary school students’ bullying behavior in the Chinese context]. Chinese Journal of School Health, 2, 182-185.
Written by Katricia Stewart, Portland State University and Erin Godly-Reynolds, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
The SCRA Year-Long Mentoring Program seeks to connect community psychologists at all stages of their careers and provides an opportunity for mentor-mentee pairs to expand their professional development. Successful mentoring relationships often have a foundation of shared interest, open communication, mutually agreed upon expectations, and a commitment to the relationship. The Year-Long Mentoring Sub-Committee of the Mentoring Task Force matches mentor and mentee pairs based on: (a) professional area of focus, (b) personal and professional experiences and roles, (c) goals for receiving mentoring, and (d) the style of mentorship participants are seeking. Once matched, mentor-mentee pairs meet (on average) once per month over the course of the year. These meetings revolve around the mentor providing guidance, feedback, and support to the mentee in reaching their goals for the year.
A total of 18 mentors were matched with 31 mentees (some mentors had two mentees). At the end of the program, all mentors and mentees were emailed a link to an evaluation survey so the sub-committee could learn about their experience and improve this mentoring program for future participants. A total of nine mentors and 11 mentees completed this evaluation survey.
The most popular topic that the mentor-mentee(s) pairs chose to focus on was the academic job search process and options (n = 7; 64%), while 36% chose to focus on career path options. Additional topics included: adjusting to new life as first-year doctoral student; applying for funding; SCRA involvement / conference presentations; building competencies in community / social change; building community through collaborations; graduate school applications and admissions; networking; proposing and defending thesis or dissertation; and publications.
These reported topics and related goals at least partially reflect the expertise of the participating mentors. Across all of the professional experience categories that were listed as options (professor, researcher, adjunct professor, practitioner, consultant, evaluator), mentees were interested in a greater variety of professional experiences than mentors indicated having.
In terms of their overall experience, 100% of mentors would recommend this program to a colleague or friend. When asked if they would consider serving as a mentor again in the future, 78% responded “yes” and the other 22% responded “maybe”.
Among mentees, 82% indicated that they would recommend the program to a colleague or friend. Further, 64% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the mentoring program supported their professional growth, while 18% of respondents disagreed. Ten of the 11 mentees strongly agreed that the mentoring program connected them with a community psychologist who is at a more advanced stage of their career and professional development.
We asked mentors and mentees to share their overall thoughts on the year-long mentoring program and how it impacted them. Their testimonials are below!
Tom has been my mentor for about a year as part of my postdoctoral research on early childhood support systems… During this time, he actively listened to me and provided me with valuable advice to resolve difficulties that I have faced in the research process… Tom’s support has been of great help in progressively and coherently building an ecological analysis of the collaboration between the actors involved [in my research]. Mentoring with Tom has been a very enriching experience both as a researcher and as a person. I feel very fortunate and grateful to Tom and the SCRA mentoring program for this great opportunity.
I gained a LOT from participating in this mentoring program. The program coordinators matched me with Dr. Erin Ellison and I could not have been a better match! Our monthly check-ins ranged from teaching wisdom and dissertation theory to career strategy and life advice. I really admire the work that Dr. Ellison does and I believe this year-long program has given me a mentor for life.
I recently had the pleasure of working with two emerging scholars in Community Psychology through the mentor program… I initially thought of it as a service opportunity to give back and pass along resources that had been shared with me. Yet, I also gained a lot myself -- Sherry and Julia supported me through the process, too. As an early career Community Psychologist, I truly appreciate it! The connections we built, and the opportunities to check-in (especially once COVID-19 shelter orders were in place) were invaluable to me. I enjoyed discussing their work, my work, and opportunities for collaboration and collective growth. I know our relationships will continue beyond this year, and I’m thankful for that. I hope others will participate in this important mentoring program in the future. Thank you for the opportunity!
I found the mentoring program to be extremely helpful. My mentor was supportive as I navigated my career as a recent PhD graduate. He was always encouraging and pushed me to apply for faculty positions and research grants which I otherwise would have been too intimidated to apply for. He helped me to believe in my own potential as a community psychologist and since the start of the mentoring program I have received a T32 postdoctoral fellowship, my first pilot award for my research through the NIH, and have interviewed for faculty positions. I highly recommend this program.
