Jo Ann Freiberg

Dr. Jo Ann Freiberg is an Educational Consultant with the Connecticut State Department of Education and an “anti-bullying czar.” Having worked as both a classroom teacher and a teacher educator, Freiberg is passionate about education and child development. Freiberg obtained her Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Education from Ohio State University, where her research focused on moral and character education, educational studies, professional ethics, and multicultural education. She is currently the Co-Chair of the National School Climate Council where she manages Bullying, Improving School Climate, and Character Education. Dr. Freiberg has also been instrumental in changing and updating bullying laws in the US.

Dr. Freiberg’s Theory of Bullying

The ultimate remedy for bullying is to create and maintain a positive school environment. Any form of mean-spirited behavior (physically, emotionally, or intellectually) should not be tolerated. School environments should focus instead on respect and empathy. It is possible to change school climates by changing how students relate to each other. Creating a safe space where students can share their feelings and concerns and support one another can ultimately lead to overall school improvement. One way to change a school climate is to change how we define and view bullying. Since there is no standard definition of bullying, it is often difficult to determine how many students are affected by this behavior. Narrow definitions of bullying may show results affecting 5% of students, while wide definitions of bullying may show results affecting 30% of students. In essence, bullying is about the abuse of power. It can occur in person or online, it may include physical or emotional abuse, or even directly or indirectly affect individuals. Although bullying can be evident in many instances, the word “bullying” has a negative connotation and is not often used by parents. Dr. Freiberg pushes people to describe the behavior as “mean” instead of using the word bully, as mean is a universal concept. Campaigns around this idea would support the stance “if it’s mean...intervene.”

Freiberg and Frameworks

Bullying can affect not only the school environment, but the physical, emotional, or intellectual well-being of the victim. Freiberg supports Frameworks mission to teach youth to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make good decisions for academic, career, and personal success. Frameworks works to prevent bullying in youth through programs like PATHS®, LifeSkills® Training, and School Connect®. Each program works to teach students ways to handle emotions positively, empathize with others, and resolve conflicts peacefully. Each of these programs is combined with Community Building sessions that work to develop a positive classroom community where students feel they belong, are significant members of the group, and build connections with peers. All of these programs work to build a positive school climate and ensure healthy student development, deterring bullying and negative behavior.

Additional Resources

SchoolTube: Jo Ann Freiberg School Climate Discussion CT Post: How to Create a Safe, Respectful School Climate Jane Bluestein: “Bully is a Four-Letter Word with Dr. Jo Ann Freiberg