- Last Updated on 02 August 2012
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Each week during the school year, two groups of about 20 students each meet in a classroom at Lincoln East High School.
Students with and without disabilities gather for lunch in Laurie Witters-Churchill’s room. The Lunch Bunch, as they call themselves, get together to share their similarities and revel in each other’s differences. Then they take the bonds they’ve formed out into their school’s halls.
One year, a group of Lunch Bunchers went to prom together. This year, one of its most involved members was named homecoming king.
“Most of my students prefer not to be identified as anything but an East High student, which they should be,” said Witters-Churchill, a special-education teacher. “This kind of makes all kids equal.”
It’s just one example of the many ways Lincoln Public Schools works to better integrate disabled students. Still, according to a study published recently, plenty of work remains to integrate disabled children into schools in Lincoln and beyond.
The study found students with behavioral disorders and those with more obvious disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their general-education counterparts -- and also are more likely to bully other students.
The findings, published in the Journal of School Psychology, highlight the complexity of bullying and the challenges in addressing it, said Susan Swearer, professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study’s lead author.
"These results paint a fairly bleak picture for students with disabilities in terms of bullying, victimization and disciplinary actions," said Swearer, a national expert on school bullying who has consulted with the White House and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation on anti-bullying initiatives.
The research followed more than 800 special- and general-education students between ages 9 and 16 at nine elementary, middle and high schools. More than a third -- 38.1 percent -- said they had bullied other students. Another 67 percent said bullies had victimized them.
The study found special-ed students were at increased risk for bullying others, for being bullied, for being sent to the school office for disciplinary problems and for engaging in antisocial behavior. In particular, students with observable disabilities -- language or hearing impairments or mild mental handicaps -- reported the highest levels of bullying others and being bullied themselves.
"The observable nature of the disability makes it easy to identify those students as individuals with disabilities, which may place them at greater risk for being the easy target of bullying," Swearer and her co-authors wrote. "Also, being frustrated with the experience of victimization, those students might engage in bullying behavior as a form of revenge."
The authors suggest implementing anti-bullying interventions that emphasize benevolent behavioral skills. Students in general education could serve as behavior role models for students with disabilities. Also, the authors suggest, helping students with observable disabilities become better integrated into general education classes may help prevent them from being bullied.
At Schoo Middle School, willing autistic students are partnered with general-education students. This past year, about five autistic students participated in Circle of Friends, each working with four or five general-education students, said counselor Jodie Green.
The general-education students support the autistic students, sometimes sitting with them at lunch, helping them stand up for themselves and improving their communication skills, she said.
The school has created brochures and hosted presentations for students and parents about bullying, Green said. Swearer has been among those who have worked to educate students and others about the origins and impacts of bullying and how to prevent it. The school also works with bullying students to help them become more understanding of others, Green said.
“Bullying doesn’t have a particular group that it targets,” Green said. “It can be anyone. It has no color. It can come in any shape.”
To fight it requires a communitywide effort, she said.
“It’s not something that schools really can do alone,” she said.
Source Website: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/google/bully/~3/ST23MaRT4v4/url