I had the honor to serve as the official mentor to two graduate students… The idea of a formal hierarchical mentoring relationship did not appeal to us… The mentoring was more of a collaboration among the three of us, sharing of experiences and resources. I shared my challenging experiences as a former graduate student of color and offered to listen to and share insights regarding their current graduate school challenges. They supported me with resources I had not seen, connected me with others who also offered additional resources and advice, and both graciously accepted my invitation to share their educational journey, passion, and community psychology perspective [with my students]… They described our mentoring relationship as ‘a family model, offering moral support but also tangible and meaningful support’ and a ‘very organic and community style feel… It feels like we are each other’s fans.’
This past year, my main goal was to obtain a faculty job for August 2020… I was paired with Dr. Ryan Kilmer to mentor me through this process… Before we [worked together], I felt immobilized with writer’s block. His mentorship was crucial in helping me through that period. It was great to get his perspective regarding what goes on on the faculty side of making decisions… For anyone going through the academic job application process, I highly recommend being paired with a mentor, especially a faculty member who has been on hiring committees and has an inside perspective. I am grateful to him and the rest of my team of faculty mentors who have helped me get to this point as an Assistant Professor on the tenure track at an R1 university.
Based on feedback from this first year’s mentor and mentee participants, a major goal for the upcoming cohort is to recruit a larger number of mentors with a greater variety of professional experiences. This will hopefully enable more learning opportunities for mentees with interests in those professional realms.
The evaluation also pointed to areas where the mentoring committee can guide a more individualized structure for each mentor-mentee pair, such as by facilitating dialogue between mentees and their mentors to set up a frequency of meetings that works best for them, or providing question prompts that could help the mentees determine how their mentors can best support them in their goals for the program.
To learn more about the program and/or if you are interested in participating as a mentor, mentee, or Mentoring Committee member, please email Katricia (email@example.com) or Erin (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you to the mentees and mentors who shared their stories with us!
Written by Pesach Chananiah, Community Alchemist
For a millennial, I’ve been a relative luddite, taking smug pleasure in my disdain for technology. Due to the last 15 years of training as a community organizer, I’ve taken particularly “mature” stances in favor of good-old-fashioned in-person meetings, joining my more seasoned colleagues in their suspicions of “digital organizing” strategies. My critique is echoed in the literature that has maligned these strategies as “clicktivism” (Shulman, 2009; White, 2010) or “slacktivism” (Morozov, 2009) – what might be seen as the seeming inconsequentiality of the online petitions that we sometimes take a minute on and sometimes slough off.
Yet the virtual wave of the last 6 months, resulting from our collective quarantine, has demanded that I reconfigure some of my assumptions and reconsider the potential value of digital modes. By mid-May, I had launched two experimental social change projects using Zoom. This article is a sort of addendum to my dissertation – A Psychological Theory of Being “Out-Here” – and an attempt to rethink that prior research in the context of our virtual age.
A primary area of interest of mine for quite some time is the broad-based organizing model of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). After learning about the organization in college, I spent four years helping to build an IAF affiliate in Las Vegas, NV which was tasked with building political capacity among a coalition of religious congregations. I then participated in the Los Angeles affiliate as a dissertation case study in order to better understand processes of empowerment. I have been particularly interested in the claim of Southwest IAF Director Ernesto Cortés that the organizational practice of the one-to-one meeting is “the most radical thing we teach” (Rogers, 1990, p. 64).
Though often seen by outsiders as simply a method to recruit potential leaders, “one-on-one interviews,” wrote Schutz and Sandy, are a “central strategy that community organizers use to foster community in our new world of weaker communities[,] a tool for rebuilding webs of relationships and trust” (2011, p. 192). As a result of the necessary pragmatic task of meeting with community members, the IAF culture has evolved to become primarily characterized as “relational organizing.” According to IAF organizer Mike Gecan in his book Going Public (2002), a relational culture is “created by leaders who initiate and deepen and multiply effective public relationships . . . Their ability to act depends on the number and quality of relationships that they and their colleagues can muster and sustain” (p. 162). As opposed to the private relationships of a friendship or a romance, a public relationship is based on shared accountability and commitment to collective self-interest.
