Essential Components and Considerations
- Address bullying on a school-wide (and beyond) basis;
- Provide comprehensive, ongoing training for teachers and administrators;
- Provide training for classified staff – aides, monitors, custodial, lunchroom, crossing guards, bus drivers, etc.;
- Include campus-wide, age-appropriate student awareness and empathy-building programs;
- Include mental health services/referrals and social support/social skill-building for bullies, targets and their families;
- Teachers must support school-wide bullying reduction efforts through regular classroom activities, discussions and interventions;
- School-wide climates of inclusion and support of all students, and acknowledgement and/or reward of pro-social behaviors should be implemented or strengthened;
- Efforts should be made at the community, school, classroom and individual levels;
- Discourage the implementation of ‘zero tolerance policies.’
- Parents must be educated/trained, and become involved partners with the school;
- Scope of program/efforts must include before and after school, outside campus, routes to and from schools, bus stops, buses and extracurricular events;
- Efforts must include bystanders – understanding, awareness, intervention and reporting regarding witnessed or suspected bullying;
- Develop, provide and promote an anonymous, confidential reporting system (paper, phone, computer) that can also be accessed during non-school hours;
- Identify and provide one or more designated in-school ‘safe zones/locations’ where any student feeling threatened or unsafe may go at any time – these areas must have continuous access and adult presence, including immediately prior to and after the official school day;
- Identify ‘bully-buster’ staff members who are accessible to students for much of the day – provide these staff with immediate intervention skills;
- Periodic, anonymous school-specific student surveys should be utilized to assess ongoing and potential issues with regard to school ‘hot spots’ and to identify specific needs and behaviors to be addressed. Alternate versions can be created/completed by staff and parents;
- All adults must continuously model kind, inclusive, positive pro-social behaviors across school settings.
What Works in School-wide Bullying Prevention/Reduction Programs
- School-wide approach. First and foremost the foundation of any bullying prevention program requires school-wide approach and commitment. Buy-in from the staff and administration is not only appropriate but essential. This requires changing the norms for social behavior and school climate. The school-wide message needs to be: Bullying is wrong. It violates school rules and will not be tolerated. It must stop immediately.
- Assessment. Successful intervention programs assess bullying by administrating an anonymous bullying questionnaire to students (and staff). This questionnaire should identify bullying “hot spots” on campus and also serve as a baseline for future reference and success indicators.
- Buy-In. Get staff and parents on board with the new bullying program. The majority of the staff should be on board for the program to be successful.
- Bullying Prevention Leadership Team. Form a group to coordinate and provide direction for implementing a bullying program. This team should commit to ongoing reviews of the bullying situation, training, data and lessons to be implemented. Members should include staff from all position classifications, as well as parents/community members.
- Staff Training. Train staff in bully identification, prevention, and intervention. The staff needs to be trained on how to intervene to stop bullying, especially ‘on the spot’ skills.
- Policies and Rules on Bullying. Establish and enforce school rules and policies on bullying. Align these with state legislation and district bullying policies.
- Bullying Intervention and Supervision is a key. Supervisors/teachers should be present in identified hot spots in which bullying occurs. When a bullying behavior is observed or uncovered, interventions must be consistent & appropriate.
- Intervene consistently with observations of bullying behavior. Bullying requires separate follow up meetings as needed. Policies and consequences should be predetermined and clearly communicated.
- Implement a classroom instructional component in which lessons and discussions on school environment keeps tabs on the bullying situation. A 20-40 minute weekly meeting with mini lessons and instruction on bullying preventions strategies is needed. It is best if an anti-bullying theme can be incorporated throughout the curriculum and school events.
- Continuous program with no end date. Revisit bullying prevention themes and intertwine them in classroom curriculum, school events and in printed materials. Decisions about the implementation of program components are made and modified after the regular analysis of data that is collected.
Bullying strategies that don’t work
Zero tolerance Policies – While good intentioned, doing nothing but eliminating bullies from schools is neither feasible or effective. Also, staff may be hesitant to refer someone who bullies if they feel the ‘no tolerance’ consequence is too severe for the behavior – reporting of bullying may actually decrease.
Group therapy for students who bully – This also does not work. First and foremost, the bully needs good role models. Containing them with like offenders, while well intentioned is a recipe for disaster and an over exposure to non-social behaviors.
