Written by Julie Pinero
How to Prevent Bullying in Schools
Bullying is an epidemic that has made its way into schools throughout the country. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or psychological abuse committed by perpetrators who intend to cause harm.
The adverse effects bullying has on school performance, mental health, and substance abuse are concerning. Teachers should understand the need to intervene and prevent bullying in their classrooms and schools.
There are several ways teachers can provide a safe classroom for their students. Teachers can educate themselves on how to create a bully-free culture. Administrators can provide training, allow teachers to attend workshops and seminars, and implement programs in their schools. Online research is readily available with videos, films, and lesson plans to prevent bullying in schools for all ages and demographics.
Rules and policies for bullying should be clear, and all staff should be on board with enforcing them. Schools can create an anti-bullying culture with a collaborative effort from teachers, administrators, and parents.
Professional Development and Anti-bullying Resources
Bullying is a challenging and controversial topic; fortunately, there are resources to help. The first step for teachers is to understand how to deal with and prevent bullying from happening in their classrooms. Training on understanding the dynamics of bullying, what policies are in place at their schools, and knowing how to implement and follow the rules is a good starting point.
Most teacher certifications, like Praxis, CBEST, TExES, and more, ensure subject matter preparedness, but don't necessarily support teachers in evaluating their knowledge of bullying prevention strategies. Luckily, online resources are readily available. Several educational sites offer anti-bullying seminars, workshops, and downloads for lesson plans and activities. Teachers can speak with administrators about attending bullying seminars and workshops.
Anti-Bullying Published Resources
Teachers are in a unique position to prevent bullying. It is a big responsibility, and teachers can depend on published and online sources to help learn ways to prevent bullying.
- The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School—How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle - By Barbara Coloroso
- Girl Wars: 12 Strategies that Will End Female Bullying - By Cheryl Dellesega and Charisse Nixon
- It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living - By Dan Savage and Terry Miller
- Please Stop Laughing at Me - by Jodi Blanco
Some online resources on preventing bullying:
- Bullying Resource Center - an excellent resource of bullying topics, up-to-date information, videos, and book suggestions.
- The International Journal of Bullying Prevention
- Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research's article: The Effectiveness of Policy Interventions for School Bullying: A Systematic Review
- The Anti Defamation League provides professional development for teachers that covers anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying
- The NEA offers two different kinds of professional training for teachers to learn about bullying, blended learning, courses through local and state associations, and NEA micro-credentials that support building anti-bullying schools.
Off-Campus Seminars and Workshops
Educators should strive to keep up with new research and learn innovative ways to improve classroom conditions. Attending professional workshops and seminars on anti-bullying can give teachers the professional development credits needed to fulfill their state's requirements.
There are numerous seminars and workshops available for teachers on preventing bullying.
The Olweus Program is a two-day training that provides research about bullying behaviors and the effect it has on students. The program stresses the importance of intervention and ways to deal with bullying giving teachers the knowledge to create a bully-free school environment.
A World of Difference Institute is another program that offers innovative training to help with bullying and cyberbullying. They offer half or full-day professional development workshops that provide information on how to develop skills to respond to bullying and how to change the climate of their classrooms and schools.
Speakers and Staff Training
An excellent option for teachers and administrators is to have speakers come to their schools and speak with them and their students about the issues of bullying and ideas on how to prevent it from happening. There are quite a few motivational speakers that give talks on bullying, but it's critical to hire someone that has the best credentials and can relate to student demographics. Some speakers even offer free videos and webinars on how to facilitate training on how to deal with bullying.
Fabian Ramirez is a top anti-bullying speaker who experienced the effects of bullying as a child and knows the psychological impact it can have on students. Ramirez speaks to students about ways to prevent and stop bullying in schools throughout the country. He also speaks to educators on strategies they can use to prevent bullying.
Tom Thelen is another top school assembly speaker. Thelen focuses on bully prevention and mental health. He created NoBullyingSchools.com, an evidence-based bullying prevention organization with video lessons on bullying, social skills, mental health, and resiliency.
Teachers have the opportunity and obligation to prevent bullying in their classrooms. Studies have shown that teachers who speak up and stand against bullying can stop it from happening again by 50 percent. Once trained to recognize and respond to bullying effectively, students will trust their teachers to deal with bullying incidents effectively.
A classroom that fosters a sense of caring will result in students that will feel connected to each other and will be more likely to speak up about being bullied or witnessing bullying behavior.
With administrators' approval, teachers can implement programs that address bullying in the classroom. There is a lot of information that has been effective and reduced incidences of bullying. Evidence-based programs are available online for all grade levels and demographics.
Anti-Bullying Written and Digital resources
Classroom activities and other resources on bullying can be found online. There is a variety of research that teachers can easily access. Listed below are sites of anti-bullying organizations that provide films, videos, lesson plans, and games to use with students.
- Bully Bust Provides personal stories and videos on bullying and cyberbullying.
- Learning for Justice classroom resources
- The Southern Poverty Law Center has resources and a film kit for the film Bullied: A Student, A School, and a Case That Made History.
- The Bully Project has tools for teachers and students with a focus on students eligible for special education services.
- National Education Association resources for teachers to help address and prevent bullying, including lesson plans, activities, games, quizzes, and books.
- National Association of School Psychologists have resources for teachers on how to recognize and prevent bullying in schools also has LGBT resources
- The American Federation of Teachers provides training to combat bullying.