In the community psychology literature on this topic, Christens et al. studied a similar organizing model, the Gamaliel network, describing “networks of public relationships [as] key conduits between components of organizational empowerment (i.e., social support, group-based belief system) and cognitive and relational components of psychological empowerment (i.e., critical awareness and bridging social divisions to exercise social power)” (2014, p. 427). My interest in the one-to-one, from a community psychology standpoint, is its tendency mutually-influencing empowerment – its potential to be therapeutic, if not transformative.
The distinction in these organizing contexts of “public life” - versus the private realm - can be traced, at least in part, to Hannah Arendt, who wrote in The Human Condition (1959) about the distinction between a private and public sphere, or the realm of the household and that of the political. Arendt lamented in this seminal text that the emergence of the social realm in the modern age has banished speech and action—formerly a product of the Greek polis—to the sphere of the intimate and private. Returning speech and action to the public realm is one of the goals of the IAF, particularly the practice of conducting relational meetings.
Yet the one-to-ones that are conducive of developing “public” relationships are ultimately private conversations. Although these conversations often connect personal experience to common concerns, they are not seen by anyone else. While Arendt’s “public realm” can be interpreted as the power of gathering together and relating, it can also be understood quite literally as that which “can be seen and heard by everybody and has the widest possible publicity” (1959, p. 45). The inquiry I made in my dissertation research was: how can one person impact another through their conversation; it has now become: what is the potential for conversations between two people to also impact a third, fourth, or fifth (or infinite number) of people unknown to the original interlocutors?
I began to make this inquiry through participatory action research in two different projects. As we were relegated to our homes in March, I watched a wide range of actors adopt Zoom. I had recently made a commitment – as a Jewish person living in the United States – to have conversations with people in my community about Palestinian liberation in Israeli occupied territories. Although the format wasn’t initially clear to me, when Zoom became an option, I decided to experiment by inviting my mother to a Zoom conversation; I shared my screen with her and was able to do some media literacy and political education with her in a way I never could have over the phone – or maybe even in person. With her consent, albeit video off, I recorded our conversation – and was able to share it with over a dozen people, along with an invitation that they do the same with people in their lives. The goal was to encourage more progressive Jews to have conversations about Israel-Palestine and shift our community’s stance.
This video can be seen here.
The other project started when I saw that a friend and colleague had posted a conversation he had with someone else on Facebook Live, also through Zoom. Although for them it was simply a low-input method for creating content, I saw the sharing of this conversation as a unique method for social change. My friend and I started a project that we dubbed #COVIsionaries – in which two people have a conversation about the post-COVID world they would like to see. We posted a conversation between the two of us on a #COVIsionaries Facebook group and on our individual pages – and invited others to follow, with directions on how to do so. This project can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/covisionaries/
My newfound interest in using digital tools for social justice not only began to erode my disdain for “digital organizing”; it resulted in a small literature review, as well. Karpf, who for quite some time has been studying the digital organizing pioneers MoveOn.org, defends digital organizing as such. He argued incisively that the e-mail comment drives and online petitions that critics of “slacktivism” and “clicktivism” are referring to are only one tactic, “an individual element of a broader campaign to convert organizational resources into political power” (2010, p. 9). They are just a new version of a traditional letter-writing campaign. Karpf also accurately described this type of action as the first rung in a “ladder-of-engagement” (p. 10), one which ostensibly leads to actions with increasing risk and, hopefully, increasing impact as well.
Bennett and Segerberg (2012) differentiated more traditional forms of “collective action” – which often require “individuals to overcome resistance to joining actions where personal participation costs may outweigh marginal gains” – from what they saw as the lower barriers of individualized “connective action” (p. 749-750). Clearly, sharing a meme does not require as much commitment or willingness to risk as civil disobedience. But perhaps the distinctions between online and offline are not quite so clear cut. Mora (2014) placed digital activism on a continuum, classifying efforts by “the relative participation threshold based on risk, commitment, effort, or intensity of the digital activism practice” (p. 6).
It turns out that, just because something is online, does not mean that the barriers to entry are low enough to cause momentum – as I learned when I failed to generate the number of Zoom conversations I had hoped for. Many of the people who expressed interest were ultimately intimidated by speaking vulnerably on social media. Being recorded and potentially seen by whoever poses a greater risk than agreeing to meet for a “private conversation”. Clearly, online content does not reproduce itself automatically, but rather requires a good deal of effort. My #COVIsionaries friend and I spent a number of weeks recording, editing, and posting conversations – before we moved on to other projects. No one else picked up the torch.
