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Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional
and that involves an imbalance of power or
strength. Often, it is repeated over time and can
take many forms. In many respects, research on
bullying prevention is still in its infancy. Although
researchers have documented success of some
comprehensive programs in reducing bullying, we
still have much to learn about which aspects of
these programs are most important.
However, a review of existing bullying prevention
programs and feedback from educators in the field
led us to suggest ten strategies that represent “best
practices” in bullying prevention and intervention.
1. Focus on the social environment of
the school. To reduce bullying, it is important
to change the climate of the school and the social
norms with regard to bullying. It must become
“uncool” to bully, “cool” to help out students who
are bullied, and normative for staff and students
to notice when a child is bullied or left out. This
requires the efforts of everyone in the school
environment—teachers, administrators, counselors,
other non-teaching staff (such as bus drivers,
nurses, school resource officers, custodians,
cafeteria workers, and school librarians), parents,
and students.
2. Assess bullying at your school. Intuitively
adults are not always very good at estimating the
nature and extent of bullying at their school.
Frequently we are quite surprised by the amount
of bullying that students experience, the types of
bullying that are most common, or the “hot spots”
where bullying happens. As a result, it is often quite
useful to assess bullying by administering an
anonymous questionnaire to students about
bullying. What are the possible benefits of
conducting a survey of students?
• Findings can help motivate adults to take action
against bullying;
• Data can help administrators and other educators
tailor a bullying prevention strategy to the
particular needs of the school; and
• Data can serve as a baseline from which
administrators and other educators can measure
their progress in reducing bullying.
3. Garner staff and parent support for
bullying prevention. Bullying prevention should
not be the sole responsibility of an administrator,
counselor, teacher—or any single individual at a
school. To be most effective, bullying prevention
efforts require buy-in from the majority of the staff
and from parents.
4. Form a group to coordinate the school’s
bullying prevention activities. Bullying
prevention efforts seem to work best if they are
coordinated by a representative group from the
school. This coordinating team (which might
include an administrator, a teacher from each
grade, a member of the non-teaching staff, a school
counselor or other school-based mental health
professional, a school nurse, and a parent) should
meet regularly to digest data from the school
survey described in Strategy 2; plan bullying
prevention rules, policies, and activities; motivate
staff, students, and parents; and ensure that the
efforts continue over time. A student advisory
group also can be formed to focus on bullying
prevention and provide valuable suggestions and
feedback to adults.
5. Train your staff in bullying prevention.
All administrators, faculty, and staff at your school
should be trained in bullying prevention and
intervention. In-service training can help staff to
better understand the nature of bullying and its
effects, how to respond if they observe bullying,
and how to work with others at the school to help
prevent bullying from occurring. Training should
not be available only for teaching staff. Rather,
administrators should make an effort to educate all
adults in the school environment who interact with
students (including counselors, media specialists,
school resource officers, nurses, lunchroom and
recess aides, bus drivers, parent volunteers,
custodians, and cafeteria workers).
6. Establish and enforce school rules and
policies related to bullying. Although many
school behavior codes implicitly forbid bullying,
many codes do not use the term or make explicit
our expectations for student behavior. It is important
to make clear that the school not only expects
students not to bully, but that it also expects them to
be good citizens, not passive bystanders, if they are
aware of bullying or students who appear troubled,
possibly from bullying. Developing simple, clear
rules about bullying can help to ensure that students
are aware of adults’ expectations that they refrain
from bullying and help students who are bullied. For
example, one comprehensive program, the Olweus
Bullying Prevention Program (see resources section
on the Web site) recommends that schools adopt
four straightforward rules about bullying:
• We will not bully others.
• We will try to help students who are bullied.
• We will make it a point to include students
who are easily left out.
• If we know someone is being bullied, we will
tell an adult at school and an adult at home.
School rules and policies should be posted and
discussed with students and parents. Appropriate
positive and negative consequences also should
be developed for following or not following the
school’s rules.
7. Increase adult supervision in hot spots
where bullying occurs. Bullying tends to thrive
in locations where adults are not present or are not
vigilant. Once school personnel have identified hot
spots for bullying from the student questionnaires,
look for creative ways to increase adults’ presence
in these locations.
8. Intervene consistently and appropriately
in bullying situations. All staff should be able to
intervene effectively on the spot to stop bullying
(i.e.., in the 1–2 minutes that one frequently has to
deal with bullying). Designated staff should also
hold sensitive follow-up meetings with children
who are bullied and (separately) with children who
bully. Staff should involve parents of affected
students whenever possible.
9. Focus some class time on bullying
prevention. It is important that bullying
prevention programs include a classroom
component. Teachers (with the support of
administrators) should set aside 20–30 minutes
each week (or every other week) to discuss bullying
and peer relations with students. These meetings
help teachers to keep their fingers on the pulse
of students’ concerns, allow time for candid
discussions about bullying and the harm that it
can cause, and provide tools for students to address
bullying problems. Anti-bullying themes and
messages also can be incorporated throughout the
school curriculum.
10. Continue these efforts over time. There
should be no “end date” for bullying prevention
activities. Bullying prevention should be woven into
the entire school environment.