HEATH GRANT, Ph.D. / Success for Kids
MARYBETH GASMAN, Ph.D. / University of Pennsylvania
ROBI LUDWIG, PSY. D. / care.com
ROBERT-WAYNE HARRIS / Superintendent of Schools / Roosevelt Union Free School District
Research says that
Until the 1970s, bullying was ignored as a subject of
research and action. Bullying was considered a “rite of
passage” and not a problem by those working in schools.
Interest in the profound problem spiked in the 1990s with
the Columbine shootings, pushing many states to adopt
anti-bullying programs. To date, forty-two states have
implemented anti-bullying legislation.
Among victims of bullying, boys are more likely to experience
physical violence, whereas girls are more likely to suffer from
verbal insults, rumors, and ostracism. Victims of bullying
endure low self-esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, and
long-term psychological effects. They also have difficulty
with their academics, often skip school to avoid interaction
with bullies, and develop poor eating habits. On the other
hand, bullies are typically poor performers in school and
have a greater likelihood of involvement with drugs, crime,
and gangs. Of note, some female bullies, unlike their male
counterparts, are popular, do well in school, and are sometimes
friends with the girl they are bullying. Bullying is especially
problematic for gay and lesbian students, with one study
showing that over 65 percent of these students do not feel safe
in their schools. Moreover, in recent years, cyber bullying has
become more prevalent and has resulted in suicides.
Although bullying is on the rise, there are strategies that
can reduce it. Within the home environment, parental
involvement and warmth toward children has been found to
reduce the risk. In particular, parents need to teach their children,
especially their girls to speak up and challenge bullying
behavior. Within the school setting, parental involvement
is also important, as well as an awareness of the bullying
problem and concerted anti-bullying efforts on the part of
teachers, administrators and peers. Comprehensive programs
that are integrated into the overall school curriculum are
essential to creating an environment that rejects bullying.
Social Emotional Learning is one such approach (SEL).
“Social and emotional competence is the ability to understand,
manage and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s
life in ways that enable the successful management of life
tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday
problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and
development.” (Elias et. atl.1997)
There is a growing body of knowledge that demonstrates that
Social Emotional Learning is the missing piece that allows
young people to be successful in improving their academic
performance as well as future success as individuals and
members of society. It is not enough to just “feed the mind”
of our youth; they need more to face life’s challenges.
“ BEFORE SUCCESS FOR KIDS (SFK), I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO
IN A CHALLENGING TIME. I WOULD BE SO CONFUSED. I DIDN’T
KNOW THERE WAS A BETTER CHOICE. SFK HAS MADE ME A
BETTER PERSON. IN EVERY LESSON I LEARNED MORE AND
MORE. SFK TAUGHT ME ALL ABOUT LETTING GO OF REACTIVE
BEHAVIORS AND MADE ME FEEL HAPPIER.”
SELMA, A participant in an SFK program
AND 6.3 PERCENT
www.sfk.org | 2
SEL involves a process through which children learn to recognize
and manage their emotions. This process enables them to make
positive choices that produce results that they desire and that
benefit them for a lifetime. These choices involve caring about
themselves and others, behaving responsibly, and developing positive
relationships with others.
Bullying is often caused by a lack of connectedness to others and
to one’s school. SEL programs help children to see that their
actions matter and that their choices can shape both their own lives
and the lives of others. This self-awareness results in a sense of
social responsibility that is antithetical to bullying. These skills and
protective factors are essential to stopping bullying. SEL programs
give bullying victims the necessary coping skills and optimism to put
the negative experience in perspective.
A lack of empathy also plays a significant role in bullying behavior.
SEL programs encourage children to look at all perspectives in
situations and to consider how others are made to feel when bullied.
To achieve a sense of empathy, SEL programs encourage students
to think about how they feel in similar bullying situations. SEL also
helps children to find similarities they share with other children,
even those who they might want to bully or who bully them.
• Educators and school administrators must be taught how
to recognize the signs of bullying and must be empowered
to confront bullying when it happens.
• State anti-bullying programs need to be funded properly.
Too often these programs are supported in name only, with
state legislatures neglecting to provide the monies that are
needed to create true action against bullying.
• School districts should consider making Social
Emotional Learning curricula a required component
of children’s school experience, both in the formal
curricula as well as the co-curricula. SEL can be infused
in school-wide activities and disciplinary processes in
meaningful ways that confront and combat bullying.
• Educators should be provided with the tools, resources
and skills in Social Emotional Learning that are required
to address and successfully combat bullying and other
social and emotional concerns.
• Schools should provide parent workshops to
teach them effective strategies for proactively
preventing bullying. Research has found that
higher parental support is associated with less
involvement across all forms of bullying.
• Improve positive behavior and reduce
• Improve academic performance
• Improve their attitude
• Prepare for success in the workforce,
in terms of leadership, communication
and facing challenges
• Avoid high risk behaviors, such as early
sexual activity, truancy, depression, violence,
and drug use
“ SEL is a process that many school districts
are now using to provide students with the knowledge,
understanding, and skills necessary to enhance their
learning, encourage positive behavior, promote
constructive social relationships, and to address
their academic needs. I am a huge supporter of SEL
programs in my district as a method of combating
social issues such as bullying by teaching our students life
skills and character education, and by providing them with
the appropriate interventions needed to
confront their day-to-day challenges, stresses,
frustrations, conflicts, and peer pressure.”
Superintendent of Schools
Roosevelt Union Free School District
Long Island, New York
www.sfk.org | 3
“ PARENTS HAVE NOTICED A REMARKABLE
DECLINE IN PHYSICAL FIGHTS AT OUR SCHOOL AND
HAVE NOTED AN OVERALL IMPROVEMENT
IN STUDENT BEHAVIOR AND
MS. ALONSO, Principal,
talking about a social-emotional learning curriculum.
“ I HAVE LEARNED NOT
TO LISTEN TO PEOPLE
WHO ARE TELLING ME
I DON’T WORRY WHAT
OTHER PEOPLE THINK.
I BECAME A SWEETER PERSON.
I KNOW THAT IT’S NOT GOOD TO
ARGUE OVER SOMETHING DUMB.”
MATTHEW, A participant in an SFK program
Success for Kids, Inc. (SFK),
an international non-profit organization, is dedicated to empowering at-risk children
and adolescents to become resilient, productive citizens by delivering innovative researchbased
programs that enhance four personal strengths (interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence,
problem solving skills and self-sufficiency) and give students a greater sense of
purpose in their lives. With a dedicated staff of more than 100, SFK is the largest international
social emotional learning organization in the world. Since its inception in 2001,
SFK has provided more than $25 million in programmatic support having an impact on
more than 60,000 children and adolescents. SFK is a 501(c) (3), tax-exempt organization.
www.sfk.org | 4