According to Bennett and Segerberg, “there is nothing preordained about the results of digitally mediated networking processes. More often than not, they fail badly” (2012, p. 754). I do not have a sufficient understanding of social media algorithms to make my project stand out – since I don’t post often, it’s possible that few people see the things I do post. I might think I’m posting something incredibly profound, but how quickly will it get lost in the social media morass? While Karpf’s emphasis on “analytic activism” (2018) is worth noting, his illumination of the resources required for data analytics also demonstrates one of its key limitations.
Despite my newfound curiosity about the value of social media for social change, my increased attempt to utilize Facebook has only solidified my disgust at its echo chambers and its vitriol. It is worlds away from Arendt’s return to the Greek polis. Zoom is still too new to know its full potential, but perhaps there is some hope in how we might use it to be more “public,” more fully “out-here” with others than we ever could be one-on-one over coffee.
Arendt, H. (1959). The human condition: A study of the central dilemmas facing modern man. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.
Bennett, W.L. & Segerberg, A. (2012). The logic of connective action. Information, Communication & Society, 15 (5), 739-768.
Christens, B. D., Inzeo, P. T., & Faust, V. (2014). Channeling power across ecological systems: Social regularities in community organizing. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53, 410–431.
Gecan, M. (2002). Going public: An organizer’s guide to citizen action. Boston, MA: Beacon.
Karpf, D. (2010). Online political mobilization from the advocacy group’s perspective: Looking beyond clicktivism. Policy & Internet, 2 (4), 1-35.
Karpf, D. (2018). Analytic activism and its limitations. Social Media + Society, January-March, 1-10.
Mora, F.A. (2014). Emergent digital activism: The generational/technological connection. Journal of Community Informatics, 10 (1), 1-13.
Morozov, E. (2009). The brave new world of slacktivism. Foreign Policy, May 19, 2009. http://neteffect.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/05/19/the_brave_new_ world_of_slacktivism.
Rogers, M. B. (1990). Cold anger: A story of faith and power politics. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.
Schutz, A., & Sandy, M.G. (2011). Collective action for social change: An introduction to community organizing. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shulman, S. (2009). The case against mass e-mails: Perverse incentives and low quality public participation in U.S. federal rulemaking. Policy & Internet, 1 (1), 23–53.
White, M. (2010). Clicktivism is ruining leftist activism. The Guardian Online, August 12, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/12/clicktivismruining-leftist-
Written by Heather Lewis Quagliana, Bryan D. Poole, David P. Quagliana, Jeffrey L. Sargent, Lee University
With our communities facing the current challenges of COVID-19, there is a great demand for trauma-informed responses in most contexts. Apart from the current crisis, 61% of adults have already faced one adverse childhood experience (Felitti et al, 1998), thus compounding the need for trauma-informed schools, colleges, and universities. While Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) administrators, as well as primary and secondary administrators, have been working hard to mitigate risk of physical illness from the virus in their school communities, the psychological impact could be unintentionally overlooked. Community psychologists have unique skills sets to assist school and university administrators in considering contextual and community-based models of addressing crises on school and college campuses.
We propose 4 S’s in psychological reentry that adhere to a community based, trauma-informed approach throughout school and campus life: 1) Supporting self-care of administrators, faculty, staff, and students; 2) Campus-wide socioemotional focus; 3) Springing back from adversity (resilience programming); and 4) Shared investment in student mental health. These 4 S’s are based out of our service to our local schools and university to promote the values and interventions congruent with a community based, trauma-informed response to COVID-19 and psychological reentry into a system.
Burnt out teachers do not teach well. A foundational element in a trauma-informed approach is self-care and healthy coping skills. A community psychology informed approach recognizes that burnout “trickles” down through a system. For example, a faculty member who is anxious, burnt out, and not coping well due to the current crisis will likely be less able to emotionally support their students. The same is true for overextended administrators, who may be too overwhelmed to then best support faculty and staff. Educational systems need to embrace and value self-care particularly during COVID-19 as the emotional health of an institution depends upon it.
