Harnessing the Power of Peer Influence to Change School Culture
Every time a student enters their school, goes to a party, or logs on to Facebook, they look to their peers for help in defining what is socially ‘normal’ and acceptable—how they should behave, what their peers would consider cool, and what they should be doing to be a part of the pack. The desire to fit in may actually lead them to behaviors that contribute to bullying, harassment, and group apathy—factors that have contributed to an evolution of increasingly hostile school climates where kids feel unsafe, uncertain and unwelcome.
Inspired by the impact that colleges and universities have experienced promoting positive health and behaviors using the social norms approach, ten Long Island high schools, in collaboration with CAPS, will be implementing their own social norms projects through a new CAPS initiative, Students United for Safe Schools (SUSS), starting in the Fall 2011. Each student-led SUSS team (under the guidance of their faculty advisor) will decide what positive and consistent social norming projects they want to implement in their respective school communities with the goals of reducing incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying, and naturally changing their school culture to a place where all students feel a sense of respect, safety, and belonging.
SUSS is directed through the CAPS Bully Prevention Center with generous funding from a grant from the F.I.S.H. Foundation Inc.