Bullying may be the most frequent form of school violence. It requires that we examine why and how a child becomes a bully or a target of bullying (and sometimes both) as well as the role bystanders play in perpetuating the cycle. About 160,000 students in the USA refuse to go to school because they dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers, and the disconnection from the community that comes from being the target of rumors and cyber-bullying.
Why Bullying Prevention is Important?
As of July 1, 2012, Assembly Bill 9—known as Seth’s Law requires public schools in California to update their anti-bullying policies and programs. The District must adopt a strong anti-bullying policy that specifically spells out prohibited causes for bullying, including sexual orientation and gender identity/gender expression. Adopt a specific process for receiving and investigating complaints of bullying, including a requirement that school personnel intervene if they witness bullying. Publicize the anti-bullying policy and complaint process, including posting the policy in all schools and offices. Post materials on the district website to support victims of bullying.
What is Bullying?
Effective March 13, 2013—bullying is defined as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act(s) or conduct, including electronic communications that has, or can be reasonably predicted to have, the effect of one or more of the following:
- Reasonable fear of harm to person or property.
- Substantially detrimental effect on physical or mental health.
- Substantial interference with academic performance.
- Substantial interference with the ability to participate in or benefit from school services, activities, or privileges. Refer to Board Policy (BP) 5131.2 for more information.
Understanding the difference between bullying and conflict.
Not all aggressive behavior is bullying. At times, students will engage in rough play. This type may appear aggressive. However, it serves to reinforce positive relationships and occurs among peers of equal standing. Conflict, in contrast, is motivated by negative intent and takes place between students of relative equal power or social standing. When rough play or conflict scenarios involve groups of students together with a single student, the situation can easily escalate into bullying. The following table below is a guiding tool to assist in differentiating what is rough play, fighting and bullying:
Usually friends; often repeated (same players)
Usually not friends; typically not repeated
Typically not friends; generally repeated (or one time severe)
No intent to harm.
Relatively equal balance of power.
Relatively equal balance of power.
Unequal balance of power (Power).
The mood is friendly; positive, mutual.
Mood is negative, aggressive or tense; mutual hostile feelings.
Mood negative; mood/response differs between victim and aggressor.
*Olweus,D (1993) Bullying at school. What we know and what we can do (Understanding children’s worlds). UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. Olweus, D., Limber s. P.,Flex, V.C., Mulin, N. Riese, J., & Snyder, M. (2007), Olweus bullying prevention program; Schoolwide guide, CA: Hazelden.
How Can I Prevent Bullying?
Three Tier Approach to School Safety:
- Prevention. Define, teach, and acknowledge the whole-school culture where positive behavior is “expected”. The goal is to create a positive school culture in which positive behaviors are explicitly taught and reinforced and all adults respond in a consistent way.
- Intervention. Responding and investigating to specific incidents of bullying and harassment. Example; provide (a) training and support for adults specific—bullying prevention, (b) training and support for youth to assist in addressing specific problem behaviors, (c) re-teach or affirm specific pro-social skills, and (d) provide small group intervention aimed at a specific skill set.
- Protection. Provide direct, individualized support for students who are engaged and highly impacted by bullying (e.g., protect the student’s targeted of bullying/ harassed; interrupt the bullying).
The PIP Strategies is a three-tiered approach to school safety efforts that will:
- Increase time for instruction—reduce administrative and teaching time spent on discipline;
- Help promote a climate of civility and respect school-wide; and
- Help students achieve social and academic success.
