A tiny minority in our community think kids who are bullied should just ‘suck it up” because it “builds character”.
That’s nonsense. It’s mid 20th century thinking. And even then it was a minority belief.
We now know that bullying can have devastating impacts. Students involved in bullying can develop behavioural and emotional problems and have trouble learning, according to many academic studies.
Parents and teachers know this, of course. They don’t need studies to tell them what they see happening to their children and students.
How can schools take a stand against bullying?Can they reduce or even eliminate bullying? Are there some preventative strategies schools can implement?
A comprehensive report from the New South Wales State Department of Education, Anti-bullying interventions in schools – what works? has some answers.
The report reviewed evaluations of anti-bullying interventions in Australia, Norway, UK, USA, Spain and Finland in primary and high schools, and concluded:
“Anti-bullying interventions can be effective at reducing bullying in schools, and can be taught in the classroom through age-appropriate activities such as:
- audio-visual material and videos
- drama and role play
- puppets and dolls (in early years)
- group work, and
- computer-based games where students can act out roles”.
The report noted evidence from research indicated “the use of video educational material for students in anti-bullying programs is significantly associated with a reduction in victimisation”.
Four criteria for successful interventions
And the report’s authors list four criteria for successful interventions:
“Evidence indicates that successful anti-bullying interventions:
- Take a holistic, whole-school approach.
- Include educational content that allows students to develop social and emotional competencies and learn appropriate ways to respond to bullying.
- Provide support and professional development to teachers and other school staff.
- Use systematic implementation and evaluation of approaches, strategies and programs.”
Let’s look a little deeper at these four criteria
- Whole-school Approach
Why is a whole school approach necessary to reduce bullying? Because bullying is less likely to occur in a caring, respectful and supportive teaching and learning community, according to the research. Everyone in the community (the school) needs to participate in the intervention for this to have a chance of being achieved.
- Social & Emotional Competencies
A large meta-analysis (Durlak et al. 2011) of school-based Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) programs found students who participated showed significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behaviour and academic performance.
Other studies* have shown SEL programs are an effective component of comprehensive anti-bullying interventions. And programs with training in emotional control have a significantly greater effect on victimisation than programs which don't.
SEL programs also have the capacity to contribute to the creation of a positive school climate.
* Lee, Kim and Kim 2015, Frey et al. 2005, Smith & Low 2013, Vreeman & Carroll 2007, CASEL 2015, pp. 5-6.
- Professional Development for Teachers
In a whole school approach training for all teachers to understand why bullying occurs and how it can be combatted is important to achieve a culture where bullying is discouraged.
And of course teachers need training to implement a school’s selected anti-bullying intervention.
- Systematic Implementation & Evaluation
This includes a system for reporting of bullying incidents. A culture of reporting will deter some students from bullying others, and enable school staff to provide support to students involved in or experiencing bullying.
A (preferably anonymous) reporting system will also allow schools to track the progress of their anti- bullying initiatives.
How to select an anti-bullying program
A suggestion for schools looking to address the scourge of bullying - as well as the NSW Government criteria, add these:
- ease of implementation
- all content, lesson plans, teacher PD, and reporting mechanisms ready to access
- allows teachers to add their professional expertise to the program content