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KU picked to help Kansas schools fight bullying

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- The state has chosen a research team from the University of Kansas to develop a program to prevent bullying in schools, some of which are having trouble implementing anti-bullying policies required by a 2007 state law.

The Kansas Department of Education awarded a contract to the researchers, who will develop a website and hold training sessions at schools across the state and create a model policy on bullying that schools can change to fit their specific circumstances, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/12oTXqU ).

The state passed a law in 2007 requiring such policies but some districts have faced obstacles, partly because intervention projects can be expensive.

"Some school districts have a comprehensive policy that they're fine tuning," said Anne Williford, an assistant professor of social welfare at Kansas and the lead researcher on the team. "Others have struggled to translate this particular law into a policy that works for their community."

Williford said the first step to building a sound policy is defining exactly what bullying is and then getting that message across to everyone in the school. To be considered bullying, the behavior has to occur over time and demonstrate a difference in status between the bully and victim, Williford said.

"Bullies have greater social status or are just generally more powerful among their peer group," Williford said. "Preying on weaker students helps them maintain that power."

After establishing the clear definition, Williford said schools need to implement consistent procedures for reporting bullying and for intervention. Those procedures need to be communicated to the entire community, she said.

The research team will begin providing training sessions for school district officials in October. The team will also develop a website with information for schools and communities about bullying and prevention.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com