The 9 Most Unanswered Questions about Education

Anti-bullying Programs – What Works and What Doesn’t?

With research reviewing anti-bullying programs showing vague results, parents and schools must continue to work together to address expanding concerns regarding school-based bullying. By comparing effective and ineffective programs’ characteristics, anti-bullying advocates can make the first move in subduing a very old problem booming in U.S. schools.

What Makes an Ineffective Anti-bullying Program?

Schools that treat harassment and continuous teasing as “ordinary” childhood behavior create a climate in which negative peer relationships grow. Ineffective programs leave space for personal interpretation on matters of “girls being themselves” and “boys being themselves.”

Among the most harmful ambiguities in present anti-bullying practice burdens the victim with the responsibility of advocating for their needs and defending themselves against bullies. By encouraging victims to stand up to bullies, educators, and even parents, are indirectly saying that the victims’ problems are a result of their own social deficiencies. Additionally, this brand of focus may actually put victims in danger.

Ineffective anti-bullying programs focus strictly on case-to-case incidents of bullying. To go to the root of bullying, schools have to foster a school culture that is more tolerant and accepting. Add to that, majority of bullying incidents will go unnoticed by school staff. Quite scary, but because it is impossible to “be everywhere” and “see everything,” options for intervening in all bullying situations are limited.

Educators should be firm and consistent with their anti-bullying policies. The whole institution must unite against bullying, or bullies will always find areas where they can physically and emotionally harm their victims.

What Makes an Effective Anti-bullying Program?

Effective anti-bullying programs aim at the whole school environment instead of just particular peer interactions. These programs teach appropriate communication and positive social leadership styles to students, as well go to the extent of renovating school hallways and classrooms in a way that creates an atmosphere of community and acceptance. Several programs are designed specifically to work on school environments that are ripe for bullying and generally negative behavior.

An effective program utilizes strategies and supports at each level in the school — from individual classrooms and students to anti-bullying groups composed of both educators and students. Among the best school-based bully prevention programs are those that use a systemic method, zeroing in on all level components, starting from community to individual, and then classroom to school. In supportive anti-bully programs, perpetrators are isolated. They have zero tolerance for harassment and bullying and pinpoint clear consequences for students who will commit such offenses.

Among the most critical, and usually underrepresented, parts of the anti-bullying puzzle centers around domestic and school partnerships. To eliminate bullying, parents and educators should be firm on negative peer interactions, and there should be more communication that includes parents in school’s initiatives against bullying events.
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