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Hall wins prestigious UNC graduate student research award

Will Hall, Ph.D. ’15, received a UNC Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award for his dissertation research, “The Implementation and Effectiveness of Policy Interventions for School Bullying.”

The Impact Award is a very competitive award that is given by the UNC Graduate School. It recognizes outstanding graduate student research of particular benefit to the citizens of North Carolina. Hall was honored at the Graduate School’s annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration on April 14, 2106. He showcased his research to the campus community, state legislators and others who attended by participating in a poster session at the recognition celebration.

Forty-three percent of middle school students and 19 percent of high school students in North Carolina have been bullied in school, according to 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data. North Carolina signed the School Violence Prevention Act into law in 2009. This law applies to more than 2,500 public schools (K-12), with the goal of protecting nearly 1.5 million students.

Hall examined whether or not the law is being implemented consistently. He recruited 664 educators employed in 93 of the state’s 115 school districts, and participants completed an online survey. His findings suggest considerable variability in the law’s implementation. For almost every policy component, scores ranged from 0 percent to 100 percent.

Participant responses indicated that educator training about the policy in general and related to the eight protected student populations was largely not implemented. Implementation was reported as higher when related to reporting and investigating incidents of bullying. Reporting, investigating and remediating bullying behavior were highest for bullying based on race and then disability, and lowest for bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Participant responses indicated greater implementation in high schools than in elementary schools. Higher levels of teacher protection were reported in elementary schools. Hall’s findings provide policymakers and school officials with crucial information in their efforts to protect all students from bullying.

“His findings from teachers and administrators across North Carolina demonstrate that implementation, as intended, is rare and that many teachers are not fully informed on who should be protected by the law and how to protect them,” said adviser Mimi Chapman, Ph.D.