Conflict Resolution Programs – Little bullying occurs over a ‘dispute’ which would lend itself to mediation. Since bullies victimize, putting the bully and victim together can be extremely upsetting to the victim. Mediation is not the appropriate response. There is no compromise to bullying.
When Considering a Bullying Program
The key principle to use in selecting programs is to look for comprehensive and ongoing approaches, as opposed to ‘one-shot’ events or short-term projects, which are unlikely to have lasting impact or to create cultural change. Specifically, consider whether the program has the following characteristics:
- A framework based on empirical research and a clear and sensible theory.
- Involves the entire school community.
- Addresses the role of adults in childhood bullying (e.g., modeling of bullying behavior, implicit acceptance or explicit endorsement of childhood bullying and inaction or inadequate response to bullying).
- Integrated elements (program components work well together, fit an overall framework).
- Long-term and adequate intensity (e.g., years not months; school-wide effort and impact).
- Includes baseline measurements of the nature and extent of bullying in the setting (e.g., anonymous self-report surveys and/or student focus groups) and follow-up assessments to determine the effectiveness of the interventions.
- Developmentally appropriate (e.g., language and materials used varies for children of different ages, addresses how bullying changes from pre-school through high school years).
- Culturally responsive (e.g., accounts for program-relevant differences in communities and populations; affirming and strengthening cultural, sexual, racial and linguistic identities).
- Community-based (extends beyond the school/agency, partners with other community organizations).
- Parent/caregiver/family-oriented (e.g., helps parents/caregivers address bullying in home and community environments; cultivates partnerships between schools and families).
- Actively supports at-risk or targeted students (e.g., by inclusion, by identifying and supporting individual strengths and interests).
- Does the program foster a whole-school approach, with collaboration between administration, counseling staff, teaching staff (including coaches) and support staff (clerical, cafeteria, custodial, security, etc.), parents, community members and students?
- Does the program foster a comprehensive approach, with interventions at the level of the whole school, the classroom (including teams and clubs) and the individuals who bully and are bullied?
- Does the program emphasize training for all staff on identifying, reporting, confronting and imposing consequences for bullying behaviors?
- Does the program empower student bystanders to withhold support from or actively dissuade/report bullying behavior?
- Does the program include measures (such as character education, responsive school/classroom and collaborative learning) to improve school climate, particularly the ways in which students, teachers, administrators and other school staff communicate with one another?
- Does the program address different forms of bullying (e.g., physical, verbal, relational, cyber-bullying)?
- Does the program cover sexual harassment, bullying based on race, culture, gender-identity, disability and other forms of bias-based bullying?
- Does the program emphasize measuring bullying in the school or setting, and recommend specific measurement approaches (such as surveys or focus groups)?
- Does the program emphasize and offer specific suggestions for rules and consequences for bullying (such as a set of graduated negative sanctions as well as positive sanctions for engaging in kind and considerate behavior) and ensure that rules and sanctions are fairly and consistently enforced?
- Is the program proactive, not only responding to bullying incidents when they may become known but creating a telling school in which students and staff are actively encouraged to report incidents of bullying?
- Is the program preventive, addressing conditions which lead to bullying (e.g., inadequate support for potential targets of bullying; clique and gang activity; negative adult role models)?
- Does the program emphasize the importance of administrative approval, of identifying clear leadership for the anti-bullying work and assuring that the leadership group receives ongoing support?
- Does the program include training and materials specifically for parents, caregivers and families?
- Does the program align with Arizona’s laws regarding bullying, hazing, harassment and discrimination and does the program support the mandates for compliance with the law and identify violations? Does the program match District policies and goals? http://www.njbullying.org/selectingprograms.htm
Lessons Learned From Previous Bullying Program Implementations
Lesson 1. While there is considerable evidence of success in the actions of schools against bullying, the level of success varies greatly between schools. Those schools that did the most achieved the most.
Lesson 2. The leadership by the principal or head teacher and administrative commitment are critical to the success of a bully reduction program.
“A necessary prerequisite to the effective implementation of a Bullying Prevention Program is the commitment of the school administrator (principal) and a majority of school staff to addressing problems associated with bullying” (Limber et al, 2004, p. 66 – researcher who brought Olweus’ anti-bullying program to the U.S.)
