Creating effective bullying prevention education at your school can be a challenge. Bullying is a learned behavior that can be unlearned, but solutions to bullying are not always simple or easy. Bully prevention is not a one size fights all solution. Just like students have different learning needs, those who bully, those who are targeted and those who witness bullying have different needs as well.
The most effective way to prevent bullying is to develop an ongoing and data-driven approach that involves all participants, including teachers, administrators, counselors, staff, students and parents. When I include “staff”, I am referring to bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, crossing guards, playground supervisors, coaches, librarians, nurses, office workers and volunteers.
Bully education is a process and a “one size fits all” program is not effective in making sustained positive change in school culture. All participants in the process need to be involved in changing destructive behaviors by replacing them with more positive and healthier behaviors and responses. The goal is to build and sustain a culture of respect and empathy that includes consistent classroom management and discipline policies.
Effective bully education and prevention is not any particular “program”, but rather, a series of proven policies and procedures. It takes the strategies that your school may already have in place and uses them to create a positive school climate that nurtures relationships that are beneficial to all participants.
Creating a positive school climate and nurturing relationships that are beneficial to all participants is the foundation of effective bully education. Building nurturing relationships among students, teachers and staff is crucial to the success of the bullying prevention process.
Developing practices that build trust, empathy and compassion are vital when creating a positive school culture. Empowering students to take responsibility for being kind and respectful in their peer interactions can help to create a more inclusive school environment. Designing consistent and positive practices for classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias and clubs will help to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Using a consistent process to restore student relationships after conflicts helps to reduce bullying as well. Developing a school wide code of ethics that will build caring connections and a more inclusive environment where all participants understand and follow the same set of practices.
Teaching social skills (SEL) helps students to learn to operate effectively in their peer groups. Social skills like conflict resolution and problem-solving help to reduce the friction that often leads to bullying behavior.
To create a positive school climate every adult needs to promote and model attitudes like caring, empathy, inclusiveness and mutual respect. Bullying prevention practices are only as effective as the people who deliver them.
In order to grow strong student staff relationships, adults must connect with students to create an atmosphere of trust that will enable students to be forthcoming when they experience or witness bullying behaviors at school. Creating a safe and welcoming environment promotes inclusion and acceptance. When adults model these types of behavior, they are reinforcing behavior expectations in students.
Adults must take reports of bullying seriously and consistently monitor inappropriate behavior. This will help students to also take bullying seriously and helps them feel supported in their efforts to behave appropriately.
There are no-cost practices that your school can put into action to incorporate positive, nurturing teacher-student and staff-student relationships in your school. For example, Adopt-a-Student programs pair students who are bullying others or being bullied with a specific adult staff member. The adult supports the child by reinforcing positive social skills, monitoring aggressive behavior, sending notes of encouragement and taking time to talk one on one with the student.
Peer to peer relationships are also vital to the success of an intervention program. Students should have a more inclusive experience at school. Lunch time, recess and after school are often the places where bullying happens most often.
Here are a few ideas that will help students connect in a positive way. Lunch Bunch groups are formed around commonalities and students share their challenges and develop productive solutions, set goals and solve problems. “Family” meals are a way for students to practice prosocial skills in a safe and caring environment. Lunchtime clubs involve randomly assigned seating in the cafeteria that encourages students to cross socialize with other students that they may have never gotten to know otherwise. Group games at recess encourage students to get involved in different groups to meet students with similar interests.
After-school clubs are a great way to encourage students to connect with new people. Common-interest clubs create opportunities for students gain a sense of belonging. Students can make new friends and bond over a common cause or interest. Student greeters, welcome wagons, cross age tutors/ learning buddies and peer helpers are also ways to help encourage positive peer to peer relationships.
Research reveals that bullying is less likely to occur in schools that emphasis school norms of empathy and kindness. Schools that empower students to be kind instead of cruel create a safer and more positive school climate.
Clubs are an effective way to encourage students to work together to stop bullying. No bullying clubs compassion circle clubs and problem-solving clubs are examples of how schools can use clubs to create positive change.
The most effective ways to prevent bullying involve the entire school community. Teaching and promoting pro-social behaviors and positive relationships create positive a school climate where bullying is less likely to occur.
If you would like more information about creating a bully free school, send us an email and we’ll contact you so we can get started on creating a positive school experience at your school.