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.










4 thoughts on “Effective Bullying Prevention – What Works?

  1. I agree about the leadership aspect Paul. What I’ve seen across Missouri is a resounding failure in prevention and response planning. As one of those “experts” that are brought into schools for the assembly on technology safety or cyberbullying, I incorporate a message to educators. If you use technology in your classroom then you have a obligation to include a message on digital responsibility. My overall message has to be reinforced and repeated throughout the year.

    On the issue of t-shirts, wristbands and posters, they can be effective, but only if used in conjunction with a larger positive normative behavior messaging. Changing the culture of the building is critical and some of those “messages” can reinforce acceptable behaviors, and affect the school culture in a positive way.

    Lastly, I am an advocate that schools not only have a policy on acceptable online behaviors (and assure everyone is trained on it) but have a plan to address issues when they arise. There is an inherent problem when trying to deal with an incident if you aren’t prepared. You end up responding in one of three ways – under react, over react or delay react; and none of these should be acceptable. I’ve spoken with too many administrators who say they run from fire to fire. If you train your staff to appropriately react and respond to incidents, then you don’t have to deal with every situation, just the significant ones.

    • Joe, great comments and suggestions! We see it time and time again, if the school leadership makes bullying prevention a priority, great things happen. Love your work! We are looking for more contributors to our program. Paul

    • We have had school clients successfully approach corporate sponsors to help fund their bully prevention programs. Specifically, the CyberBully Hotline materials can carry a sponsors logo. If there is a will, there is a way!

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