College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez

Second Advisor

Susan McMahon

Third Advisor

Leonard Jason


Bullying is a public health concern, with negative mental health and academic consequences. In response to the prevalence of bullying in our nation’s schools, all 50 states have now enacted anti-bullying legislation. Overall, these mandates include a series of requirements geared toward addressing bullying in school settings and improving overall school climate.

Following this trend of states enacting anti-bullying legislation, the State of Connecticut, the focus of this study, passed PA 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 11-232). This legislation was passed in 2011 and brought forth a series of mandates geared toward addressing bullying and improving school climate. These include the requirements that schools must (1) conduct bullying investigations, (2) establish a school climate committee, (3) develop and implement school climate improvement plans, (4) administer school climate surveys to students, staff, and parents, and (5) appoint school personnel who are responsible for implementing these requirements.

Although the enactment of anti-bullying legislation is indeed laudable, there is a significant dearth in the research examining how anti-bullying legislation is implemented. Nevertheless, the scant research examining the implementation of anti-bullying legislation suggests that factors such as funding, training and professional development, and lack of information play a role in the implementation of these requirements. Yet, despite providing some evidence, many of these studies have not consisted of strong methodological designs. Also, theoretical frameworks have not been used to guide these studies to better understand the processes involved in the implementation process.

The transformative system change framework (Foster-Fishman, Nowell, and Yang, 2007) was used in the current study to better understand how these policies are implemented. Specifically, this framework elucidates how various system-level components, such as norms, resources (e.g., funding), and regulations (e.g., policies), contribute to implementation. This framework also clarifies how various system components inhibit or facilitate implementation processes yielding a comprehensive understanding of how these policies can be effectively implemented. Thus, this investigation examined two overarching questions: (1) What are the system-level factors that challenge or facilitate the implementation of state-level legislative anti-bullying requirements, and (2) How are system-level factors that challenge and facilitate the implementation of state-level legislative anti-bullying requirements inter-connected?

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 district-level school climate coordinators, and 12 school-level school climate specialists. In addition, a state-wide survey was administered yielding qualitative responses from 137 school districts. Two independent coders analyzed these data using the data analysis strategies outlined by Auerbach and Silverstein (2003).

Data analyses revealed a series of factors that served as barriers and facilitators to the implementation of state anti-bullying requirements. Some of the most noteworthy implementation barriers included a lack of resources such as funding and staff, competing policy priorities, and the complex and confusing way in which these policies are written. Facilitators to implementation included factors such as training and professional development (i.e., human resources) and the interconnections between schools, school districts, and between schools and community based organizations. Finally, this study yields a comprehensive system-level framework that elucidates how respective barriers and facilitators to implementation are interconnected. As states across the nation continue to enact similar legislation, this framework will help to guide the development of state anti-bullying legislation and its implementation.

SLP Collection