Creating a Positive School Climate: CHOP’s Bullying Prevention Program

January 21, 2014

Late last week, I was proud to watch groups of fourth and fifth grade students at Childs Elementary School (located in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze section) present and explain posters and videos with anti-bullying themes to their peers. Since September, a CHOP team composed of researchers and educational facilitators have been working with Childs’ fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers through the classroom-based Preventing Relational Aggression in Schools Everyday (PRAISE) Program. This ten week program meets twice a week for 45 minute sessions. Through PRAISE, the students have been taught problem-solving strategies for multiple forms of bullying, including physical, cyber, and relational aggression (such as the spreading of rumors), as well as empathy and perspective-taking skills. They learn these skills through innovative and engaging modalities, cartoons, videotape illustrations and role plays, developed by partnering with students, teachers, and parents over the past ten years. Last week was their opportunity to creatively share and explain what they’ve learned with Childs’ second grade students, and it was truly a pleasure to watch. You can read or listen to a feature on the event from WHYY’s Newsworks program here.

The goal of PRAISE is simple- to help create a culture in schools where bullying is the rare exception and never the norm. Although giving special attention to bullies and victims is often warranted, PRAISE employs a universal approach where all students in a classroom receive the skills needed to develop a positive and safe school climate. Because we know that bullies can be socially influential to their peers, PRAISE provides opportunities for “would-be bullies” and for all youth to channel their influence and leadership skills in a positive way.

PRAISE is one component of CHOP’s Partner for Prevention (P4P) program, a school-based bullying prevention program designed to help at-risk 3rd-5th grade students learn to recognize and control their anger while promoting friendship-making skills. Another component of P4P is the Playground, Lunchroom, and Youth Success (PLAYS) Program, which provides consultation for playground and lunchroom staff (research shows that bullying typically takes place in unstructured school settings such as hallways or during recess or lunch). Since 2005, CHOP has instituted PRAISE and PLAYS in 10 schools within Southwest and West Philadelphia with ongoing research evaluation and refinement. Through P4P, these two components are joined with teacher training /coaching and parent and community outreach to address bullying at the individual, peer group, classroom, and school-wide level.

Our goal is to create a successful, sustainable model for P4P that can be funded for implementation in additional Philadelphia elementary schools. As part of CHOP’s new Violence Prevention Initiative, we will continue to refine and implement P4P, and look forward to many more successful events with the students we work with.

Click here to read published research on the PRAISE Program.

Click here to read published research on the PLAYS Program.