Effective Bullying Prevention – What Works?
By Paul Langhorst October 24, 2012
National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month is coming to a close. While it has not gained quite the status as Thanksgiving, or our other major holidays, the designation of October as National Bullying Prevention Awareness month has brought increased focus on the problem of bullying and building an effective bullying prevention program.
With all the added attention, it begs the question – what is an effective anti-bullying program? I can tell you what its not:
- It is not an annual “stop bullying day” where students get T-shirts and wristbands – if that is the only thing your school or district does all year.
- It is not having a speaker come in once, not to be supported by other ongoing efforts.
- It is not signs or posters in the hall, or a pledge on the wall, if that is the only thing happening all year.
- It is not a policy in your school handbook, if it is not supported with other proactive measures.
- It is not a reactive “zero tolerance” policy, if not supported by proactive measures.
Effective bullying prevention is a continuous effort consisting of policy, education, training, reporting, motivation, dialogue, intervention, investigation, action, counseling and discipline/consequences that happen across the entire school year.
Recently I attended the Missouri School Board Association’s Bullying Summit and during one session the speaker asked the audience members to raise their hand if they did not have a comprehensive bullying prevention program that consisted of ongoing multidimensional efforts as outlined above. The entire room raised their hand, save for a few individuals…well, there’s your problem right there! Bullying will never be fully addressed if a comprehensive program is not put in place to address it.
As we work with districts across the country, here at the CyberBully Hotline, we encounter schools/districts that fall into two broad categories – those that have comprehensive bullying prevention plans in place, or are under development, and those that have disjointed efforts, host sporadic events and do not appear to be heading toward a comprehensive program. The difference? School leadership. If the school leadership, be it the school board, the superintendent of an entire district or the principal of a single private school, does not see bullying prevention as a priority, little gets done. Those that make it a priority move heaven and earth to put an effective program into place.
The benefits of an effective, comprehensive bullying prevention program are significant. Not only are students spared the humiliation and torture of bullying, but the overall school climate and its cohesiveness as a team will grow. Absenteeism decreases and student performance increases, which can have a huge impact on district funding. There are also cost savings to be hand, and potentially the avoidance of legal bills and financial settlements which are on the rise.
We would like to offer our congratulations to those school leaders who see bullying prevention as a priority and encourage others to see it in the same light. Your students, school and community will benefit greatly.