Bullying affects a reported 15 to 25 percent of students in the United States. It can be physical, verbal or psychological. It is characterized by an imbalance of power, repeated incidents between the same children, and an intent to cause distress or harm.
In this, our second blog of a four-part series focusing on this serious and on-going problem, we’ll look at our first 2 tips to help ensure program success for schools considering an anti-bullying program.
Ensure program buy-in from the top down.
Systematic change can’t be achieved without strong leadership. Responsibility falls to principals and deans to set the tone for the program, provide adequate time for training, and ensure guidelines are enforced. In successful programs, leaders undergo training, attend program-related meetings, and set clear guidelines for what is expected of teachers and staff. If educators detect ambivalence toward the program from higher-ups, they’re less likely to commit to it themselves. A successful program depends on everyone’s buy-in. That begins with leaders leading by example.
Choose a program that is data-driven and proactive.
Combating bullying requires a different approach than other disciplinary issues. That’s because bullying is not a conflict between equals, but rather an act of victimization. Peer mediation and conflict resolution techniques fail to address this problem. In addition, bullying almost always happens out of teachers’ sight. So simply asking educators to be more vigilant is also insufficient.
For an anti-bullying program to work, educators have to know exactly what they’re up against. One proven intervention is the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. The program begins with an anonymous student questionnaire. This helps educators identify when, where, and among which groups of students bullying is most prevalent—allowing schools to respond accordingly.
Says Dr. Marlene Snyder, Director of Development of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, “The basic message of this program is simple: how we treat each other is important; bullying is not accepted here.” Olweus aims to promote a preventative culture of respect before bullying has a chance to take hold. Program guidelines recommend a kickoff meeting at the beginning of each new school year, helping schools get started on the right foot.
Teacher-facilitated discussions with all students (not just those who bully or are victimized) clarify the parameters for interacting with others. This is more effective than a teacher intervening only after a problem occurs. The program also provides educators with research-based “scripts” for talking with students, allowing them to speak and handle issues with confidence.
To learn more about Olweus, visit their website at www.violencepreventionworks.org