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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Helping special needs students stand up to bullies


It is an unfortunate but well-established fact that a disproportionate number of students with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities are bullied in school. Judith A.Vessey, the Lelia Holden Carroll Professor in Nursing, and Katherine M. O'Neill reported recently in the Journal of School Nursing on a Massachusetts School Nurse Research Network effort to help chronically bullied or teased youths develop resilience and coping skills.

Using materials from the U.S. Health Services Resources Administration's Stop Bullying Now campaign, 11 school nurses led biweekly support and discussion groups for students with disabilities in their schools. They found that the nurse-led support groups "can help students with disabilities be better able to handle teasing and bullying situations and possess improved self-concepts within the context of their disabilities." The authors note that skills students learn during these nurse-led interventions could be used in other academic and social situations.