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Keith Avery helps schools, leads research in bullying prevention

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Keith Avery, counselor/educator and licensed clinical psychologist in the Dyson Wellness Center, 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 computer science major Russell Christiansen ’02/M ’06, the SEL School utilizes a web-based software program—the first electronic and data-driven student bullying and school climate tracking program. It allows students, teachers, parents and bus drivers to participate in the process. 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. The 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.