School Psychology Forum

School Climate and Violence Prevention and Intervention
Volume 10, Issue 1 (Spring 2016)

Editor: Steven R. Shaw

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  • Introduction to the Special Issue: Improving Student Outcomes: Research on School Climate and Violence Prevention and Intervention

    By Leandra Parris, Tamika P. La Salle, Kris Varjas & Joel Meyers

    pp. 1—3

    ABSTRACT: Today’s youth experiences violence in both their school and their communities. Research has shown that students’ mental health and academic performance can be affected by multiple forms of violence, such as bullying and the criminal sexual exploitation of children. Further, how safe a student feels at school can be affected by his or her feelings of school climate. The purpose of the current special issue is to highlight research across these topics that has been conducted through the Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate, and Classroom Management. This introduction will outline the goals and objectives of the Center, the importance of this work to the field of school psychology, and briefly describe the relevance of the articles included in this special issue.

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  • Examining the Outcomes of Including Students With Disabilities in a Bullying/Victimization Intervention

    By Emily C. Graybill, Erin Vinoski, Mary Black, Kris Varjas, Christopher Henrich & Joel Meyers

    pp. 4—15

    ABSTRACT: Students with disabilities are bullied at rates disproportionate to their typically developing peers, yet we know little about effective interventions to reduce the rates of victimization among students with disabilities across all disability categories. This study examined the effectiveness of the inclusive Bullying/Victimization Intervention Program (BVIP) for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who were eligible to participate in the BVIP based on the results of a universal screening designed to identify students who reported high rates of victimization were assigned to different treatment groups: BVIP group interventions only, BVIP individual interventions only, or BVIP group + individual. We explored whether students with disabilities showed an increase in self- efficacy, coping skills, and problem-solving skills and a decrease in self-reported victimization after participating in the intervention and whether there were differences across groups. We also examined whether students with disabilities who received the intervention in group individual, or group + individual settings had different outcomes. The outcome data were promising and suggested that students with disabilities reported increases in social–emotional functioning and a decrease in victimization postintervention. students with disabilities who were assigned to the group + individual interventions reported greater gains in social–emotional functioning suggesting that interventions presented in different modalities with repeated practice may be beneficial for these students. Implications for school psychologists in practice are discussed.

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  • Practitioners’ Perceptions of Culturally Responsive School-Based Mental Health Services for Low-Income African American Girls

    By Erin Harper, Ann Cale Kruger, Chela Hamilton, Joel Meyers, Stephen D. Truscott & Kris Varjas

    pp. 16-28

    ABSTRACT: School-based mental health practitioners are positioned to address low-income urban African American girls’ mental health needs through culturally responsive services. Despite the importance of culturally reflective practice, it is understudied. We asked school-based mental health practitioners (N 5 7) to reflect on barriers and facilitators to culturally responsive services and on their perceptions of the African American girls they serve. In-depth interview data were analyzed using an inductive- deductive model. Major themes were discerned using pattern analysis. Participants described exposure to violence, limited trusting relationships, depression, and low self- esteem as girls’ main problems but saw girls as resilient despite limited access to mental health supports. Perceived barriers to mental health service provision included limited resources and higher prioritization of academic achievement. Although participants reported limited diversity training, they reported using culturally responsive strategies. Participants indicated a need for more collaboration and training to meet girls’ needs. We discuss implications for practitioners.

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  • African American Girls’ Descriptions of Life in High-Risk Neighborhoods

    By Ann Cale Kruger, Faith Zabek, Staeshe Collins, Erin A. Harper, Chela Hamilton, Miriam Chitescu McGee, Catherine Perkins & Joel Meyers

    pp. 199—213

    ABSTRACT: In disadvantaged neighborhoods African American girls are at elevated risk for exposure to violence and sexualization (Miller, 2008; Salazar, Wingood, DiClemente, Lan, & Harrington, 2004). Preventive interventions can promote resilience by supporting capacities such as social decision making and self-understanding (Masten, 2001). We report on an afterschool intervention group in a transitional housing facility for women and children. The participants were fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-grade African American girls (N 5 11). Sessions met for 1.5–2 hours per week over 15 weeks. We recorded the themes that emerged from the participants’ conversations during group sessions. The girls in this study described strained relationships, recurring violence, internalized stereotypes, and objectifying sexual activities. When repeated throughout development, such experiences may normalize aggression and objectification and reduce agency and future orientation. Learning from first-hand accounts of girls living in stressed urban environments is crucial to creating future interventions specific to their needs.

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  • Deconstructing Peer Victimization: Relationships With Connectedness, Gender, Grade, and Race/Ethnicity

    By Tamika P. La Salle, Leandra Parris, Melissa Morin & Joel Meyers

    pp. 41—54

    ABSTRACT: School connectedness has been shown to be an integral part of students’ perceptions of school climate, which in turn affects their mental health functioning. Research has suggested that student perceptions of school connectedness may be related to their experiences with peer victimization. However, there is limited evidence of the moderating effects of age, race, or ethnicity on the relationship between school connectedness and peer victimization. Our study utilized the Georgia Student Health Survey 2.0 to closely investigate these relationships. Findings indicated that students who experienced more frequent rates of victimization reported lower feelings of school connectedness. This relationship was moderated by gender and age, with male and middle school students reporting a stronger relationship between the two variables. Results indicated that moderation existed among multiracial and Native American students, but the same patterns were not significant among other participating groups. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

