Bullying Prevention Best Practices
Students who are harassed or bullied are more likely to skip class or entire days of school. Some may drop out altogether. Bullying reflects an imbalance in power that results in the intentional exclusion of targeted children or youths and gives one person the ability to hurt the other. The bully can be older, bigger or more verbally adept. Bullying can happen in cyberspace, in school hallways, on playgrounds, or on the way to and from school. Bullying characteristics include aggressive behavior, harmful intent and a pattern of repeated harassment.
The issue is so critical that most states, including Colorado, have passed an anti-bullying law. The bottom line: bullying should not be tolerated. All students should be treated with respect – regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, race, ability or national origin. Many school districts also have comprehensive bullying prevention policies.
How does your district measure up?
Bullying prevention is an integral component of the culture and climate of schools in our district. Our schools promote an attitude of caring and concern for others that fully embraces our diversity. Classrooms, hallways and school grounds are free of sexist, homophobic, racist or other types of biased language.
- Every school has a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that fosters safe and inclusive schools and provides effective methods for reporting bullying. This policy is required by Colorado Safe Schools Act, which defines bullying prevention as part of the Safe Schools Plan. The anti-bullying policy is informed and updated as needed based on student surveys.
- School policies offer explicit protection to students who may be bullied based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnicity. The policies also address the use of homophobic and other biased language.
- Our schools’ climates are assessed regularly by surveying students anonymously about when, where and how often bullying occurs; how students feel about reporting bullying to adults; and how they feel about other kids who report such information.
- Staff and parents are assessed by surveys about their awareness or observations of bullying.
- Staff, parents and students are aware of different forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, have tools to address this growing problem.
- Staff, parents and students are encouraged to avoid preconceived labels and should understand that gender expression, ethnicity, race and sexual orientation are best informed by self-identification.
- Every school regularly tracks incidents of bullying and harassment and subsequent steps to address these issues, including encouragement of positive behavior.
- District and school staff members receive ongoing training to identify and intervene in bullying incidents. They can distinguish bullying from other inappropriate behaviors and encourage appropriate actions by bystanders. Students benefit from this kind of information as well.
- Our schools encourage students to seek out staff who can provide extra support and care if students are being harassed due to race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or other reasons. Staff members also serve as allies who speak out and stand up for students who are discriminated against.
- Each school has a team to coordinate bullying prevention efforts. In a larger school this could be made up of 10 to 12 members who include an administrator; a teacher from each grade level; parents and students; a counselor, school nurse and mental health professional; and community representatives. Smaller schools or districts may choose to have fewer team members or efforts may be incorporated into a wider school safety planning team.
- Students are given an active and meaningful role in bullying prevention and intervention efforts. Our schools factor in students’ ideas and opinions.
- Older students are involved as both participants and leaders in planning and implementation.
- Our schools support a variety of student clubs, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter, that actively addresses student concerns and issues.
- Become familiar with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ best practices – as well as misdirections – in bullying prevention such as zero tolerance, conflict resolution, peer mediation and group treatment for children who bully.
- Assess the awareness and the scope of bullying at your school through student, staff and parent surveys. Develop – or adjust – school policies appropriately to address different forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.
- Provide staff with ongoing training in how to identify and intervene in bullying.
- Raise awareness about bullying and its impact on student success among staff, parents, students and the community through schoolwide assemblies; school-based anti-bullying campaigns; back-to-school nights; staff in-service trainings; and articles in school newsletters and local newspapers.
- Encourage parent, student, staff and community involvement in anti-bullying efforts. Measure and report progress once a year – more often if bullying is a major problem in your school.
- Post behavior standards and share student conduct rules expected of all students, including rules against bullying. Consistently and fairly enforce such standards. Assess efforts along the way. Reward students for positive, inclusive behavior.
- Establish a confidential reporting system that allows children to report victimization and that records the details of bullying incidents.
- Listen receptively to parents who report bullying. Establish investigation procedures and resolve issues in a timely manner.
- Design student activities to build self-esteem by spotlighting special talents, hobbies and abilities of all students. Help foster mutual understanding of and appreciation for differences in others.
- Create a safe space for LGBTQ students in school with the help of Safe Space Kit, a step-by-step guide to strategies and awareness-raising posters and stickers.
School board members
- Develop a board policy that directs the district to define, evaluate and prevent bullying. Factor in specific anti-harassment efforts based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity.
- Engage parents, the community and staff in conversations about districtwide efforts to prevent bullying and its impact on academic success. Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to keep all students safe.
- Hold a board study session with district leaders and other experts to periodically review annual incidents of bullying in schools, the impact of prevention programs and long-term trends. Discuss any adjustments.
- Request that the district conduct an annual climate survey in every school to measure students’ and staff members’ perception of safety. Analyze the findings with district leaders.
- Start at the school board level to set the tone throughout the district for role modeling exemplary behavior and continue to educate yourself about what school board members should know about preventing and responding to bullying.
- Ask your child if he or she feels safe in school, and take complaints of bullying seriously. Take steps to intervene. Research shows that often parents are the last to know when their child has bullied or has been bullied.
- Find out if your child’s school has a bullying prevention policy and program. Determine how the school measures whether the policy and program are effective. Encourage your school’s principal to ask parents and students for input on how to prevent bullying.
- Get involved. Spend time in your child’s classroom or recess. Research shows that 67 percent of bullying happens when adults are not present.
- Serve on a school safety committee to help build a positive, supportive and safe learning climate for all children – no matter their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or race.
- Spearhead an anti-bullying campaign in your school by working with the principal, other parents and key staff.
- Become an active and engaged voice for bullying prevention in your school district.
- Join your local school’s safety committee and help build bridges between the school and the community to prevent bullying.
- Affirm your appreciation of differences by becoming an outspoken supporter of diversity and inclusiveness.
There’s a wealth of resources available to get you started. Among the most relevant to bullying prevention:
Bullying Fact Sheet for Parents
Hand out this fact sheet at back-to-school nights, PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences to help parents recognize whether their child is being bullied – or is a bully.
Bullying Prevention Resource Guide
Find best practices about what works and what doesn’t; assessment tools; ideas for developing a program to prevent bullying; key questions to guide bullying prevention efforts; and case studies about lessons learned from schools in Colorado – all designed for schools, families and communities.
Colorado School Safety Resource Center
Explore this website offering a wealth of resources for educators to learn more about the Colorado School Safety Resource Center’s work with schools and communities to create safe school environments for students. The center offers no-cost consultation and technical assistance to schools.
Exploring the Nature and Prevention of Bullying
Delve into this comprehensive site by the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about bullying facts and myths; how to involve bystanders in bullying prevention; school-based bullying prevention plans; action steps for administrators, teachers, parents and students; and a list of other bullying prevention resources.
Four Steps Schools Can Take to Address Anti-LGBT Bullying and Harassment
Learn more about four approaches that schools can put in place now to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students.
“We have a philosophy of doing this training and bullying prevention work, but also incorporating school and community partnerships that support the content.”
~ K.G. Green, elementary school assistant principal, St. Vrain School District
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