What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Bullying in Schools

Prevent Bullying in Schools

What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Bullying in Schools?

Bullying can look like experienced athletes systematically intimidating novice players off of the court, kids repeatedly labeling immigrant classmates for their cultural difference, or a middle school girl suddenly being insulted and isolated by her group of friends – all while following a strict bullying policy.

Bullying is an issue that affects all students and teachers. It happens everywhere, even in the best performing schools. It is hurtful to everyone, including the bully and the target. October is National Bullies Prevention month, so we should ask ourselves what are the best practices for bullying prevention in schools? We did a review of research on effective bullying prevention programs.

Most anti-bullying programs focus on raising awareness and administering consequences. However, programs that rely on punishment have not been shown to effectively prevent bullying. Punishment programs also disproportionately target students of color, because they are already at greater risk for suspension and expulsion. Peer mediation programs, which place responsibility on the child to resolve conflict, may actually encourage bullies to continue their behavior. Bystander interventions, even among adults, have not been shown to work for everyone. Extroverts, empathic people, and those with high social status and moral engagement are more likely to intervene successfully. Educators tend to select programs based not on evidence, but on what their colleagues use, and many programs lack rigorous evaluation.

We found that two approaches showed the most promise for reducing aggression and conflict among students. These were a positive school climate, including strong relationships among staff members and students, and social and emotional skills.

Building a positive school climate

School climate is defined as the “feeling” students get when they enter a classroom. A positive school climate fosters healthy development, while a poor school climate is associated with high rates of bullying, aggression, victimisation, and feeling unsafe. School climate is measured using surveys, interviews, observation, and focus groups.

A positive school climate includes norms about feelings and relationships. These norms are built through social interactions. A positive school climate also includes norms about power and how it is exercised. Positive school climates promote healthy development and reduce the likelihood of problems like bullying, substance abuse, and suicide.

Leadership plays an important role in creating a positive climate. Bullying is not normal behavior, and it should never be tolerated. Leaders must recognize that bullying can cause long term damage to its victims. They also must understand that bullying does not just happen once, but happens repeatedly throughout a child’s life. If children are bullied at school, they will likely be bullied again later in life. When adults see bullying, they should intervene immediately. They should help the victim feel safe and supported. They should also encourage the bully to stop. Adults should also teach children about healthy relationships and how to treat others well.

Teachers are often not prepared to deal with bullying in schools. Students consistently report that teachers fail to address bullying and other forms of harassment. Many teachers report feeling unprepared to handle classroom bullying. Some teachers even bully students themselves, or demonstrate a lack of empathy towards children who are bullied. Bullying is also a problem in many classrooms. Teachers report receiving little guidance in “teacher management” and often default to the disciplinary strategies taught at home.

School climate reform must involve all stakeholders—student and parent groups, as well as school administration and staff. A school’s specific needs can be identified through an assessment, and changes made accordingly. Periodic assessments can help track the progress of improvement efforts.

Advancing social and emotional learning

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an approach to education that focuses on developing positive character traits in children and adolescents. Research shows that SEL programs can help kids become happier, healthier, and more successful. SEL programs teach kids to manage emotions effectively, to solve problems constructively, and to understand others’ perspectives. These programs also teach kids about healthy relationships and how to resolve conflict.

Studies show that teachers who are more emotionally supportive of students tend to see lower levels of aggression and increased self-control among those students. Students whose parents participate in parenting classes also have improved self-control. Studies have shown that children who experience high levels of parental warmth and affection have an easier time controlling their impulses and emotions. Children who are exposed to high levels of parental stress are more likely to become victims of bullying and engage in antisocial behaviors. When parents are stressed, they may turn to alcohol or drugs, which can lead to violent outbursts toward their children. These negative outcomes can be prevented if parents receive help managing their own stress.

Prevent Bullying in Schools

SEL helps teachers become more effective educators. Research shows that those with emotional and social skills have higher job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout. They also show more positive emotions toward students and are more likely to use strategies that foster creativity, choice, and student agency. However, many teachers lack the skills to regulate their own emotions and those of others. Teacher training programs should include opportunities to practice using SEL skills.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here