It is clear that, without intervention, bullying can lead to serious social, emotional, physical, academic, and legal problems for those involved. It is also clear that comprehensive efforts involving school staff, parents, students, and the broader community are likely to reduce and prevent bullying more effectively than a single, isolated approach. While studies of successful anti-bullying programs are somewhat scarce in the United States, evaluation data from other countries suggest that a comprehensive approach can change student attitudes and behaviors and increase adults’ willingness to intervene. Although teachers, counselors, and parents may be able to deal with individual cases of bullying as they come up, such interventions are unlikely to have a significant impact on the incidence of bullying at school.
Bullying often goes undetected by teachers, school staff, and parents. In fact, adults typically identify less than 10 percent of bullying incidents -- partly because bullying tends to occur in unsupervised areas and partly because many adults simply do not understand the dynamics of bullying. Adults throughout the school community -- including administrators, teachers, health personnel, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers -- require training on this important issue if they are to understand, recognize, and know how to deal with bullying.
The entire school, as well as the broader community, must further be involved in bullying prevention efforts in order to create a positive climate in which caring and considerate interactions thrive and aggressive actions are deemed unacceptable. Isolated prevention and intervention strategies do not alone allow for the promotion of norms against bullying. Young people require positive modeling, proactive instruction, and ongoing support if they are to make decisions and take actions in favor of potential victims and in opposition to potential aggressors.
Comprehensive School Improvement Programs
In addition to the primarily classroom-based prevention programs mentioned yesterday, federal and national reviews have also identified some comprehensive school improvement programs that are relevant to the prevention of bullying. Although these programs are not explicitly designed to deal with bullying problems at school, they do emphasize the promotion of interpersonal relations and the development of a school culture that are not supportive of bullying and other aggressive behaviors. The following are two such programs:
The Child Development Project (CDP) has been designated a "promising
program" by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, a "model program" by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, and a "select program" by the Collaborative for the Advancement of Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). CDP is a multifaceted, schoolwide improvement program that helps elementary schools become "caring communities of learners" for their students (5 to 12 years old). CDP is designed to strengthen connections among peers and between students of different ages, teachers and students, and home and school, in order to promote the following:
School bonding: students' commitment to,
and engagement in, their school
Students' interpersonal skills and commitment
to positive values
Classroom and school-wide climate of safety, respect, caring, and helpfulness
The program -- which involves students in all grade levels, their families, teachers, and school administrators -- prepares children to play responsible roles in their classrooms and schools so that later they can contribute to the wider society.
The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program has been designated a "model
program" by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration and a "select program" by the Collaborative for the Advancement of Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). This program utilizes an active learning approach to educating children, imparting skills that will support their development through school and into young adulthood. Based on more than 40 years of scientific research, it provides teachers and caregivers with a blueprint for daily routine, classroom and playground organization, and teacher-child interaction, all designed to create a warm, supportive learning environment. In addition, this learning environment encourages independent thinking, initiative, and creativity. High/Scope's goals are for young children to accomplish the following:
Learn through active involvement with people, materials, events, and ideas
Become independent, responsible, and confident, ready for school and life
Learn to plan and execute activities, then talk with other children and teachers about what they have done and what they have learned
Gain knowledge and skills in important content areas including language and literacy, initiative and social relationships, creative representation, movement, music, math, and logical thinking
Every day, the program offers one-on-one adult attention, assures children that they can choose interesting things to do, and gives children a sense of control over themselves and their surroundings.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
In contrast to the two school improvement programs described above, the Bullying Prevention Program represents a comprehensive, schoolwide program specifically designed to address bullying problems at school. As part of the Norwegian Campaign Against Bullying, mentioned on the first day of this event, Olweus developed this program to: (1) reduce existing bully/victim problems among elementary, middle, and junior high school students, (2) prevent the development of new bully/victim problems, and (3) improve overall peer relations. See the sidebar for an overview of risk factors this program is designed to counteract.
