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Urban Services doctoral candidate Roberta Wetzel has accomplished something quite unusual.

On Dec. 28, 1998, Wetzel was offered a contract to write a book based on her doctoral dissertation -- before she had even finished it. She only recently successfully defended it on Oct. 5 of this year.

According to the chair of Wetzel's dissertation committee, Nina Brown, professor of counseling, this type of offer is not a very common occurrence.

"It's extremely rare for a dissertation to be turned into a book. To have a contract before the dissertation is complete is even more rare," said the professor of counseling.

Last fall, Brown presented the topic of Wetzel's dissertation to her publisher, Bergin and Garvey, a division of Greenwood Press that publishes education and anthropology books. The publishing company soon offered Wetzel the contract, with Brown as co-author.

"She has been a guiding light for me. Without her, none of this would be possible," Wetzel said of Brown.

The subject of the book and of the dissertation is student generated sexual harassment. The dissertation is titled "Secondary Student to Student Sexual Harassment: Policy, Attitude and Knowledge of Administrators in Virginia School Divisions." The book will carry the title, "Student-Generated Sexual Harassment in Secondary Schools."

Wetzel became interested in the subject of student-to-student sexual harassment while working for high schools in Virginia Beach. She said former Superintendent Dr. Fred C. Bateman, who also wrote the book's foreword, gave her the initial idea to research this subject, although she had noticed that it was a growing problem.

"Basically, as a high school teacher in the Virginia Beach City Public School System, I saw this kind of activity on a daily basis," she said. "Student sexual harassment is a public event. I thought that by researching this area I could possibly make a difference."

The book, which expands on Wetzel's dissertation, covers the following topics: history of laws relating to sexual harassment, descriptions of the effects on both boys and girls, results of national surveys on the extent of peer sexual harassment in secondary schools, interventions that have been tried, elements of a comprehensive peer sexual harassment policy, education and dissemination strategies, and handling complaints.

For the book, Wetzel and Brown expanded the policy criteria that the dissertation introduced, included more preventative measures and added an educational component that includes classroom activities.

"We feel that this book would be beneficial to educators, counselors and administrators as well as provide a textbook to supplement coursework in counseling at the university. The suggestions provided would assist divisions in developing a good policy for their districts as well as providing an educational component to stop this problem before it starts," Wetzel said.

The book is scheduled for publication next spring.

Wetzel received a B.A. from University of California, an M.Ed. from National College of Education in Evanston, Ill., and an Ed.S. from George Washington University. And on Dec. 19, she will have Ph.D. from Old Dominion.

Wetzel has been a teacher for 16 years, beginning at the elementary. Most of her teaching experience, she said, has been in working with learning-disabled students.

While working on her Ph.D. part time at Old Dominion, Wetzel has continued teaching at Cox High School in Virginia Beach. She did take one year off, however, to devote to her coursework. During that time she had a graduate assistantship and she supervised student teachers in in special education in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

After she graduates in December, Wetzel hopes to obtain an administrative position in the Virginia Beach school system.

"Working collaboratively with others in an administrative position would be ideal for me. Perhaps a starting point would be an assistant principal," she added.

This article was posted on: October 25, 1999

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