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What Can Schools Do

Many states have passed legislation mandating that bullying prevention programs and policies be instituted in all school districts. Today, school-wide bullying prevention strategies and programs are widely available. Most effective strategies and programs are universal in nature, that is, they focus on the entire school population and give the message that "Bullying is not tolerated in our school".

  • Increase awareness and knowledge of bullying and dispel myths about bullying (e.g., boys will be boys; ignore bullies and the bullying will stop) among school personnel, parents, and community stakeholders.
  • Survey all students using an anonymous questionnaire to determine the bullying problem in each school. Include questions like these: What types of bullying happen ·at school? Where does the bullying take place? How safe do students feel from bullying and harassment? How many students are involved?
  • Develop a bullying coordinating committee to develop school anti-bullying policies and oversee implementation of antibullying programs, consisting of a school administrator, a school psychologist or counselor, teachers, parents, and students.
  • Develop an effective anti-bullying school policy and establish clear and enforceable rules and sanctions. In doing so, make sure that school policies are consistent with board of education rules and state statutes. School rules should be posted and discussed with all students so they have a clear understanding of expectations.
  • Consider having students sign a pledge that can include the following statements: (a) We will not bully other students; (b) We will help others who are being bullied by speaking out and by getting adult help; (c) We will use extra effort to include all students in activities at our school.
  • Provide comprehensive training to all teachers and school staff about bullying prevention and intervention.
  • Use survey results to make necessary changes to the school environment to create a safer and more supportive school climate.
  • Develop a number of different ways that students can report bullying to adults. Investigate every report provide follow-up, and take administrative actions as necessary.
  • Increase adult supervision in areas identified in the survey as problematic. Bullying in schools often occurs in hallways, the cafeteria, on the playground, in locker rooms, and in restrooms.
  • Intervene consistently when bullying occurs-never ignore it. Empower teachers with effective strategies to confront bullying on the spot.
  • Hold separate follow up meetings with bullies and victims. Provide support and protection to the victimized student. Conflict resolution and peer mediation strategies are not appropriate here because the victim is being abused by the bully and there is an unequal balance of power. Help the vulnerable child learn to assert himself more effectively. Teach the bully how to get her needs met in other ways If possible, involve parents in the process.
  • Have class meetings where students can discuss peer relations as well as any problems with bullying.
  • Help foster nurturing relationships and friendship patterns within the school and classroom. This is especially important as the number and quality of friends protects children from being victimized. Those who have a number of friends, especially friends who are strong or popular, are less likely to become targets (Pelligrini & Long, 2004).
  • Continue these efforts over time. Patience is required, as it may take up to 3 years to make a difference.

The key elements of a bullying prevention program are:

  • Raising awareness of bullying through actions such as surveys of prevalence and role-playing events at assemblies.
  • Formation of a bullying prevention committee which represents the entire school community and which is responsible for choosing and implementing a prevention program.
  • Defining bullying and making it clear to all staff and students that it is unacceptable.
  • Adapt and implement bullying prevention policies.
  • Training all members of the school community in the appropriate responses to observed incidents of bullying.
  • Providing counseling for persistent bullies, targets, and their parents/guardians.
  • Regular review of effectiveness of the anti-bullying program.

Related Content: Bullying Publications & Resources - Publications and resources, including community-based organizations, for educators, parents, and community members with tools for recognizing bullying behavior and approaches for determining how to respond.