The following are some characteristics of the Bullying Prevention Program that make it comprehensive and distinguish it from many other interventions:
It is a universal, schoolwide effort that involves all adults
within the school environment (i.e., administrators, teachers, parents, and nonteaching staff) and students.
It is both systems-oriented, or focused on altering the
school environment as a whole, as well as individual-oriented, or focused on addressing issues with individual students.
It is not time-limited, instead calling for systematic efforts
over time that are intended to become integrated into normal school operations and the overall school climate.
According to Susan Limber, principal investigator of a three-year project to conduct research on violence among rural youth that involves implementing the Bullying Prevention Program in rural schools throughout South Carolina:
"The program is built upon the following principals: it is critical to develop a school environment characterized by warmth, positive interest, and involvement on the part of adults; where there are clear, firm limits to unacceptable behavior; and where there are nonhostile, noncorporal sanctions that are consistently applied when rules are violated and/or behaviors are unacceptable."
Impulsive, hot-headed, dominant personality
Lack of empathy
Difficulty with rules
Low tolerance for frustration
Positive attitudes toward violence
Physical strength (boys)
Decreasing interest in school
Friends/peers with positive attitudes toward violence
Lack of parental warmth and involvement
Overly permissive parenting
Harsh discipline/physical punishment
Lack of parental supervision
Indifferent or accepting teacher attitudes
Indifferent or accepting student attitudes toward bullying
In order to address the complex problem of bullying among youth, the Bullying Prevention Program is implemented at multiple levels. The following are some key components of this comprehensive program:
Formation of a bullying prevention coordinating committee (a
representative team from the school) to plan and coordinate the program and other violence prevention activities
Administration of an anonymous questionnaire to assess the
nature and extent of bully/victim problems at the school
Intensive training for members of the bullying prevention coordinating
committee, and training for all school staff
Development of schoolwide rules against bullying *
Use of appropriate positive and negative consequences for students who
follow/do not follow the school rules
Increased adult supervision in school "hot spots" for bullying, and the
development of systematic reporting mechanisms
Formation of staff discussion groups to provide opportunities to learn more
about bullying issues and to share program successes and concerns
A school-wide "kick-off" event to introduce the program to students
Engagement of parents in the school's bullying prevention efforts (e.g.,
highlighting the program at PTA meetings, school open houses, and special
violence prevention programs; encouraging parents' to help plan activities and events)
Regular classroom meetings to discuss issues related to bullying and peer
relations. These meetings are intended to improve social relations and keep
teachers informed of social issues of concern to students.
Meetings between school staff and students who have been bullied to
investigate bullying reports and incidents, develop safety plans, and
provide emotional support
Meetings between school staff and students who bully their
peers to reinforce school rules against bullying, to administer appropriate consequences for bullying behaviors, and to make them aware that future behaviors will be closely monitored
Meetings between school staff and parents of students
involved in bullying incidents. Referrals to mental health professionals for more intensive work with students and/or their families are made when appropriate.
Community Activities *
Efforts to make the program known among a wide range of community members
(e.g., convening meetings with leaders of the community to discuss the school's program and problems associated with bullying, encouraging local media coverage of the school's efforts, engaging students in efforts to discuss their school's program with informal leaders of the community)
Involvement of community members in the school's anti-bullying activities (e.g.,
soliciting assistance from local businesses to support aspects of the program, involving community members in school districtwide "Bully-Free Day" events).
Engaging community members, students, and school personnel in anti-bullying
efforts within the community (e.g., introducing core program elements into church school classes).
* The development of school-wide rules and the community-level activities were not original components of the Bullying Prevention Program. Click here to learn about the implementation of this program in South Carolina, during which these elements were added.
How Effective Is the Bullying Prevention Program?
