Many states have recently passed or are in the process of considering comprehensive anti-bullying legislation. Much legislation focuses on school requirements and therefore emphasizes top-down approaches to bullying prevention.
“While such legislation often provides guidelines for schools with respect to responses to bullying incidents, educators often lack the background and training necessary to best assist students involved in bullying,” says Kennedy.
Having taught a Westfield State University education elective course called “Anti-Bullying Practices and Effective Interventions,” Kennedy says intervention is shown to be more effective in preparing pre-service teachers to understand bullying prevention and anti-bullying strategies than content woven throughout the present education program of study.
“As part of my STARS project, I am following a sub-group of the anti-bullying course out into their practicum to determine if the course intervention is as effective as found in the literature,” says Kennedy.
Using a qualitative methodology to better understand aspects of the intervention that were effective/ not effective, Kennedy plans to make specific recommendations for pre-service teacher educators or professional development designers who want to create research based anti-bullying curriculums.
“The products of this project will provide faculty and administrators at the higher education level, as well as K-12 faculty, with practical information for assessing and improving bullying prevention training in teacher preparation programs and professional development programs,” she says.
Through her research, Kennedy expects to gain an understanding of methods and strategies that will help to guide teacher preparation programs toward best practices in bullying prevention. Her ultimate goal
is to produce new teachers who are well equipped to prevent and address bullying, thus meeting and exceeding state mandates.
She stresses that future teachers need to develop their own voice and viewpoints on educational issues, as well as recognize the voices that are marginalized with the selection of materials, dialogue topics, or instructional methods they may make.
“Future teachers need support on how to use inclusive language, model appreciative behavior, and challenge policies and practices that exclude.”
Kennedy’s current research has direct connections to her other primary area of research on the needs
of LGBTQ youth in schools and communities, as discussed in her book, Safe Spaces: Making Schools and Communities Welcoming to LGBT Youth. The book chronicles the lives of LGBT youth from kindergarten through college. She and her two co-authors analyzed and collected stories from more than 100 people.
“Educators at all levels need to be trained on how to design inclusive polices or develop dynamic responses to create physical, psychological, and social safety for youth to erase bullying from schools and implement effective anti-bullying curriculum,” she says.
Professor Kennedy holds a Ph.D., University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, with an emphasis in Teacher Preparation; an Ed.M. Education, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; and a B.A., Elementary Education, Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.