Self-care is supported in many tangible ways: needs assessments, psychoeducation, routine emotional “check ins”, and gauging burnout. These can be easily implemented into COVID-19 response plans. Taking the “emotional temperature” in an institution will help administrators make informed decisions on campus-wide supports, as well as broader community partnerships. Routine emotional check-ins should occur at multiple levels ranging from administrative meetings to classroom teaching. For example, opening class with a quick emotional “check-in” (i.e. What are some concerns? What resources do you have to address these concerns?) communicates to students that their entire well-being is important in the reentry process. Burnout, particularly emotional exhaustion, (Maslach et al., 1997) is a reality facing everyone in today’s world, but it is vital to encourage the entire school or campus toward better coping. Effective coping ranges from informal community supports, hobbies and social support to formal mental health services.
Much of the literature on trauma-informed schools is written for primary and secondary educators but can be easily adapted to the college context. For example, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers guiding principles in navigating COVID-19 ranging from labeling and identifying emotions to trauma-informed institutional policies to promote psychological well-being (Halladay Goldman et al., 2020). Additionally, Brymer and colleagues’ (2006) Psychological First Aid can be adapted to COVID-19 and psychological reentry in educational settings that when trained appropriately, any teacher, faculty, or staff can deliver this intervention in their context. It provides schools and universities with a standardized protocol to respond to crisis events while drawing upon the school or campus community’s strengths and resources.
Another way teachers and faculty can accomplish this is by creating programs or courses that equip students with coping skills and resources. For example, faculty at our university have developed a course modeled after Yale University’s most popular course (Shimer, 2018), “Psychology and the Good Life.” In addition to learning about science-supported research on improving well-being and happiness, our students complete several activities throughout the semester (e.g., keeping a gratitude journal, exercising regularly) to aid in the healthy pursuit of positive affect, healthy relationships, physical health, and emotion regulation. Because past research consistently demonstrates how these courses can improve students’ mental health, hope, agency, and purpose (Goodman, Middleditch, Childs, & Pietrasiuk, 2016; Maybury, 2012), we recommend primary and secondary teachers, as well as university faculty consider how similar courses can be developed (or activities be incorporated) in the near future.
The current generation of both school-aged and college students have an unprecedented opportunity to develop resilience. Community resilience has long been at the heart of community psychology, and as community psychologists, we also have an unprecedented opportunity to empower our schools and campuses to focus on resilience. One of the best tools for promoting resilience is engaging our students in meaningful relationships in the following ways: 1) Enter the student’s reality. Understand the world from a student’s perspective. This fosters empathy and promotes attachment thus laying a foundation for resilience in the face of adversity. 2) Notice the way students communicate. Young children communicate through their behavior. Middle and high schoolers often feel overwhelmed with complex emotions. College students often feel stuck in the middle of adolescence and adulthood making it difficult to label complex emotions and employ coping skills. 3) Get playful. Creativity is key in bolstering resilience for everyone! Everyone should “play” a little more these days.4) Affectively attune. Pick up on and notice student’s emotions and model effective coping. 5) Grow through adversity. Reframe adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow. 6) Eliminate shame. Help students dismiss the “shoulds” and “oughts” of how things might be different and help them move toward acceptance of difficult emotions with the hope that “we are in this together.”
Creating an equipped culture of care is also necessary in promoting resilience. General encouragement and concern may not be sufficient to meet our students’ needs. We can support and encourage resilience by promoting academic, social, and emotional competency. This can be accomplished by intentionally integrating self-regulatory and learning skills broadly into our curricula. At the broader level, institutions should consider introducing resilience education early into the curriculum. An integration of self-regulatory and learning skills into the first-year curricula can equip students in the transition and provide for a foundation of success. We should intentionally incorporate resilience education into our classrooms by explicitly labeling and describing the necessary self-regulatory processes needed to complete specific academic tasks under difficult circumstances while also directing to both campus and community resources that aid in more effective coping.
