Vermont Press Releases

Building Bright Futures issues policy brief on bullying

News Release -- Building Bright Futures
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Karen Conner, Building Bright Futures, 802-876-5010, [email protected]

Early Childhood Strategies Prove Effective at Preventing Bullying
Vermont implements these strategies across the state with positive results

“Bullies are made, not born,” asserts a new policy brief, “Focus on Early Childhood Risk Factors to Prevent Bullying,” released today by Building Bright Futures (BBF). The brief focuses on risk factors and proven strategies that identify and mitigate certain early childhood behaviors before they become bullying behaviors.

Vermont has instituted proven strategies in settings where they reach young children and families: in the medical home, integrated into home visiting, in early developmental screening and assessment and in parent education programs.

“A key strategy to prevent bullying is to build social and emotional skills in young children,” said Traci Sawyers, the brief’s author and the Early Childhood Health Policy Expert for BBF and Project LAUNCH.

One helpful framework in promoting healthy social and emotional development in early care and development settings is the Pyramid Model for Promoting the Social Emotional Competence of Infants and Young Children. The Pyramid model is being implemented in pilot communities as part of Vermont’s Early Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (EMTSS).

For children in kindergarten and early elementary school, Vermont’s Positive Behavior Supports (VTPBiS) is a schoolwide approach to creating a positive and safe climate in which students can learn and grow. Currently, 133 schools in Vermont are implementing VTPBiS. Within the VTPBiS framework, most schools identify and use Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies such as: Second Step, Social Thinking or Kelso Choices. The strategies are proven to be effective in increasing social and emotional health.

“These are not just a bunch of acronyms,” Sawyers insists. “These are methods that have proven results in the early detection of certain behaviors, and mitigation of problem behaviors before they blossom into full-fledged bullying.”

According to the Integrated Arts Academy (at the Wheeler School in Burlington) principal Bobby Riley, before implementing VTPBiS and Second Step, 30 to 40 percent of students had six or more office visits for behavioral issues. That number is down to 5 to 8 percent.

In the area of academics, in 2013-14, 85 percent of students at Dothan Brook School (DBS) in White River Junction were reading at or above the standard, with 80 percent reading above their grade level expectation. In that same year, DBS’s writing results as tested by the New England Common Assessment Program showed the highest scores ever received on the test: 68 percent met or exceeded the standard, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.

Keeping children safe and preventing bullying is a primary focus for the Vermont Department of Education. Per Act 129 of 2012, the Secretary of Education established a diverse advisory council to provide advice and recommendations on harassment, hazing and bullying prevention strategies and resources.

This policy brief further recommends, among other items, increasing evidence-based home visits and other parent education, so caregivers understand the importance of attachment and healthy social and emotional development from birth.

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