When bullying behavior happens in schools, consider the following strategies (i) Positive Behavior Intervention Support-PBIS, (ii) Restorative Justice-RJ, and (iii) Social Emotional Learning-SEL.
i. PBIS Approach to Bullying Behavior in Schools
School-wide PBIS begins with the premise that all students should have access to prevent the development and occurrence of problem behavior, e.g., bullying behavior. To avoid stigmatizing any student, school-wide PBIS emphasizes what a student does and where it occurs. Instead of negatively labeling a student as a bully, target, perpetrator, or aggressor, the emphasis is on labeling the bullying behavior. What the student does, for example, name-calling, teasing, intimidation, verbal aggression, and cyber-bullying. Bullying behavior is always described in the context or setting in which it occurs, for example, cyberspace, hallway, after school, fieldtrip, bus, or other “setting.” From a school-wide PBIS perspective, successful prevention of bullying behavior is linked directly to teaching adults and students (a) what bullying looks like, (b) what to do before and when bullying behavior is observed, (c) how to teach others what to do, and (d) how to establish a positive and preventive environment that reduces bullying behavior.
- Tier 1: all students and staff are taught directly and formally about how to behave in safe, respectful, and responsible ways across all school settings. The emphasis is on teaching and encouraging positive social skills and character traits. If implemented well, most students will benefit and be successful.
- Tier 2: Students whose behaviors do not respond to Tier 1 support are provided additional preventive strategies that involve (a) more targeted school skills instruction, (b) increased adult monitoring and positive academic support, if necessary.
- Tier 3: Students whose behaviors do not respond to Tier 1 and 2 support are provided and involve intensive prevention strategies that involve (a) highly individualized academic and/or behavior support planning; (b) more comprehensive, person-centered and function-based wraparound processes; and (c) school-family-community mental health supports.
OSEP Center on Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports. Reducing the Effectiveness of Bullying Behavior in Schooliii, version April 19, 2011. School-Wide Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS) Resources to prevent Bullying. View Website
ii. RJ Approach to Bullying Behavior in Schools.
Restorative practices may be used in schools to address bullying behavior in all three tiers of the Response to Intervention (RtI) Framework. In a whole school model, RJ processes can be utilized to prevent, intervene and protect.
- Tier 1: Classroom and school wide restorative practices such as circles should be used as a method to define, teach and acknowledge whole school culture related to bullying. One example of a tier 1 RJ response to bullying is conducting classroom meetings to allow students to talk openly about bullying, review classroom rules, share concerns, and cooperatively discuss anti-bullying strategies, i.e., how to be an “Upstander”.
- Tier 2: It is not always appropriate to use restorative practices for a particular incident of bullying because of the complexity and the power imbalance. In some cases, the bully may not be accountable for his/her actions. In other cases, the target may not wish to meet with the bully. It is important that a qualified individual does the prep work needed to determine whether a case is appropriate for a restorative process. Parties must not be placed in a situation where they retaliate against or are re-victimized. When deciding whether to use RJ as an intervention for a particular incident of bullying, please refer to these guidelines:
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then please refer the case to an alternate discipline process and/or mental health support.
- Is there a dedicated and qualified staff person that is trained to facilitate Victim/Offender Mediation or Family Group Conferencing (also called Restorative Community Conferencing)?
- Does the offender (bully) accept responsibility for the harm caused, and are they willing to make reparations in a face-to-face meeting with the victim and other affected parties?
- If the answer is yes to the above, are the victim and their family willing to engage in a face-to-face meeting with the offender and other affected parties in a restorative process?
If the answer is YES to these questions, proceed with prep work with all parties per restorative victim/offender mediation protocols.
- Tier 3: A Tier 3 restorative response to bullying behavior is characterized by individualized support for the most affected and highly impacted parties. An example of a Tier 3 restorative response to bullying would be a circle of support (healing circle)for the target or a circle of support and accountability (COSA) for the aggressor. Tier 1 circles may happen concurrently in the classroom or school wide if the incident requires a larger discussion.
Contact David Yusem, Program Manager for Restorative Justice for more information.
- SEL Approach to Bullying Behavior in Schools. Given the social nature of bullying, a key component in combating this behavior is to focus on changing bullying norms and increasing the social-emotional competence of students. At the student level, schools using an SEL framework teach students skills in the area of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making. These core SEL skills are the foundational competencies that students need in order to deal with bullying. The six skills often overlap and complement one another, as illustrated below:
- Self-Awareness and Self-Management skills.