A community based, trauma-informed approach to COVID-19 recognizes that student mental health is a shared responsibility and not the sole responsibility of the school counselor or University Counseling Center (UCC). Both school counselors and UCC staff should be seen as consultants and educators toward a broader campus mental health initiative for awareness, prevention, and intervention. Schools and campuses might benefit from considering three different types or gradations of mental health needs this fall, parallel to social science literature on types of prevention: general psychological need, identified risk or need not requiring professional intervention (i.e., psychotherapy), and mental health concerns requiring professional intervention (e.g., therapy, medication, crisis assessment and intervention). School and campus wide engagement in identifying and responding to needs at each of these levels is essential for the large percentage of students and employees with mental health needs who will not need or seek therapy (also decreasing likelihood of overwhelming school counselors or campus’s professional mental health service providers).
School counselors and UCC staff should serve to support the campus in the gap between experience and expectations. First, we must all be informed about the difference between normal and abnormal psychological impact. Over-pathologizing “typical trauma reactions” will cause us to fail to seek healthy independent or interpersonal processing of such impacts. Second, it is important to reexamine our expectations of ourselves and our institutions as we all need to proceed with humility and flexibility during unprecedented times. (For inquiries or questions, please contact Heather Lewis Quagliana @ email@example.com.)
Brymer, M., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vemberg, E., & Watson, P. (National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD). Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide, 2nd Edition, July 2006. Available on: www.nctsn.org and www.ncptsd.va.gov.
Felitte, V.J., Anda, R.F., Edwards, V., Marks, J.S. (1998). Relationships of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The adverse childhood expereinces (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 14 (4), 245-258.
Goodman, L. B., Middleditch, A. M., Childs, B., & Pietrasiuk, S. E. (2016). Positive psychology course and its relationship to well-being, depression, and stress. Teaching of Psychology, 43(3), 232-237.
Halladay Goldman, J., Danna, L., Maze, J.W., Pickens, I.B., & Ake III, G.S. (2020). Trauma Informed School Strategies during COVID-19. Los Angeles, CA, and Durham, NC: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Retrieved from (https://www.nctsn.org/resources/trauma-informed-school-strategies-during-covid-19)
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1996). Maslach Burnout Inventory manual (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Maybury, K. K. (2013). The influence of a positive psychology course on student well-being. Teaching of Psychology, 40(1), 62-65.
Shimer, D. (2018). Yale’s most popular class ever: Happiness. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/nyregion/at-yale-class-on-happiness-draws-huge-crowd-laurie-santos.html.
Written by Christopher Corbett, Albany, NY
Model legislation is a powerful way to further community psychology (CP) values and principles. This article describes the value of Model legislation analysis and proposes it as a highly worthwhile method for community psychologists (CPs) to apply to advance social justice issues important to them. While Model legislation, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder, this article identifies eight criteria based on CP core values for use in assessing legislation to determine if it meets a “Model” standard. To illustrate, the article applies the Model standard to recently passed legislation in New York State that criminalizes chokehold practices by police for possible application in other state jurisdictions. The article also concludes there is urgent need for more public policy training in CP graduate programs which is necessary to further social justice given the critical role of the public policy CP competency and the clear neglect of policy training.
Model legislation means different things to different people. Various groups use “Model” legislation such as: National Association of Attorneys General, American Bar Association, National Consumer Law Center and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For example, ALEC identifies legislation it deems “model” for use in different states. While ALEC is “non-partisan”, it has its own core values including: limited government, free markets and federalism, creating a conservative bias in what it deems “model”.
Clearly, legislation that would be “model” to a CP would be quite different and would logically be based on core values of the field. As previously proposed, some eight values have been proposed as Hallmark Values of CP (Corbett 2015) including: prevention; second order change; social justice; empowerment; citizen participation; diversity; respect for all cultures and community members, and empirical grounding. These values are supported by various community psychologists and texts as foundational to the field (Heller et al. 1984; Duffy & Wong 1996; Dalton, Elias & Wandersman 2001 and Tolan et al. 1990).
Various “model” cases of legislation have previously been examined and assessed, which include some social justice issues: toxic chemical exposure of children; gun violence; exploitation of low wage workers; cyberbullying of children and race based harassment (Corbett 2015). In each case, the legislation was examined and compared to the identified CP values to make a determination of whether they met a “model” standard.
More recently, the concept of Model legislation was applied to the Parkland Florida tragedy by examining Connecticut’s law that allows seizure of firearms (Corbett 2018). The next step is to apply those standards to recently passed legislation in New York State.