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  • Elementary Student Perceptions of School Climate and Associations With Individual and School Factors

    By Tamika P. La Salle, Faith Zabek & Joel Meyers

    pp. 55—65

    ABSTRACT: School climate has increasingly been recognized as an essential component of school improvement owing to the established associations between a positive school climate and academic outcomes for students. Our study examines associations among a brief measure of school climate assessing elementary student perceptions and the College and Career Ready Performance Index, Georgia’s comprehensive school improvement and accountability index. Individual factors including student grade, race/ ethnicity, and gender were also examined in relation to perceptions of school climate. Multilevel analyses and hierarchical linear modeling indicated that student-level variables accounted for the majority of variation in perceptions of school climate. Notably, results revealed a significant and negative interaction among school climate, school achievement, and gender. These findings suggest that personal characteristics have a notable impact on students’ experiences and perceptions of climate and should be considered in the development and implementation of school climate improvement efforts.

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  • Engaging Upstanders: Class-Wide Approach to Promoting Positive Bystander Behavior

    By Laura Wood, Jennifer Smith, Kris Varjas & Joel Meyers

    pp. 66-77

    ABSTRACT: Positive and supportive bystander behaviors have been associated with decreases in the frequency and negative impact of bullying. This article addresses the design, implementation, evaluation, and continuation of a classroom-based intervention that promotes positive bystander behaviors. The Engaging Upstanders curriculum was piloted with two fourth-grade and four fifth-grade classrooms (N 5 149 students, six teachers) in a small urban district in the southeastern United States. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from teachers, students, and facilitators to address content knowledge, treatment integrity, and acceptability of the intervention. Overall, the intervention was highly acceptable and resulted in significant increases in content knowledge for students. Feedback was used to update the curriculum to better match the needs and resources of the stakeholders. Future directions are discussed, including building the capacity of the local stakeholders to implement the program, disseminating the intervention results, and providing suggestions for research.

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  • Disclosure Experiences of Urban, Ethnically Diverse LGBT High School Students: Implications for School Personnel

    By Kris Varjas, Sarah Kiperman & Joel Meyers

    pp. 78—92

    ABSTRACT: Disclosure of sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a milestone event for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth and can have both positive and negative mental health consequences. Twenty-nine urban, ethnically diverse LGBT high school students participated in face-to-face, in-depth interviews. Qualitative results revealed two primary themes: act of disclosure and reaction to disclosure. The act of disclosure theme included elements of disclosure and chosen recipients. The reaction to disclosure theme included descriptions of the types of reactions received. An important contribution from this study was the description of the ways in which school personnel responded when students in this sample chose to disclose. These findings provided unique information about the disclosure experiences of LGBT youth and the supports that can be provided in school. Findings also confirmed existing literature regarding youth’s descriptions of their sexual orientation and gender identity and motivations for disclosing. Implications for school personnel are highlighted.

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  • Comparing Assessment Approaches for Use With Brief Experimental Analysis

    By Gavin C. Clark & David C. Parker

    pp. 93—105

    ABSTRACT: Within brief experimental analysis, assessment data are used to target interventions for struggling students. This use of assessment data aligns with prevention and early intervention frameworks, but popular measures are limited for this purpose because of issues with measuring improvement in short periods. Our study was a pilot comparison of two curriculum-based assessment approaches with respect to measuring growth during the context of evidence-based interventions. Results suggested that subskill mastery measures were more consistent in assessing short-term improvement than general outcome measures. Results are discussed in terms of future research to examine how assessment data are used to target interventions.

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  • Providing Feasible Implementation Support: Direct Training and Implementation Planning in Consultation

    By Melissa A. Collier-Meek, Lisa M. H. Sanetti & Ashley M. Boyle

    pp. 106—119

    ABSTRACT: To deliver interventions completely and consistently (i.e., with adequate treatment integrity) and, thus, have a positive impact on student outcomes, implementers, such as teachers and paraprofessionals, often require support. To efficiently deliver implementation support, school psychologists could embed research- based strategies into their typical consultation. This article describes two implementation support strategies, direct training and implementation planning, which target implementer skill and intervention logistics, respectively. The delivery of these supports is illustrated in the context of a randomized case study that focuses on increasing a teacher’s use of best practices in classroom management. In addition to teacher treatment integrity data, student outcomes are assessed. Implications for school psychologists are described and resources related to classroom management and treatment integrity are provided.

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  • Consideration of Base Rates Within Universal Screening for Behavioral and Emotional Risk: A Novel Procedural Framework

    By Stephen P. Kilgus & Katie R. Eklund

    pp. 120—130

    ABSTRACT: Universal screening for behavioral and emotional risk represents an important component of multitiered systems of support, being a means by which schools identify at-risk students and evaluate the effectiveness of Tier 1 programming. Despite its importance, many schools have not adopted universal screening procedures, instead relying upon more reactive methods of student identification. A particularly common concern around screening includes the potential for over identification of at-risk students and the exhaustion of already limited school resources. This article introduces a novel universal screening procedural framework intended to address this concern, yet allow for proactive-oriented universal screening. This framework structures the universal screening process by determining (a) the targets of multitiered systems of support and (b) how school resources and educator time should be allocated to meet student needs efficiently and effectively. Information is provided regarding implementation of the framework, along with illustrative examples of the process and its relation to Tier 1 (school- and class-wide intervention) and Tier 2 (individual- and group-level intervention) practices.

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