October is National Bullying Prevention Month, which offers an important time to assess how our schools are engaging in preventionefforts and responding when bullying and related problems occur.
In last year’s blog about this topic, I provided information about the definition, prevalence, and impact of the problem. I also offered some suggestions for how individuals can stop bullying. In this blog, I am broadening the topic to address how schools can create a positive climate where there is no place for bullying.
Here are some highlights:
- Assess bullying and school climate. Find out more about how often bullying is happening, what it looks like, and who is impacted. Assess how students and staff perceive the character and quality of school life (i.e., school climate) and use these findings to inform efforts.
- Lead by example. School climate begins with school administrators and the adults in a school building. Set the tone for appropriate and respectful behavior and train all staff to prevent and intervene with bullying.
- Implement evidence-based prevention programming. What is your school doing to teach and reinforce positive behaviors that are incompatible with bullying? Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (pbis.org) and social emotional learning approaches (www.casel.org) are both system-wide efforts that schools can use to teach these important skills. Focus on all students (including bystanders!), not just those directly involved as the perpetrator or target of bullying.
- Consistently enforce the school-wide anti-bullying policy. It is essential that students, staff, and families be aware of the expectations for behavior and the process followed if students are involved in bullying. Include a continuum of consequences that focus on teaching better ways to behave when bullying occurs, as well as supporting the target of bullying.
Dr. Amanda Nickerson is a professor of school psychology and director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. She is a licensed psychologist, a nationally certified school psychologist, and a speaker for Safe and Sound Schools.