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Bullying - Preventing School Violence
10 CEUs Bullying - Preventing School Violence

Section 25
Essential Elements of Successful Bullying Prevention Programs

Question 25 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Bullying CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

Because bullying differs from other kinds of violence, it does not lend itself to the same interventions that may be effective in addressing other types of conflict among children (Limber & Nation). Conflict resolution, peer mediation strategies, and group therapy that focuses on increasing self-esteem have been shown to be relatively ineffective with bullies (Sampson, n.d.), because bullying behavior results from a power imbalance rather than deficits in social skills. For example, bullies plan and anticipate the reaction of their victim and proceed in a manner that does not result in adult detection; this type of manipulation requires highly developed social skills (Coivin, Tobin, Beard, Hadan, & Sprague; Limber & Nation). It also must be recognized that bullying behaviors are maintained by tangible reinforcers (for example, stolen lunch money) and social reinforcers (for example, entertaining peers) (Coivin et al.). It is important that these factors be taken into account in developing and implementing interventions with bullies. Several decades of prevention research has greatly expanded the knowledge base of "what works" in school-based programs (Sloboda & David), including identification of essential elements in successful school-based prevention programs. The most successful school-based prevention programs do more than reach out to the individual child; they also seek to change the culture and climate of the school (Adas & Pepler;Garrity et al.; Skiba & Fontanini). It appears that the most effective approaches for preventing or minimizing bullying in schools involve a comprehensive, multilevel strategy that targets bullies, victims, bystanders, families, and communities (Atlas & Pepler; Garrity et al.; Larson, Smith, & Furlong; Skiba & Fontanini). Strategies to prevent or minimize bullying in schools must include school-level interventions designed to change the overall culture and climate of the school; classroom-level interventions targeting teachers and other adults in the school; and student-level interventions that target individual or small groups of victims and bullies. In addition, programs should be carried out as they were designed. One of the most common mistakes made by schools is partial implementation of programs because of time constraints (Everhart & Wandersman). "Watered down" interventions usually resulted in incomplete, inadequate, or sporadic implementation (Gottfredson). Modifications usually dilute the effectiveness of the intervention, or in some cases the intervention results in no improvement at all (Dupper). Second, because bullying among elementary school-age children may be an antecedent to more violent behavior in later grades (Saufler, & Gagne), it is critical that prevention efforts begin in elementary school (DOE; Froschl & Sprung) and include multiple years of intervention using well-tested, standardized interventions with detailed lesson plans and student materials (Dupper). Programs are more likely to be successful if the entire school community is engaged, committed, and involved (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory [NWREL]). Administrators must express their support for the program, financial resources must be available, and the program should be integrated into the school curriculum.

A number of hands-on practical strategies can be implemented by school social workers at each level of intervention (Table 1). School-level interventions should aim at clarifying and communicating behavioral norms—that is, developing classroom and schoolwide rules that prohibit bullying and promote adult modeling of respectful and nonviolent behavior. Intervention efforts are unlikely to be successful unless school staff recognize that bullying is a problem (Rigby). Teachers and other adults must understand that each adult in the school plays a role in ending bullying (Banks; Olweus et al.) .The principal should send strong messages to the entire school community that bullying is taken seriously and will not be tolerated Moreover, school administrators must enlist the help of teachers, parents, and students in developing policies that address school bullying (Rigby). A written bullying prevention policy that is distributed to everyone in the school community can send a clear message that bullying incidents will be taken seriously and that action will be taken in response to them (Lumsden).The policy should include a clear definition of bullying (with examples) and a reporting procedure (Ribgy). A confidential reporting system may encourage students to report if they are victimized or have witnessed bullying (Parent Teacher Association of Connecticut, Inc.). School officials should also encourage parents to report bullying if they suspect that their child is involved in bullying (DOE).The policy should describe how the school addresses incidents of bullying. School policies that address bullying must not be limited to student bullying, but should include bullying of students by adults in the school (Rigby). It is important that teachers and other adults in the school model appropriate behavior. Carrying out a needs assessment is essential in preventing bullying in schools. A needs assessment raises school staff awareness about the nature, prevalence, and consequences of bullying (Rigby). This process is essential because a number of studies have found that most school staff are not aware of the extent of the bullying problem {Besag; Olweus; Smith; Zigler & Pepler) or dismiss bullying as part of normal childhood behavior (Bullock). For example, Boulton found that lunchtime supervisors often dismissed bullying as "rough-and-tumble play," and Adas and Pepler found that lunchtime supervision had difficulty differentiating playful and aggressive fighting. Moreover, teachers rarely intervene in bullying incidents that occur in the classroom (Skiba & Fontanini). A needs assessment should take into consideration the strengths, assets, and resources of a school and community. A number of assessment questionnaires are available for use with students. (See Rigby & Slee, and Rigby, for more detailed information.) Following a needs assessment, other school-level interventions include a plan for implementing the new program, the formation of a coordinating committee, the formation of a plan to increase supervision in areas of the school where bulling is likely to occur (Olweus et al.), and an in-service day for raising awareness of the bullying problem in the school and discussing characteristics of bullies and victims (NWREL).

