TIP SHEET: U.Va. Experts Discuss Issues of Bullying

Oct. 18, 2007 — Bullying is not a matter of bad kids versus good kids, but is a situation in which both children need help in learning how to channel their emotions and interact successfully with others.

So says Peter Sheras, professor of clinical and school psychology at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and author of a book on bullying.

Sheras is one of two U.Va. professors who can address issues of bullying during the second annual National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week, which will be held Oct. 21-27. It is sponsored by PACER Center’s National Center for Bullying Prevention and cosponsored by the American Federation for Teachers, National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, National Education Association, National PTA, and School Social Work Association of America.

In addition to Sheras, Edith “Winx” Lawrence, co-founder and co-director of an innovative mentoring program for middle school girls, can speak specifically to issues of bullying among girls. Lawrence describes girls' bullying as behavior that is directed at harming another's friendships, social status or self-esteem. Among the strategies that she recommends is one called "gossip guarding," which teaches girls to inject positive comments into conversations that are headed toward gossip.

Sheras, a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, specializes in adolescent relationships, family relationships and stress. Associate director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project, he counsels schools nationwide on factors that can trigger violence among youth.

Sheras published the 2002 book, "Your Child: Bully or Victim? Understanding and Ending School Yard Tyranny.” He develops and evaluates intervention programs for schools, parents and communities in an effort to educate people about bullying before it becomes life-threatening.

His work includes service as a co-coordinator of the Charlottesville/Albemarle School Crisis Network and as a member of the Phi Delta Kappa National Task Force on Adolescent Suicide. Among his other books and articles, he is co-author of the Stress Index for Parents of Adolescents, which takes into account the many things, such as crushes, dating and peer relationships, that cause stress in youth.

Lawrence is also a clinical psychologist and professor in Clinical and School Psychology at the Curry School of Education. Lawrence says that while girls may not get in physical fights as often as boys, girls experience other kinds of social aggression with their peers.

The Young Women Leaders Program, an innovative, curriculum-based mentoring program. Co-sponsored by the U.Va. Women's Center and the Curry School, the program empowers college women and at-risk middle school girls to become leaders in their community. Along with supporting their psychological needs, the YWLP helps the girls develop leadership skills that come in especially handy when they encounter bullying. In surveys of girls who participated in YWLP, they showed significantly greater change in interceding in bullying than comparison groups.

Lawrence teaches graduate courses in marital and family therapy, supervises doctoral students' clinical and research work, and sees adolescents, couples and families herself in the clinic affiliated with the graduate program. She also directs the Family Empowerment Project, which focuses on both research and clinical work with multi-problem families in the community.


Peter Sheras, (434) 924-0795, pls@virginia.edu

Edith "Winx" Lawrence, (434) 924-7472 or 7034, wlawrence@virginia.edu

Rebecca Arrington, Media Relations Office, (434) 924-7189, rarrington@virginia.edu