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Empowering students to prevent school bullying

Sport in Society, a Northeastern University research center, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association have teamed up to create an anti-bullying leadership training initiative for high-school student-athletes, coaches, teachers and community members.

Three schools will be selected to participate in the first year of the three-year initiative, which will include a two-day training program on Aug. 9-10 at the MIAA Conference Center in Franklin, Mass. Program topics will include bullying and violence prevention, sportsmanship and diversity.

Selected schools will receive a $2,500 program implementation grant from the PI Garden Fund. Applications are due by June 1.

Sport in Society program director Caitlin Geddes said the goal of the initiative is three-fold: raise awareness about the severity of bullying in schools, open a dialogue among student-athletes and inspire leadership in preventing the effects of bullying on young lives.

“We want to empower student-athletes to become leaders who feel comfortable in creating more positive and respectful cultures in their schools,” she said. “We want to change the culture on a large scale.”

Upon completing the training program, student-athletes will apply what they learned through community service activities with middle school students, which Geddes said would “encourage respect, acceptance and physical activity.”

“Middle-school students will listen to their older peers’ message,” she said. “Sport is the universal language for communicating the importance of social issues.”

The initiative is the latest example of Northeastern’s effort to improve the dialogue around the issue of youth bullying. In March, the School of Law hosted a symposium to discuss the evolving legal implications of school bullying. In December, the university hosted a daylong conference, Stand Up 2011, which drew thousands of local high-school students to campus to discuss the topic.