KU News Service

Professor creates course, publishes research to help educators fight 'terroristic bullying,' troublesome behaviors

Tue, 10/29/2013

LAWRENCE — October is National Anti-bullying Month. While educators across the country are working on ways to fight the problem, a University of Kansas professor is working to train future teachers and those already in schools to curb bullying.

Robert Harrington, professor of psychology and research in education, is in the first year of offering an online program for working teachers and administrators in Kansas schools. The bullying prevention course shares strategies, practical methods and information on school-wide policies. Harrington’s goal is to create a certification program for educators that addresses bullying, classroom behavior management and student mental health challenges in the schools that includes hands on practicum experiences.

“The hope is because bullying is such a big issue we can reach as many people as possible throughout the state,” Harrington said. “And hopefully we’ll be able to take these lessons outside the state as well.”

Harrington also recently launched an advanced seminar course for doctoral students in KU’s School of Education. The course, like its online counterpart for working educators, emphasizes the importance of recognizing all forms of bullying and effective ways of dealing with the problem. Educators need to recognize that bullying goes far beyond physical violence or verbal threats, Harrington said. The course emphasizes that bullying can take place both inside the school and outside of normal school hours and that educators recognize behaviors such as sexual harassment and sexual orientation and gender identity issues, which are often largely ignored in school policies. The courses also stress the importance of acknowledging all forms of bullying such as cyber, extortion, hazing and behaviors based on disability and mental health.

“You can’t stop or prevent bullying unless you know what all the forms are,” Harrington said. “We talk about the importance of recognizing all the climates of bullying as well: emotional, social and physical.”

The course content addresses research Harrington and colleagues have performed in anti-bullying recognition and response. Among the tactics the students learn is proper response. The majority of the time when bullying incidents are addressed in schools, the offending student is suspended, given detention or temporarily removed from the school environment. Research has shown these students return to school having learned the lesson it is more important to not get caught than to not engage in such behaviors.

Harrington has presented a research article with Carol Daniels, assistant professor at Emporia State University, exploring when bullying becomes a crime. Harrington refers to the behaviors as “terroristic bullying.” Often such behaviors in schools are considered a problem to be dealt with only by the school or perhaps parents, but many real life incidents illustrate behaviors that cross the line of assault or break other laws. The most recent example is the case of a 14-year-old student who allegedly was raped and bullied by fellow students and townspeople in Maryville, Mo. It’s not easy for schools to know exactly what to do when criminal bullying including threatening cyber bullying happens and the research has identified guidelines educators can use to know when it’s appropriate to engage outside agencies such as law enforcement in responding to bullying incidents.

The common assumption is that bullying takes place only between students. Harrington and Daniels have presented a position paper on Loren’s Law, the Kansas statute that addresses teachers who may bully their own students. A large part of stopping bullying, Harrington said, is recognizing that bullying is not just any mean or discourteous behavior. Bullying is persistent, malicious behavior that exploits a power differential and occurs over time more than once. While that power differential is often present among students, it can be and is a problem among teachers’ relationships with students at times. Harrington emphasized that while bullying by teachers can happen, he believes that the vast majority of teachers treat their students with respect and dignity. On the other hand, teachers can be victims of student violence, too. A crime that was committed against a new, 24-year-old female teacher in Danvers, Mass., who was allegedly killed by a student last week is evidence of that.

“We need to recognize that anyone can be a bully,” Harrington said. “We especially need laws that say anyone can be a bully, a victim or a bystander, and everybody who enters a school building is going to be protected. Everyone needs to feel safe in school and it is the job of the schools to keep students safe. That requires schoolwide bullying policies, which many schools do not have. For more information on how your state is doing in bullying, go to”

The course Harrington is creating also addresses another topic many don’t associate with bullying: students bullying educators. Earlier this year Harrington presented research on students bullying professors, including several real-life examples of students physically intimidating or threatening teachers, often when they are unhappy with a grade they received. Many educators, especially at the college level, do not have training in classroom management or how to respond to such behaviors and university policies rarely offer guidance if they even exist. Harrington’s keynote presentation on “Professors Bullied by their Students,” presented at the Ireland International Conference on Education, was chosen for the conference’s Outstanding Contributor Award.

Harrington said the pervasive nature of bullying drives his work to help educators learn more about the problem and how to address it. Next spring Harrington is offering another online course, “Overcoming Mental Health Challenges in the Classroom.” Harrington encourages anyone with questions about how to fight bullying to contact him at Those who have taken the course or shown an interest in combatting bullying are often quite effective with a little guidance, he said.

“People ask why I’m drawn to this topic,” Harrington said. “It’ not that I’m drawn to mayhem. I love anti-bullying and I love classroom management. I enjoy problem solving and helping people solve problems.”

Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@KU bschool 's KIP team includes @KU _SADP students in all-ages housing project. #KUworks
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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