The initial evaluation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in Bergen, Norway, targeting 2,500 fifth through eighth grade students, indicated that self-reported bullying and victimization had decreased by approximately 50 percent following the intervention. The evaluation further revealed significant reductions in teachers' and students' ratings of bullying behavior as well as self-reported antisocial behavior (e.g., vandalism, fighting, theft, alcohol use, and truancy), and increases in students' perceptions of positive school climate. Subsequent evaluations of this program with 8- to 16-year-old students in England and students in grades 5, 6, 7, and 9 in Germany have also shown significant decreases in self-reported bully/victim problems.
Click here for some general tips for implementing bullying prevention activities.
Clearly, there is no easy solution to the problem of bullying at school. A comprehensive approach, such as that laid out in the Bullying Prevention Program, has the greatest potential to help create a safe and supportive learning environment in which bullying and other forms of school violence have no place. The following are suggested action steps that school administrators, educators, parents, and students can employ in an effort to build a comprehensive initiative and stop bullying in schools.
In the effort to make schools and communities safer for everyone, all students and the adults who are likely to influence their lives -- including parents and other community members, school administrators, classroom teachers, counselors, bus drivers, playground supervisors, hall monitors, security officers, cafeteria workers, maintenance personnel, and clerical staff -- must present a united front that communicates that bullying will not be tolerated at school. According to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, an educational research and development organization supported by the U.S. Education Department, Institute of Education Sciences (formerly known as the Office of Educational Research and Improvement):
"A schoolwide bullying prevention program should build a climate in which children feel cared for and respected, with consistent rules and policies, and where adults model appropriate behavior."
Efforts should be directed at helping young people develop prosocial attitudes and behaviors, so that they can build and maintain healthy relationships both within and beyond the school setting.
Please think about the questions below and share your responses, comments, and/or any questions about today's material in the Discussion Area.
Is your school currently implementing a comprehensive school
improvement or bullying prevention program to reduce aggression
If so, please share any challenges, successes, and/or lessons learned.
If not, has your school implemented any components of a comprehensive program? Please describe your bullying prevention activities at the schoolwide, classroom, individual, and/or community levels and share any challenges, successes, and/or lessons learned.
This completes today's work.
Please visit the Discussion Area to share your responses to the discussion questions!
Day 4 Youth Artwork:
3. Together: This picture is from the Change for Children's 2001-2002 Peace Calendar,
featuring art from the Youth of the Americas International Peace Mural created by children in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Alberta, Canada, and PapaInk, the Children's Art Archive.
Atlas, R. S., & Pepler, D. J. (1998). Observations of Bullying in the Classroom. Journal of Educational Research, 92(2), 86-99.
Banks, R. (2000). Bullying in Schools. ERIC Review, 7(1), 12-14.
Council on Scientific Affairs. Bullying Behaviors Among Children and Adolescents. Report 1 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A-02). Summary available on-line at: www.ama-assn.org/ ama/pub/article/2036-6398.html. Retrieved January, 2004.
Garrity, C., Jens, K., Porter, W. W., Sager, N., & Short-Camilli, C. (1997). Bullyproofing Your School: Creating a Positive Climate. Intervention in School and Clinic, 32(4), 235-243.
Skiba, R., & Fontanini, A. (2000). Fast facts: Bullying prevention. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International. Available on-line at: www.pdkintl.org/whatis/ff12bully.htm. Retrieved January, 2004.
Limber, S. P. (2003). Implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Lessons Learned from the Field. In D. Espelage & S. Swearer (Eds.) Bullying in American Schools: A Social-Ecological Perspective (pp. 351-364). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Limber, S.P., Nation, M., Tracy, A.J., Melton, G.B., & Flerx, V. (in press). Implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the Southeastern United States. In P.K. Smith, D. Pepler, & K. Rigby (Eds.) Bullying in Schools: How Successful Can Interventions Be? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Schoolwide Prevention of Bullying. Available on-line at: www.nwrel.org/request/dec01/foreword.html. Retrieved January, 2004.
U.S. Department of Education (1998). Preventing Bullying: A Manual for Schools and Communities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.