LAWRENCE, Kan., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Kansas schools will try making schools inhospitable to bullying by working with entire classes, not just bullies and victims, researchers say.
Todd Little, director of the Center for Research Methods and Data Analysis at the University of Kansas, says the effort will employ KiVa, a program implemented in Finland in 2007 that halved the risk of bullying in one school year. By changing perceptions of peers who are neither bullies nor victims, the program undercuts a social environment that supports bullying.
The program works because it recognizes that bullies sometimes may earn higher social status from their behavior, Little says.
"People have traditionally framed bullying as social incompetence, thinking that bullies have low self-esteem or impulse problems," Patricia Hawley, an associate professor of developmental psychology, says in a statement. "But recent research shows that bullying perpetrators can be socially competent and can win esteem from their peers."
The KiVa program changes the rewards structure, Hawley says.
"At the end of the day, the goals of the bully are like yours and mine -- they want friendship and status. They have human goals, not pathological ones," Hawley says. "With KiVa, bystanders are set up to win by intervening, and their status can go up. As a bystander, I can achieve goals of friendship and status by standing up to a bully."
A pilot program is scheduled for selected classrooms in Lawrence, Kan., during the 2012-13 school year. If successful, the model could expand nationally, the researchers say.