African American English In Bullying Prevention

Culturally responsive bullying prevention and intervention models have been called for by many scholars. Li (2008) stresses the importance of culture and institutional context in bullying prevention programs. Li found that culture played a role in the aggressive behavior of adolescents and that culture must be accounted for when designing prevention programs. Kowalsky et al. (2014) confirm that little research has been conducted in the fields of cross-cultural bullying. They note that "variations suggest that there will not likely be a one-size-fits-all model of prevention and intervention when it comes to bullying, whether traditional or virtual" (p. 1127).

A bullying intervention model should be tailored to address the particular needs of the culture of the site (Kowalsky et al., 2014). Several investigators confirm that culturally relevant instruction is more effective than generic instruction (Cannon, 2009; Leonard et al., 2005; Robinson & Lewis, 2011; Sachau & Hutchinson, 2012; Santamaria, 2009) resulting in the need to develop bullying prevention models that take culture and culturally relevant instruction into account, including African American Communication routines.

Many African American students in large urban areas speak African American English (AAE), a linguistically rich dialect of English that is rule-governed (Green, 2002; Rickford, 1999). This dialect reflects part of the cultural identity of the African American community, according to Green (2002) and Rickford (1999). Oral tradition is a powerful element of AAE (Rickford, 1999). The dialect of African Americans incorporates unique Speech Events and Expressive Language Use (SEELU) not shared by white, Eurocentric culture. SEELU of African American English is comprised of distinctive verbal routines and rituals, including "rappin', preaching, boastin', and signifying."

Grey (2011), argues that a culturally responsive teacher will use five techniques in his or her classroom to build upon--not try to whitewash--these unique features of SEELU of African American culture. These particular teaching methods that respond to African American English, and can be used in a culturally responsive bullying model, include direct address; conversational style; use of culturally-specific vocabulary, phrasing, and sayings; African American cultural references; and rhythmic and dramatic speech.

Ford (2013) found that a "lighter" version of signifying, called "verbal ping pong," can also be used as an effective culturally responsive teaching method. Scholars contend that unique elements of African American cultures, such as SEELU verbal routines, can be woven into intervention methods as part of culturally responsive teaching (Ford, 2013); and, that African American communication routines can be built upon in culturally responsive teaching (Grey, 2011; Ford, 2014).

IINII uses an innovative Design Thinking process to help students and staff members gain an understanding of one's sense of self. Having an understanding of one's values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one's ability to succeed. Understanding students' values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student's identity and experience.

The IINII, bullying prevention model, creates a vibrant face-to-face interaction that encourages relationship building. Adults can also be trained in anti-bullying strategies and techniques to build an inclusive climate. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a safe and dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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