Committee for Children Blog

Things to Consider in Bullying Prevention

Today's blog was written by Kim Gulbrandson, a facilitator and trainer for Milwaukee Public Schools' Violence Prevention Program. Kim is also our newest community contributor, so you'll be seeing more from her in forums and groups.

For the past 14 years, I have been fortunate to work with a team of five to seven people to support schools in implementing and sustaining social and emotional learning programs. We have focused much of this effort toward bullying prevention. Throughout this time, our team learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in preventing bullying in schools. Here are some things we have discovered through our experiences and data that may help you enhance your bullying prevention efforts.

What Works

Bullying is a complex social phenomenon, requiring a multifaceted approach for prevention. In Milwaukee, students in schools that implemented a bullying prevention curriculum without other components (coaching, whole school policies and procedures, etc.) either reported no change or increases in the amount of bullying behavior. Here are some other components needed in addition to a curriculum:

Staff buy-in: We do this by giving staff, students, and parents bullying prevalence surveys and sharing the results. In most schools, students report higher rates of bullying than staff, and students feel staff are not doing enough about it. This motivates people to want to take action.

Staff training: All staff should be trained so they are on the same page about what bullying is and what to do about it. This is important because we might inadvertently reinforce bullying if we are inconsistent in responding to it.

District anti-bullying policy: This provides guidance to the staff, parents, and students on what actions are considered bullying and on what should be done when bullying occurs.

Bullying prevention procedures: How does staff document bullying incidents? Is there a report for documenting incidents? Who contacts the parents and how? 

Coaching the student who bullied and the student who was bullied: Many schools overlook this component in the Steps to Respect program because it is time consuming. When students learn that they will be coached every time they bully someone, this might deter them from doing it again. Coaching also helps give the student who was bullied strategies for dealing with the situation.

Bystanders: Elicit student leaders for bystander groups, teaching them to recognize the different roles bystanders play in a bullying situation, and showing them how to respond to stop bullying. Bystanders are essential in reducing bullying incidents.