On June 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law a package of police accountability measures (Tarinelli 2020), including a new law criminalizing the use of chokeholds or similar restraint that results in obstruction of breathing or blood circulation (NY Assembly Memorandum in Support 2020). The law, A6144-B is shown in the figure below. The law provides for felony level penalties of up to 15 years in prison for use of a chokehold or similar restraint that causes serious physical injury or death (Chokehold Law too late, 2020).
While subjectivity exists to judge against specified values, and at times the indicated value or criteria will not apply, or only in limited way, this method provides a systematic way to assess legislation. Also, multiple CP reviewers can help confirm, or challenge, a finding of Model. As shown in the table below, the legislation was assessed across various values. Judgement was made as to whether the legislation furthered or was in alignment with the value (+), or undermined the value (-), or whether the value did not apply (dna).
The last criteria or value, empirical grounding, clearly applies as the legislation was based, in significant measure, on data documenting number of chokeholds performed by year, by police. Moreover, those chokeholds were applied in violation of the New York Police Department’s administrative ban on chokeholds instituted in 2014, the year of Eric Garner’s death. Specifically, the number of complaints received by the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, by year was: 276 (2014); 172 (2015); 139 (2016); 132 (2017); 129 (2018); 116 (2019) and 32 thus far (2020), or 996 total reports (NY Assembly Memorandum of Support, 2020, p. 2).
There are valuable lessons here for CPs. While policies can be progress, when they are unenforceable, they can be worse than no policy at all. That is, they create the thin veneer of a solution-- when they are merely window dressing that perpetuates the status-quo, creating false appearances of a problem solved that goes on for years, unsolved. Here, the policy did help create the empirical data that the legislators’ cited as justification for the law. Any cause to celebrate victory at law’s passage, however, is tainted by empirical data showing grave harm to the public over many years of unenforceable NYPD Policy prohibiting chokeholds (Chokehold law too late, 2020).
Based on the criteria applied to the legislation, a strong case can be made that N.Y.’s Act meets a Model standard, with nearly all values furthered or supported by the law.
The application of Model legislation as proposed here, constitutes a powerful method to influence public policy. That is, content analysis, has been identified as a highly effective research methodology to advance public policy (Prewitt et al. 2012, p. 97). This methodology, along with case study analysis (p. 97), are noteworthy as they are both highly amenable for use by interventionists at all levels including bachelor, master and doctoral level CPs.
Model legislation is one method of pursuing social justice and it falls within the CP competency for Public Policy Analysis, Development & Advocacy (Dalton & Wolfe 2012). Specifically, this competency is: the ability to build and sustain effective communication and working relationships with policy makers, elected officials and community leaders, including to write briefs, present testimony, draft policies and consult with elected officials at federal, state, province and local levels (p. 12). Because legislation deemed Model has been passed and signed into law, it typically reflects political consensus in that state or jurisdiction.
The power of Model legislation should not be underestimated as it provides a basis to engage individually with elected officials and fashion working relationships required by the public policy competency. Moreover, Model legislation facilitates CPs ability to work across both sides of the aisle, an essential quality, to rise above partisanship and craft bi-partisan solutions. Model legislation typically requires cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans, as well as the Governor of the state who is needed to sign the bill into law. Finally, Model legislation proves that difficult social problems can be effectively addressed and solved in one jurisdiction-- and legislators, who are often lawyers, are extremely vulnerable to influence by legal precedent. Problems well solved in one jurisdiction-- can provide a strong basis for solution in others.
Further, Model legislation provides a highly effective entry point and basis for relationship building. It also conveys CPs’ seriousness to genuinely help legislators solve difficult or intractable problems, particularly matters of social justice where most intervenors engage legislators based solely upon bald self-interest. That is, CPs are trained to seek influence for social justice sake-- which stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of constituents who seek legislative influence to advance partisan or economic self-interests. This strongly distinguishes CPs and places them in partnership with elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, to cooperatively address intractable issues. This is a unique power of the “insider” approach and illustrates how the policy competency requirements can be accomplished: to build and sustain effective working relationships with policy makers and elected officials at federal, state/province and local levels (Dalton & Wolfe 2012, p. 12).
