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Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention

— Stop Bullying Now! U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HRSA
Updated on Sep 29, 2010

Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength. Often, it is repeated over time and can take many forms. In many respects, research on bullying prevention is still in its infancy. Although researchers have documented success of some comprehensive programs in reducing bullying, we still have much to learn about which aspects of these programs are most important.

However, a review of existing bullying prevention programs and feedback from educators in the field led us to suggest ten strategies that represent "best practices" in bullying prevention and intervention.

1. Focus on the social environment of the school.

To reduce bullying, it is important to change the climate of the school and the social norms with regard to bullying. It must become "uncool" to bully, "cool" to help out students who are bullied, and normative for staff and students to notice when a child is bullied or left out. This requires the efforts of everyone in the school environment-  teachers, administrators, counselors, other non-teaching staff (such as bus drivers, nurses, school resource officers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and school librarians), parents, and students.

2. Assess bullying at your school.

Intuitively adults are not always very good at estimating the nature and extent of bullying at their school. Frequently we are quite surprised by the amount of bullying that students experience, the types of bullying that are most common, or the "hot spots" where bullying happens. As a result, it is often quite useful to assess bullying by administering an anonymous questionnaire to students about bullying. What are the possible benefits of conducting a survey of students?

  • Findings can help motivate adults to take action against bullying;
  • Data can help administrators and other educators tailor a bullying prevention strategy to the particular needs of the school; and
  • Data can serve as a baseline from which administrators and other educators can measure their progress in reducing bullying.

3. Garner staff and parent support for bullying prevention.

Bullying prevention should not be the sole responsibility of an administrator, counselor, teacher- or any single individual at a school. To be most effective, bullying prevention efforts require buy-in from the majority of the staff and from parents.

4. Form a group to coordinate the school's bullying prevention activities.

Bullying prevention efforts seem to work best if they are coordinated by a representative group from the school. This coordinating team (which might include an administrator, a teacher from each grade, a member of the non-teaching staff, a school counselor or other school-based mental health professional, a school nurse, and a parent) should meet regularly to digest data from the school survey described in Strategy 2; plan bullying prevention rules, policies, and activities; motivate staff, students, and parents; and ensure that the efforts continue over time. A student advisory group also can be formed to focus on bullying prevention and provide valuable suggestions and feedback to adults.

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