Lesson 3. “Successful school-based interventions for bullying depend on teachers and principals to create a climate that discourages bullying and encourages peer processes that support and include vulnerable children. Teachers should label bullying behavior, not the person. Identify the problem as bullying behavior and avoid labeling children and youth as “bullies and victims.” These labels limit how they think about themselves and how others think of them.” (Pepler et al, 2004, p.311.)
Lesson 4. “Only with consistent sustained effort (at least two years of intervention) is the incidence of bullying and related behaviors likely to be reduced. It takes more than six months to effect change in bullying problems in elementary schools.” There are no “magic bullets, nor quick fixes”. True success requires extensive coordinated and sustainable efforts. (Pepler et al, 2004.)
Lesson 5. Anti-bullying efforts cannot be separated from the core tasks of effective teaching. Teachers who are engaging and who have good classroom management skills have less problems with students’ bullying behaviors. Academic progress increases when schools work to improve the quality of teachers’ classroom management and positive behavior discipline techniques. High student engagement reduces bullying opportunities.
Lesson 6. “It is difficult at this stage to identify the crucial elements in the anti-bullying programs or to say which programs are most effective. Most of the programs to counter bullying have resulted in a degree of success, at least on some outcome measures. This is encouraging.” (Rigby, Smith & Pepler, 2004, p. 2.)
Lesson 7. “There is a greater likelihood of success of anti-bullying intervention programs at younger primary grades (e.g. kindergarten to grade 4) than with older middle and secondary students. Changes in anti-bullying attitudes and group norms are more common in younger students who are more likely to respect the authority of teachers. Research on the stability of victim and bully status suggests that few pupils enter into stable roles before 8 to 9 years old.” (Rigby et al, 2004.)
Research Results – Outcomes of Reduced Bullying in Schools
- Improved student and staff perception of school climate.
- Increased student sense of school safety and attachment/connection to school.
- Improved attendance – students who are bullied are more likely to miss school which in turn adds to being disconnected and missing educational opportunities and positive social experiences.
- Increased academic engagement and involvement in student activities among all students.
- Reduced dropout rate/higher student retention:
- students who are bullied tend to leave school earlier, and many early school leavers mention bullying as the main reason they left.
- students who bully and students who are bullied by others are more likely to skip and/or drop out of school.
- almost half of the bullying targets say that bullying affected their plans for further education.
- Teacher morale improves as harmful social dynamics in the classroom that interfere with discipline and learning decrease.
- Overall adult-student relationships improve – students who witness bullying can become fearful and develop the belief that the adults are not in control or are uncaring.
- Parent confidence and trust in the school grows:
- the school gains a reputation of being safe for all children and is seen as an active partner in taking care of children.
- more positive parent communication and involvement, as schools are seen as allies.
- reduced negative perceptions of the school by the wider community.
Bullying is negatively related to academic achievement. Why?…
The academic performance of students in schools with pervasive bullying may suffer because students are less engaged in learning due to fears about bullying or due to a greater level of school disorder and/or intimidation associated with bullying. Bystanders to bullying are also impacted, as the climate of fear and disrespect that bullying creates can negatively impact student learning beyond the bullies and targets.
|Studies support the case for school-wide bullying prevention programs as a means of improving school climate and facilitating school-wide academic achievement. Future intervention studies may show that decreasing bullying and teasing behavior may improve student performance on standardized exams.|
Teachers also may be less effective because they spend more time focused on discipline.
When children know the school they attend actively works to make the learning environment a safe environment, and that bullying is not tolerated, they can afford to relax their guard and divert more of their attention and energy to learning rather than staying safe.
Gronna and Selvin (1999) analyzed achievement scores from 46 schools and found that after controlling for student characteristics, school safety was significantly related to math and reading standard scores among eighth graders.
In a review of studies on the impact of support in school, the Search Institute found that a caring school climate is associated with:
- higher grades, engagement, attendance, expectations and aspirations, a sense of scholastic competence, fewer school suspensions, and on-time progression through grades (19 studies)
- higher self-esteem and self-concept (5 studies)
- less anxiety, depression and loneliness (3 studies)
- less substance abuse (4 studies)
Please visit the Fund for Civility’s anti-bullying website: www.endofbullying.com
This document created by Steven Nagle, MA – Training Specialist, Community Partnership of Southern Arizona
CPSA receives funding from the Arizona Department of Health Services/Division of Behavioral Health Services (ADHS/DBHS), Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).