Get a Two-fer This October with Bullying Prevention

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s the perfect time to shine a light on the bullying prevention efforts in your setting and find ways to beef them up. And while doing so, you’ll also be doing important work to create a safe and supportive learning environment. Now that’s a two-fer—two benefits for the price of one—everyone can get behind!

Creating a Safe and Supportive School Starts with Adults

Last month’s enewsletter article “Create a Safe and Supportive School with SEL” described the importance of safety and support to learning and suggested using social-emotional learning (SEL), child protection, and bullying prevention strategies to help create a safe and supportive learning environment in schools. Adults play a key role in creating this environment, and when it comes to bullying prevention, there are many ways they can make a difference in their schools.

Adopt Anti-Bullying Policies and Procedures

The first step to effective bullying prevention in schools is to adopt anti-bullying policies and procedures. School leaders can take an active role in ensuring these policies are adopted in their school. Important policies to include are:

  • A purpose or mission statement that features a commitment to creating a safe and respectful environment free from bullying
  • A clear definition of bullying. For example, here’s a sample definition of bullying from the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit: “Bullying is mean or hurtful behavior that keeps happening. It is unfair and one-sided. Our school defines bullying by three primary characteristics: It is aggressive behavior that is usually repeated over time, occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power, and intends to cause harm or distress and/or has a serious harmful or distressing impact on the target.”
  • A statement of scope that outlines when consequences for bullying will apply

Important partners to clear anti-bullying policies are procedures for the following:

  • Reporting bullying incidents
  • Responding to and investigating bullying incidents
  • Maintaining written records of bullying incidents and their investigation
  • Determining consequences for bullying
  • Training staff and educating students
  • Communicating anti-bullying policies and bullying prevention efforts to the school community

Train Staff to Recognize and Respond to Bullying

For bullying prevention to be effective, all adults in the school must be trained to recognize and respond to bullying situations. This is especially important if students are learning to report bullying! Research shows that students are less likely to report if they don’t trust school staff to intervene effectively (Harris, Petrie, & Willoughby, 2002; Hoover, Oliver, & Hazler, 1992) and that they often believe staff intervention can make bullying situations worse (Bradshaw, Sawyer, & O’Brennan, 2007; Rigby & Bagshaw, 2003; Rigby & Barnes, 2002). So effective bullying prevention in schools must include training all adults to recognize and respond to bullying. This includes ensuring safety for the student being bullied and creating a behavior-change plan for the student doing the bullying.

Engage the School Community in Bullying Prevention

When a school has anti-bullying policies and procedures in place and all staff trained to recognize and respond to bullying, it’s well on its way to preventing bullying and creating a safe and supportive environment for its students. Participating in National Bullying Prevention Month provides a great way for schools to reenergize ongoing bullying prevention efforts and to engage the whole school community. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has developed an array of resources to help you get everyone involved. Here’s a sampling of some of the school-wide activities they offer that you can use this October to reduce bullying in your school:

  • Register your school as a champion against bullying
  • Sign the “End of Bullying Begins With Me” online petition
  • Celebrate Unity Day on October 22, 2014, and make it orange to make it end
  • Hold a “Run Walk Roll Against Bullying” event in your community
  • Make a statement about uniting against bullying with Project Connect
  • Enter a poster contest, then have students view their entries on the KidsAgainstBullying website
  • Dance to end bullying on Unity Dance Day, October 26, 2014

Provide Safety and Support for Students Who Need it Most

Preventing bullying at school is especially important for students dealing with trauma, for whom a calm school environment with no bullying or teasing is recommended (Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace, & Gregory, 2005). Being victimized at home or in the community increases students’ risk of being victimized at school, so reducing bullying helps prevent further victimization (Finkelhor, Ormrod, & Turner, 2007). Yet another two-fer everyone in your school community can get behind!


References

Bradshaw, C., Sawyer, A., & O’Brennan, L. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36, 361–382.

Cole, S. F., O’Brien, J. G., Gadd, M. G., Ristuccia, J., Wallace, D. L., & Gregory, M. (2005). Helping traumatized students learn: Supportive school environments for children traumatized by family violence. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R. K., & Turner, H. A. (2007). Poly-victimization: A neglected component in child victimization. Child Abuse and Neglect, 31, 7–26.

Harris, S., Petrie, G., & Willoughby, W. (2002). Bullying among ninth graders: An exploratory study. NASSP Bulletin, 86(630), 3–14.

Hoover, J. H., Oliver, R., & Hazler, R. J. (1992). Bullying: Perceptions of adolescent victims in the Midwestern USA. School Psychology International, 13, 516.

Rigby, K., & Bagshaw, D. (2003). Prospects of adolescent students collaborating with teachers in addressing issues of bullying and conflict in schools. Educational Psychology, 23, 535–546.

Rigby, K., & Barnes, D. (2002). The victimized student’s dilemma: To tell or not to tell. Youth Studies in Australia, 21(3), 33–36.