Recognize and manage emotions in order to respond to conflict in claimed and assertive ways. In order to handle conflicts effectively, children need to be able to recognize when they are getting angry, and learn to claim themselves before reacting.
- Social Awareness.
Be tolerant and appreciative of differences, and interact empathetically with peers. Research suggests that children often lack empathy for the victims of bullying, and that they view being different from the social ideal, or social norm, as the cause of bullying. When active bystanders (a.k.a Upstanders) were asked why they chose to intervene, they were likely to attribute other motivating factors. Bystanders are also more likely to intervene when they have positive feelings and attitudes toward the victim.
- Relationship Skills.
Initiate and sustain friendship and other relationships. Victimized children tend to have fewer friends, to only have friends who are also victimized, and to have more enemies than non-victimized children. Many are socially withdrawn and lack confidence and skills at effectively interacting with peers. Because of their lack of peer support, victimized children are less likely to have other children come to their defense when they are bullied. Research suggests that having high-quality friendships, or at least one best friend, can help prevent children from being victims.
- Responsible Decision Making.
Think through and resolve social problems effectively and ethically. Effective social problem-solving requires an accurate assessment of the situation. Research indicates that children who frequently bully tend to misinterpret social interactions as being more hostile, adversarial, or provocative than their peers do.
Applying an SEL framework to Bullying
To effectively reduce bullying behavior, schools need to provide students with instruction and practice in applying their SEL skills to a variety of bullying situations.
i Social and Emotional Learning and Bully Prevention. www.casel.org
ii Committee for children www.cfchildren.org
Contact: For more information, questions, concerns, etc. on OUSD Anti-bullying protocol & response, please contact Chen.Kong-Wick@ousd.org. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org on cyber-safety curriculum and preparation of youth for the Information Age.
Quick Resources Links
Bullying resource for students/children and parents. Website: www.stopbullying.gov
Resources and activities for children/youth and parents about internet safety
Teens against bullying.
Download free school anti-bullying planning guides, other resources on no name calling.
Activities for school staff to develop character education, anti-bullying, conflict resolution, and anti-bias strategies. Website: www.operationrespect.org
Common Sense Media offer free web-base resources for kids/youth, parents and educators on cyber-bullying and digital citizenship. Website: www.commonsensemedia.org
Cybersafety: net Cetera – Chatting with kids about being online toolkit
Educational youth programs to address bullying, bias and other social justice issues. Website: www.museumoftolerance.com/site/c.tmL6KfNVLtH/b.4866091/k.A488/Youth_Programs.htm
Bullying and suicide prevention resources
Resources for bullying prevention and LGBTQ youth
Resources, activities and events for LGBTQ community
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad through information, education, legislation, and advocacy. Website www.adl.org
The Office of Justice Programs’ Crime Solution.gov uses rigorous research to determine what works in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and crime victim services. Website: www.crimesolutions.gov
Bullying Prevention Program:
Common Sense Media; is a free resource for K-12th grade with free download curricula on cyber safety and digital citizenship.
Everfi is for 6-9th grade specifically. Teachers can also choose to use Ignition, a free online resource focused on certifying students with critical skills in CyberSafety and Cyber Citizenship. Website: www.everfi.com
Not In Our School is a K-12th grade resource using documentary film as a tool to explore anti-bullying and discrimination for youth, school staff and parents. Writing prompts for the film are aligned to health science writing standards. The organization offers training and technical support. Website: www.niot.org/nios
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a comprehensive multi-tiered anti-bullying program for K-12th grade. This program compliments our district's Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS) initiatives of creating safer school and communities. Website: www.violencepreventionworks.org
The No Bullying System is an evidence-base anti-bullying program for k-12 grade that leverages empathy and kindness inherent in all of us. This program compliments our district Social Emotional Learning (SEL) initiatives. Website: www.nobullying.com
Safe School Ambassador through Community Matters organization is a program that utilize youth as socially-influential leaders to end bullying.