Classroom-level interventions include encouraging teachers to integrate bullying prevention material into their curriculum (NWREL). This can be accomplished by holding regular classroom meetings to discuss bullying. These classroom meetings can help increase students' knowledge of how to intervene, build empathy, and encourage prosocial norms and behaviors (Olweus et al.). Teachers can also involve the class in establishing and enforcing class rules against bullying. Teachers should also discuss the importance of bystanders in stopping bullying. Students should be taught that they have a responsibility to intervene if they observe someone being bullied at school. Bystanders need to be taught how their behaviors can either Carrying out a needs assessment is essential in preventing bullying in schools. support or discourage bullies and that programs that teach bystanders to recognize and report bullying have the greatest impact on reducing bullying (Rigby). Bystanders can be taught how to intervene to help victims {Atlas & Pepler; Salmivalli). For example, bystanders can be taught to stand up for the victims, include victims in group activities, and to report bullying to adults.

Student-level interventions are designed to develop social competence by changing students' knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors by using interactive teaching techniques (that is, role play and practice with peers). Victims of bullying can be helped to recognize attributes that place them at risk of becoming targets, to understand the consequences of their choices, and to modify their behaviors to minimize their chances of becoming victims {Vessey, Carlson, & Joyce). Children can be taught how to interpret social situations and can be helped not to cry or run away at every taunt, real or imagined (Vessey et al.). It is important that children understand that by staying calm in bullying situations, the bullying may subside, whereas responding aggressively or acting helpless may worsen the situation {Salmivalli). It is also important that victims know that discussing incidents with adults can be helpful and is welcomed by the important adults in their lives (Vessey et al.). A number of children's books about bullying have been published.

Interventions at the individual level must include support and protection for the victims of bullying and discussions with the parents of bullies and victims (Olweus et al.).Teachers or other school personnel should not suggest that victims of bullying brought it on themselves or chastise them for not being able to solve their own problems (Vessey et al.). School social workers should make every effort and encourage other school personnel to make similar efforts to protect children who are victims of bullying {Dupper). It is important that bullies receive clear messages from school personnel that bullying will not be tolerated and will end (Dupper).

As major stakeholders, parents should be involved throughout the entire process, including assessment, program development, program implementation, and evaluation {Fried & Fried). Strategies for involving parents include sharing the results of student surveys, offering information and training about bullying to parents, and including parents on bullying prevention committees. School social workers should encourage parents to report to the school if they suspect their child is involved in bullying or is the victim of bullying. Schools should also hold meetings with parents and students involved in bullying (NWREL). For additional information on what parents can do if their child is being bullied see Ross.

Table 1: Multilevel Approaches to Bullying Prevention

School-Level Components: Strategies for Changing the Culture and Climate of the School
• A questionnaire is used to assess the nature and extent of bullying and raise awareness.
• The principal provides a leadership role in implementing the program.
• Administrators fully support the program and make a long-term commitment to change the school culture and climate.
• Anonymous reporting procedures are established.
• All areas of the school are well supervised.
• A school-based team that includes all stakeholders {parents, students, mental health personnel, teachers, and other school staff) is involved in the development, implementation, maintenance, and evaluation of the program,
• A discipline policy is developed and consistently enforced and provides a code of conduct with strict antibullying policies for staff, students, and volunteers.
• Ongoing training for all school staff {teachers, bus drivers, maintenance staff, administrators, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and so forth) and parents is provided to develop skills for creating and sustaining a safe school environment.
• An evaluation component is included.

Classroom Level Components: Strategies Involving Teachers and Other Adults in the School
• Regular classroom meetings are held to discuss bullying.
• Students are involved in developing rules against bullying.
• The concept of bullying is integrated into curriculum,
• All school personnel model positive interpersonal skills and cooperative learning and do not set a bad example by exhibiting dominating or authoritarian behavior with students.
• Adults encourage the reporting of bullying incidents and consistently follow school bullying policies.
• Adults respond swiftly and consistently and are sympathetic to students who need support.
• Adults encourage students to include all students in play and activities.
• Adults send clear messages that bullying is not tolerated.
• Consistent enforcement of nonpunitive, graduated consequences for bullying behaviors are used.
• Corporal punishment is avoided.
• Parents are encouraged to contact the school if they suspect their child is involved in bullying.

Student-Level Components: Strategies Designed to Help Victims, Bullies, and Bystanders
• Victims are taught social skills (i.e., assertiveness skills) and problem-solving skills.
• A support system is established for students who are the targets of bullies.
• Students learn skills to intervene and provide assistance to victims, including mentoring programs for new students, peer mediation programs, supporting targeting students.
• Consequences for bullying behavior are immediate.
• Serious talks are held with parents and students involved in bullying.
• Pro-social behaviors are immediately reinforced.
• Mental health professionals assist students involved in bullying incidents.
• Bystanders are taught skills to intervene to help students who are being bullied.

- Whitted, Kathryn S and David R Dupper; Best Practices for Preventing or Reducing Bullying in Schools; Children & Schools; Jul2005, Vol. 27 Issue 3, p 167

Personal Reflection Exercise #11
The preceding section contained information about essential elements of successful bullying prevention programs. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

According to Whitted, how can holding regular classroom meetings for students reduce bullying behavior? Record the letter of the correct answer the Answer Booklet.

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