How Prevention Programs Help With Bullying

A teacher talking to a girl who was being bullied by a group of other girls

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It is no secret that bullying is a widespread social issue that impacts the quality of education students receive. Yet, many school bullying prevention programs are significantly lacking. Simply holding a once-a-year assembly will not cause kids to bully less. In fact, neglecting to implement a comprehensive bullying prevention program is one of the many reasons prevention programs fail.

The most successful bullying prevention programs focus on changing the climate that supports bullying behavior.

These programs also get students to buy into the program and evolve as the student population evolves. And most importantly, administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students support the program. Without their support, the bullying prevention program has very little chance of success. 

Building a Comprehensive Program

Bullying prevention consists of more than a one-day event. Rallies and assemblies focusing on bullying prevention are a great way to kick-off a bullying prevention program. Even bullying prevention demonstrations can be useful in getting the point across. But they should not be the only thing a school does to prevent bullying.

While students may feel motivated to be nicer and more accepting of others at the height of the assembly, these feelings quickly fade without consistent reinforcement.

School administrators need to develop comprehensive, year-long bullying prevention programs that tackle the problem from a variety of angles. To begin, develop a list of bullying prevention goals. Then, get administrators, teachers, and staff on board. Bullying prevention programs often fail because not everyone is committed to the program.

As a result, find a way to get the staff excited about bullying prevention. Ask for their ideas and input. Additionally, be sure they know what your expectations are and give them ideas on preventing bullying in the classroom. Remind them that the best way to promote bullying prevention is to talk about it on a regular basis. And what better vehicle for communicating that message than through the curriculum?

Challenge teachers to find ways to share stories about bullying while teaching. And ask them to incorporate elements of character education, such as empathy and respect, into their lessons. Then provide time for them to share with others on staff about what is working and what isn't working. Remember, the best bullying prevention programs are evolving and changing over time.

Allow teachers and staff the flexibility to experiment. The goal is not to have a perfect prevention program, but to have one that meets the needs of the school climate.

Finally, educate the staff on how to handle bullying when they witness it all school. This means educating everyone that works at the school about bullying prevention. For instance, you can discuss bullying prevention strategies for recess and bullying prevention goals for school buses. You can even talk about how custodians can help put an end to bullying in the school. The key is that the entire building is committed to bullying prevention.

Involving Students

No one knows the school climate better than the students. They live it every day. As a result, savvy educators empower students to tackle bullying issues and challenge them to change the climate. Not only are students the best people for the job, but they will also be more willing to accept a bullying prevention program if they are the ones helping to create it.

Another way to involve students in bullying prevention is to develop a mentoring program of some sort. Mentors can be older students that mentor younger, more vulnerable students. They also pair athletes with students who may struggle socially. The idea is to give students a responsibility to lead others. When you do this, younger students learn that they can be cool without bullying others. And older students are encouraged to be leaders and make good choices. 

If you expect the students to behave with respect and treat others with dignity then you need to remind them of this on a regular basis. Consider having quarterly assemblies that deal with issues such as impulse control, empathy, and stereotypes. Encourage counselors to hold small groups once a month for kids who want to learn more.

The key is to keep behavior expectations at the forefront of the students' minds and to stress positive character traits.

You should also take steps to empower bystanders. Bullying almost always has a witness. Be sure these students know the importance of reporting bullying and then give them safe ways to do it. Bystanders should feel empowered to do the right thing without fear of retaliation from the bully. Adjust intervention strategies to encourage more kids to step up.

Meanwhile, when bullying does occur make sure you are implementing effective consequences and disciplinary procedures. Bullying prevention programs fail when students begin to believe that reporting bullying does “no good” or that “nothing will happen to the bully.” Be sure that the discipline is effective and consistent. There should never be a doubt in a student’s mind that you will address any and all bullying complaints.

Involving Parents

To truly tackle the issue of bullying prevention, administrators and teachers need to have parents on board. Without parental support at home reinforcing the messages, the bullying prevention program will fall flat. Like it or not, parents are still the most influential people in a student’s life. As a result, they need to be part of the solution for the bullying prevention program to be successful.

One way to engage parents in bullying prevention is to invite them to activities that are relevant to them. For instance, hold workshops or informational meetings that provide them with information that is useful instead of trying to push the message at them. Parents are more likely to get involved if they feel like they are getting something out of it. Also, if you allow parents to interact with students and others, they are more likely to engage with the school. 

Keeping a Program Fresh

While you may believe that you have put together an excellent bullying prevention program, if students think it is lame or that it is not working, the program will fail. Be sure you are regularly meeting with students to assess what is going on and how the messages are being received. Then, use this information to adjust the program.

Also, be sure that you do not fall into a rut by thinking, "we have always done it this way." The best bullying prevention programs evolve over time. They keep pace with changing technology and social media. And, they adapt to the changing needs of the students. Be sure you assess the bullying prevention programs on a regular basis.

Successful bullying prevention requires that educators know their student population and can gauge where problems might occur.

For instance, cliques usually lead to bullying. Do something to separate the groups by encouraging them to mingle with other students. This can be done with group projects, mix-it-up days at lunch, and leadership groups. It is also a good idea to know what is happening on social media. Although cyberbullying may occur after school hours, in this always-connected world it always filters into the school hallways.

Be sure to keep tabs on what students are doing online. Familiarize yourself with things like vaguebooking and subtweeting as well as the ways in which kids utilize technology to bully others. Just when you think you have it figured out, something new will pop up. For this very reason, the best bullying prevention programs are never set in stone.

2 Sources
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  1. Marsh VL. The Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. Bullying in School: Prevalence, Contributing Factors, and InterventionsResearch Brief. 2018.

  2. Cantone E, Piras AP, Vellante M, et al. Interventions on Bullying and Cyberbullying in Schools: A Systematic ReviewClin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2015;11(Suppl 1 M4):58-76. doi:10.2174/1745017901511010058

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.