Does an intervention that targets student leaders reduce harassment in high school? Schools are often the settings for pervasive forms of peer harassment, including name-calling and other abuse based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Researchers have studied negative peer influences, but have rarely examined how peer relationships can promote positive behavior. Paluck will use her William T. Grant Scholar award to test a school-based program in which student leaders are trained to intervene against harassment. She will examine: (1) which students are best positioned within peer networks to change norms and behaviors related to harassment and tolerance and is it better to focus on students who are broadly popular, or those who are leaders of smaller cliques, (2) if students influence each others’ behaviors by changing perceptions of what is normative, and (3) the sustainability of any shifts in norms or behaviors. The study will be conducted in four northeastern high schools. The students, teachers, and staff in the four schools will be included. Two schools will participate in the program for two years. The other schools will serve as a comparison group in the first year and then will participate in the program at the beginning of the second year. In each school, a random half of students identified as either broadly popular or small-group leaders will be randomly assigned to the program. The intervention is an anti-harassment peer influence program that uses “Peer Trainers” to discourage biased harassment and to model tolerant behavior in school. Data on peer networks will be collected via student surveys in the fall and spring of each year. Surveys and observations will assess incidences of and students’ perceptions of and behaviors related to harassment and tolerance. Administrative data will be collected on students’ disciplinary records and academic achievement.
Does an intervention that targets student leaders reduce harassment in high school?