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Extension Education offers anti-bullying course

It can be anything from a cruel nickname to a beating at recess. It can happen in the in the classroom, on the playground, or on social media. Bullying takes many forms and the outlets for harassment now extend to the Internet, making it increasingly difficult for kids to escape what once was only a school-time occurrence. It’s a topic that has educators, politicians, students, and parents working together to find a solution.

Drake School of Education Extension Education also saw the need for a solution. They recognized that educators needed effective methods to make their schools safer. To help elucidate the issue, Extension Education created the course, Anti-Bullying: Where to Start.

“This course is a direct response to the issues going on in the schools today,” says Susen Schirmer, lecturer and the course’s instructor. “The ability of Drake University to immediately respond to those needs in a timely fashion is of utmost importance to educators.”

Anti-Bullying: Where to Start is an eight-week online class. Students learn the types and signs of bullying, along with proactive measures they can use in their own environments. Educators discover the tools needed to halt bullying in their schools.

One important aspect of the program is the integration of multimedia, which gives students glimpses into a variety of bullying situations.

“There is an interview with a middle school student, which helps get the real picture of what it [bullying] is like in our schools today,” says Jean Hansen, online instructional designer. “And an interview with a police officer in a cyberbullying unit gives a sense of the scope and severity of this epidemic.”

The seminar was first offered during the fall 2011 semester and is designed for K–12 educators, counselors, and administrators seeking graduate credit. Since then, 38 students from across the United States and Canada have taken the course. Extension Education strives to meet professional development needs of K–12 educators regardless of location.

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) recognized the School of Education and the Anti-Bullying curriculum in May. They received the Best Practices in Distance Learning Programming – Online Distance Learning award.

Empowerment through learning

A distinct component of the curriculum is the emphasis on understanding the district and state policies affecting each enrolled student. Some educators have even found that no policies exist or that current guidelines are insufficient.

Leah Heidemann, a high school counselor at Carlisle High School in Carlisle, Iowa, was enrolled during the spring 2012 semester. She found her district uses a state-recommended policy on bullying.

“The policy is vague and not specific to our district,” Heidemann says. “It was great to see some other policies and try to start conversations about how we can improve our policy in our district.”

For the final project, students are required to create an anti-bullying marketing campaign for a specific audience. Students create anything from flyers to articles for their local newspapers. It acts as a stepping-stone for students because it helps them start conversations.

Heidemann worked with her school’s student leadership group for her marketing campaign. The high school students created a dance inspired by the popular television show Glee, to Lady Gaga’s hit “Born This Way.” Each student chose a personal insecurity and wrote it on the shirt they wore for the video.

“I think the campaign helped students to see that everyone has differences and has things they don’t always feel the best about—but we are all unique,” Heidemann says.