Creating and maintaining a peaceful school campus requires a multilevel strategy over time that involves everyone in the school community: students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. The first step is to identify existing resources (school staff who work effectively with families and students) to help build the foundation through a bullying prevention task force. An organized group of this nature can help identify needs, choose best possible options, garner support from school and the community and coordinate recommended action plans. The task force provides information and technical assistance to the school administration on implementing strategies, techniques, and programs that remove social-emotional impediments to learning. Students should participate in the planning, development and delivery of policies and programs to ensures activities address the most urgent issues they are facing.
The Bully Prevention Task Force should work toward developing a community-wide anti-bullying policy that should be disseminated throughout the schools and community. The policy should clearly outline its goals and establish the criteria for personnel who will be selected and trained to work toward meeting those goals. The State of New Jersey has done an excellent job of outlining their process of establishing and enacting their anti-bullying policy. The information can be found here.
The responsibilities of the bully prevention task force should include:
1. Creating a comprehensive anti-bullying policy for the school and community.
2. Needs assessment.
3. Project planning
4. Development of an evaluation framework
6. Periodic monitoring of intervention
9. Sustainability planning
10. Training of personnel
Because so much bullying behavior occurs “under the radar,” students are the most likely to have a full understanding of how much and what kind of bullying occurs in school. In the youngest grades, teachers should initiate conversations about bullying in order to glean information. Beginning in 4th or 5th grade, a simple questionnaire should be administered to all students. The results should be kept as a matter of record and used as a reference once bully prevention measures have been put into place. The same questionnaire should be administered a month or two after students have participated in the planned program. The results, when matched with the results of the first test, will be an effective determinant of the program’s success or failure. The Peace Center has developed pre and post tests that can be administered at school. We can assist in the process of needs assessment.
A questionnaire should also be administered to teachers, bus drivers, and recess and lunchroom aides regarding how frequently they notice bullying behavior on their watch, how often they intervene, and the nature of the intervention.
Students may not always speak about their trauma at school. They might feel threatened in a school environment where bullying occurs. A survey of parents regarding their children’s experience with bullying may be eye-opening and should be included in an overall assessment of school climate.
Based on the results of the needs assessment project planning can begin. Programs should occur on three levels.
- Universal programs targeting the entire school population.
- Indicated programs focusing on students with minimal involvement in bullying.
- Selected programs dealing with students who have chronic problems with bullying or victimization.
The Peace Center has found that a simple assembly once or twice a year is a woefully inadequate method for addressing this widespread problem. Programs must occur on an ongoing basis in individual classrooms on the playground, and in the community.
At present, The Peace Center offers two school-based programs. Respecting Me/Respecting You is our preventative program that focuses on building emotional awareness, empathy, compassion, and responsibility in 2nd through 5th graders, all within the context of developing respect for self and others. Independent studies have indicated that this program has a long term, positive effect on students who have participated.
Our program to combat relational aggression among middle school girls consists of a series of esteem-building activities that include lessons in power and the responsibilities that come with power, social media etiquette, sisterhood, empathy and personal growth. The program has had remarkable success in other schools. Girls have reported they had fun in the program while also gaining confidence and feeling better about themselves and their relationships to others. Once these girls successfully complete this program, they are invited to “pay-it-forward” by helping to facilitate the program with classes of girls beneath theirs.
Evaluation techniques must be put in place in order to assess whether or not each individual program is having the desired effect. Interviews with school personnel as well as students and parents can be effective. Follow-up questionnaires and precise record keeping of bullying incidents will be helpful in determining effectiveness.