North Central College - Naperville, IL

College psychologist leads research to prevent bullying in schools

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Keith Avery, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist at North Central College, is conducting research with a Chicago area school district to assess bullying issues, school climate and the social and emotional development of students in grades K-12. Working with administrators at Kenilworth School District 38 in Illinois, he is assessing 400 K-8th grade students and the staff and faculty regarding bullying behavior, school climate issues, and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as required by Illinois State Law Public Act 93-0495. The law requires schools to assess and track SEL development and implement a program as part of their regular curriculum, just as they do with math, reading and other state learning standards. Avery has developed the SEL School to help administrators and teachers be compliant with state standards and have a comprehensive bullying prevention program. It involves needs assessment, consultation, curriculum advice and tracking. Bullying and school climate issues can be traced back to unattained SEL objectives. With the help of North Central College alumnus Russell Christianson, the SEL School utilizes a web-based software program to allow students, teachers, parents and bus drivers to participate in the process. It is the first electronic and data-driven student bullying and school climate tracking program. The research data and survey results track those involved in bullying, what happened, and when and where an incident took place. This information gives school administration personnel an opportunity to become proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to student behaviors and school climate issues. This information is also critical because the majority of issues do not reach the attention of adults in the school. Background for this effort began in 2000, when Avery formed a community-business partnership with two schools in the Naperville Community Unit School District 203, Kennedy Junior High and Maplebrook Elementary schools. This partnership provided the means to assist students, provide monthly parenting seminars and numerous project development challenges. Avery received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. He worked with General Electric in its Lighting, Aerospace and Medical Systems Divisions and completed the company's manufacturing management program. He then managed a team of medical sales and service representatives in southern California. While completing his master's and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Avery served on psychological rotations at Edward Hospital in Naperville and Elmhurst College. As a psychologist at North Central College's Dyson Wellness Center, Avery supervises the doctoral internship program, supervises and provides psychological and educational assessment, and provides 24/7 crisis coverage. He also serves as founder of Manners Matrix, working with a team of educational, clinical and organizational psychologists to improve overall school climate. Avery has been recognized with several awards, including the Naperville School District 203 Community Partnership Award. He's also been featured in numerous related articles, including an ABC7 News program on bullying prevention.