This is the essence of the policy competency, to establish effective and ongoing working relationships with policy makers. Model legislation is a powerful method to employ, providing a sound basis for bi-partisan outcomes essential to the successful passage of legislation that advances social justice and public interests-- which hinges on it being politically viable.
The path of social justice requires various skills in public policy. Prior articles have identified a notable neglect of public policy in CP training (Brown et al. 2014; Johnson-Hakim et al. 2014). More recently, an examination of graduate degrees found that among 20 U.S. universities offering graduate degrees in community psychology, only three required policy courses in their curriculum (Dancis, Godsay, Hosler & Maton 2016). The data reviewed included MA/MS and Ph.D. CP degrees (p. 13). The authors conclude that this does not bode well for future CPs getting involved in policy work (p. 13). Effective social justice advocates require policy training, legislative influence and intervention to advance their cause.
The preceding provides a strong and urgent basis for more public policy training to achieve the public policy competency. Several options include: more policy training requirements, offering of policy tracks at all levels of CP training and certificates in public policy that could be offered to CPs, as well as any past graduates in CP, or other allied social justice related fields.
The purpose here is to demonstrate the potential power of Model legislation analysis by CPs to advance social justice and CP values and encourage its use. The table provided can be used as a template and may prove useful to CPs who wish to assess any legislation of choice and to facilitate analysis.
Beyond the eight values identified here, the template provides for additional values to be added, depending upon the CP’s priorities. That is, CPs can tailor values most important to them, that justify the use of their limited resources, to intervene in communities to advance the public good. It also furthers “best practice” analysis and the potential to apply “Model” legislation to advance system level change thinking and solutions in multiple jurisdictions across local, regional, state and national bounds.
Model legislation can be particularly effective for advancing social justice progress through state level legislation and intervention, as illustrated by this case of criminalizing chokeholds-- where such relief, potentially mandated through national legislation, appears unlikely, if not implausible, based on the state of partisan politics currently at the federal level. Moreover, policing is, first, primarily a responsibility of state and local governments—requiring intervention at those levels, rather than federal level. Second, Model legislation provides a prime entry point with legislators and fosters cooperative working bi-partisan relationships essential for actually achieving policy and advocacy training objectives and skills. This allows CPs to apply their research skills in service of social justice-based legislation that helps solve often intractable social and political problems. Model legislation analysis can be applied to whatever issue justifies your precious yet limited research resources such as discrimination based on race, gender, sexual identity, disability, or any other social justice issue that arouses your passion.
Finally, this paper raises a larger question: How can the field empower CPs to be more effective social justice advocates and interventionists? To achieve the aspirational goals of the policy and advocacy competency, there is strong basis and urgent need for increased public policy training at all CP levels: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral. More policy training is well supported by Brown et al. (2014) and Johnson-Hakim et al. (2014), and, more recently, based on a survey of 20 graduate CP programs (Dancis et al. 2016). The preceding supports the urgent need for more public policy training for practitioners and academics alike. Various options include: more policy training requirements; policy specific tracks in master and doctorial level programs that train current and future CPs, as well as the potential use of certificates in public policy, including online opportunities, to reach past CP graduates as well to reach students and prior graduates of other allied fields. In sum, progress needed to advance social justice through application of public policy skills and competencies will require, first, specific methods of engagement with legislators, such as Model legislation. Second, a systematic expansion of public policy training in graduate programs is urgently needed to achieve the competency’s goals which includes the ability to write briefs, present testimony, draft policies and consult with elected officials at federal, state and local levels, as well as develop ongoing relationships (Dalton & Wolfe 2012, p. 12).
With such progress, the policy and advocacy competency goals can evolve beyond being merely aspirational-- to at least enable proficiency, if not expertise, empowering CPs to successfully pursue the social justice issues most important to them, while advancing the state of the field.
Note: This paper is based, in part, on “Model Legislation: Public Policy 501”, a Core Competency #15 Workshop presented at SCRA’s 2015 Biennial held June 25-28, Lowell, Mass. It is available on SCRA’s website under “Policy Workshops”, along with Public Policy 101-601 Core Competency Workshops presented at SCRA biennials since 2005.
Christopher Corbett, MA Community Psychology, is a nonprofit researcher and author of
Advancing Nonprofit Stewardship Through Self-Regulation: Translating Principles into Practice (Kumarian Press). Any questions may be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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