Second Step Program Reduces Bullying by Students with Disabilities, University of Illinois Study Finds

First randomized control trial to study impact of social-emotional learning on bullying for disabled students

SEATTLE, April 1, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A study just published by the journal Remedial and Special Education reveals that bullying by students with disabilities decreased by 20 percent over a three-year period when they participated in the Second Step program, and award-winning social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum created by Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children.

"Students with behavioral disabilities are more likely to be identified as bullies by their teachers and peers," says Professor Dorothy L. Espelage, a bullying and youth violence expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lead author of the paper. "Evidence suggests that this may be because they are more likely to have deficits in their social and communication skills, which are exactly the skills the Second Step program teaches."

Professor Espelage says this recent study is important because no other analysis of its kind has been conducted to assess the impact of SEL on bulling involvement for students with disabilities.

The study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was part of a larger three-year clinical trial of the Second Step program. The Second Step program teaches skills such as emotion recognition and management, empathy, problem solving, bullying prevention, and goal-setting.

The paper was co-authored by Joshua Polanin of Vanderbilt University's Peabody Research Institute and Chad Rose of the University of Missouri at Columbia, and is titled "Social-emotional learning program to reduce bullying, fighting, and victimization among middle school students with disabilities." Forty-seven children received Second Step lessons during the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. There were 76 children in the control group.

Tia Kim, Ph.D., Committee for Children's Director of Research, says, "We're pleased to see the outcomes of this study because it shows that the Second Step program has promise for improving social skills for children with learning and other disabilities."

About Committee for Children

Committee for Children is a 35-year-old nonprofit that develops award-winning, research-based educational tools to promote social-emotional learning and prevent bullying and sexual abuse. To learn more, go to


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