To What Extent Are You Using Effective or Promising Practices?

School-based programs can reduce bullying, if they use strategies which have been found to be effective. Approaches and elements of bullying programs found to be effective include:

  1. Fostering a safe and supportive environment. For students and adults to feel secure enough to help bullies and victims, a safe and supportive environment is needed (Bullying Prevention Institute, 2008), Indicators of a safe and supportive environment include a feeling of physical and psychological safety and a perception that teachers treat students fairly and can be trusted. Strategies to promote a safe and supportive environment include modeling caring and respectful behavior, teaching about empathy and compassion, teaching anger coping and social cognitive skills, posting classroom rules that sanction bullying, and responding immediately and appropriately to incidents of bullying (Olweus, 1993; Bullying Prevention Institue, 2008). When responding to incidents of bullying, the use of firm but respectful disciplinary methods that diffuse the bully’s position of power is more effective than approaches that punish, dismiss, or ignore (Limber, 2004). 
  2. Tailoring your program. When selecting an approach, issues related to age, gender, and the cultural and social-ecological context of the school should be considered (Leff et al., 2010; Espelage & Swearer, 2011). For example, strategies for preschoolers and kindergarteners may rely more on concrete and visual methods and focus on basic concepts, whereas strategies for older children may encourage more reflection and may focus on patterns of thinking, perceiving, and responding to social information (Leff et al., 2010). 
  3. Multi-tiered prevention approaches. In addition to implementing programs that reach all students (e.g. a universal approach to prevention), specific interventions for bullies, bully-victims, and victims are needed (Bradshaw & Waasdrop, 2011; Swearer et al., 2011). Failing to intervene when witnessing an incident of bullying increases the likelihood that future incidents will occur (Coloroso, 2003), therefore interventions that target bystanders are also needed.
  4. Sufficient duration and intensity. According to a review of school-based bullying prevention programs conducted by Farrington and Ttofi (2009), programs delivered to children for at least 270 days or a total of 20 hours or more are  more effective than shorter-duration programs; and programs delivered to teachers for at least 4 day-long meetings or a total of 20 hours or more are more effective than shorter duration programs. However, the amount of intervention required is likely to depend on the nature of the program being implemented.
  5. Sufficient breadth and reach. Programs are more likely to change school climate if they employ a whole-school approach that infuses anti-bullying messages throughout the school; and these messages can be reinforced by involving community members and implanting community-based strategies (Olweus, 1993). For these messages to be properly reinforced, programs must effectively train (and get buy-in from) teachers, admnistrators, and school counselors, as they play an essential role in program implementation (Domitrovich et al., 2008). In particular, programs implementing parent trainings or parent-teacher meetings to sensitize parents about the issue of school bullying tend to be effective (Farrington & Ttofi, 2009). These programs can help parents help their children by teaching them how to provide their children with emotional support and talk about ways to cope with bullying (Bradshaw & Waasdrop, 2011).

Surveys / Assessments


Sources Cited

Bradshaw, C.P., & Waasdorp, T.E. (2011, March). Effective strategies in combating bullying. Paper presented at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, Washington, DC.

Bullying Prevention Institute (2008). Building a safe classroom environment and other best practices for bullying prevention. Center City, MN: Hazelden Foundation. Retrieved on 8/23/11

Coloroso, B. (2003). The bully, the bullied and the bystander: Breaking the cycle of violence. New York: Harper Resource

Domitrovich, C. E., Bradshaw, C. P., Poduska, J. M., Hoagwood, K., Buckley, J. A. Olin, S., Romanelli, L. H., Leaf, P. J., Greenberg, M. T., & Ialongo, N. S. (2008). Maximizing the implementation quality of evidence-based preventive interventions in schools:  A conceptual framework. Advances in School Based Mental Health Promotion, 1, 6–28.

Espelage, D.L. & Swearer, S.M. (2011). Bullying in North American schools (2nd edition) New York: Routledge.

Farrington, D. & Ttofi, M.M. (2009). School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2009:6.

Leff, S. S., Waasdorp, T. E., & Crick, N. R. (2010). A review of existing relational aggression programs: Strengths, limitations, and future directions.  School Psychology Review, 39, 508-535. 

Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Swearer, S. M., Collins, A., Haye-Radliff, K., & Wang, C. (2011). Internalizing problems in students involved in bullying and victimization: Implications for intervention. In D. Espelage & s. Swearer (Eds.), Bullying in North American Schools, 2nd edition.  New York: Routledge.