Anti Bullying Activities
There are lots of ways for teachers to help students learn about bullying. Schools can incorporate bullying prevention in lesson plans as well as fun activities.
Some ideas teachers can use to teach about bullying are listed below.
- Students can read books or watch movies and analyze bully behaviors to help the awareness of its prevalence.
- Students can make posters that illustrate the National Bullying Prevention Campaign - Stop Bullying Now.
- Teachers can talk with students about what it means to be a good friend.
- Download coloring books and activity books that incorporate what it means to respect others.
- Students can organize a school-wide event to support anti-bullying, such as wearing a specific clothing color or other ideas they come up with as a group.
- Have students use their research skills by looking up types of bullying and ways to prevent it.
- Have students write scenarios on bullying and then act them out.
- Have students write short stories and poems about topics that surround bullying.
- Have students draw pictures or make collages that display the effects of bullying.
- Public speaking lessons - students can practice their speaking skills while talking about the importance of bullying.
- Students can create a comic strip that shows how they view and respond to bullying, or try to prevent it from happening.
Talking to Students About Bullying
Teachers can, and should, speak to their students about bullying. By supporting school rules consistently and setting clear expectations, students know they can count on their teachers for support. Teachers that create a safe environment in their classrooms make it easier for students to bring forward and discuss their problems.
Avoid punishing or embarrassing students for rule violations; instead, give one-on-one feedback. Dealing with existing behaviors as they occur prevents future bullying. Speaking with the aggressor to understand the motivation of the behavior is the first step in changing bullying behavior. Support the student who feels targeted, and let them know that the situation is serious and that the bullying is not their fault. Get extra support from parents or school administrators when needed.
Teachers can recognize students who might be at more risk of being bullied. It is essential to be aware of the bully spots - the bathrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, and wherever recess occurs. Being visible in these areas helps avoid any opportunistic bully from targeting students.
Teachers can help facilitate friendships or give students tasks to do during lunch or recess so they don't feel isolated and become targets for bullying.
Creating a Culture of Anti-Bullying
There are many ways to create an anti-bullying climate in the classroom. When teachers are kind and empathic, they teach their students to behave the same way. Being a role model for this behavior is the first step and the best way to prevent bullying. By creating a caring environment, students are more likely to talk about bullying, making it less likely to occur.
Some other examples of creating a culture of anti-bully are:
- Having clear expectations and rules.
- Support and enforce the school rules.
- Lead by example - follow the rules and treat others with kindness and respect.
- Reward students when they are thoughtful and respectful to others.
- Do not reprimand students in front of others - give individual feedback.
- Let students know there are consequences for bad behavior.
- Have scheduled class meetings and allow students to discuss any issues without being judged or afraid.
- Create the same anti-bullying culture with adults and teachers in the school.
- Let students know that the classroom is a positive learning environment.
Communicate with Parents
Communication is the key to successful bully-free schools. Teachers need to communicate with parents and administrators about bullying. Teachers can keep communication open through PTA/PTO meetings, newsletters, and parent conferences. Invite parents to participate in bullying prevention programs to help them understand the importance of supporting school rules.
Engage parents in your bullying prevention strategies. Sharing classroom expectations with parents is more likely to get them on board with your ultimate goal of providing a safe and stress-free learning environment.
Make it comfortable for parents to report any bullying issues with their children and let them know that you will investigate any problems right away. When discussing a specific bullying incident, it is important to always include parents from both sides of bullying - the bully and the student being bullied.
Make parents aware that there are a lot of resources and advice on bullying, and that you will be happy to help them access any information that would be beneficial.
Leading by Example
Teachers are very influential in helping students create healthy relationships. Leading by example is the best way to teach your students how to interact with others on a daily basis. Teaching students to be empathetic and kind towards others is the best tool to prevent bullying. By treating students with kindness and respect, teachers are modeling behavior that students will likely emulate. Creating this kind of classroom makes students better equipped to learn academically, socially, and emotionally.
Set clear expectations, and students will be aware of what is unacceptable and create an environment conducive to learning without distractions. When teachers do this consistently, it becomes a daily habit, and students know what kind of classroom climate to expect.
Teachers who lead with confidence show their students that they make mistakes just like everyone else and learn from them and move on. Students see this and understand that it's okay to make mistakes, accept responsibility, and learn from them. Having the courage and the confidence to know mistakes will be made and that no one is perfect empowers students to face conflict without blame and the courage to talk about uncomfortable situations.
Bullying can happen in the workplace too. Teachers should be aware of any colleagues that other teachers or administrators bully. Students will pick up on this behavior and watch how their teachers react. Teachers want to show students how to advocate for themselves and turn negative situations around.
Schools have to implement anti-bullying initiatives for students, teachers, and parents to work together to stop bullying. There are several different programs that teachers can ask their administrators to use.
- The Anti-Defamation League's "No Place For Hate" is a self-directed program for schools that aims at creating an equitable and inclusive school environment. It calls for a collaboration of the community to understand bias and work through its harmful effects.
- "Don't Laugh at Me" - Operation Respect is an initiative that uses music, video, and activities for elementary and middle schools to prevent bullying and harassment. The program addresses intolerance of personal differences and helps develop understanding and compassion for those who are different.
- Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) - The Department of Justice and Education recognizes this program as having a positive effect on preventing bullying in schools for all grade levels. OBPP also helps find funding for schools to implement the program.
- "The Bully Free Program" is another anti-bullying program used for all grade levels. It calls for community involvement.
- "Bullying: Ignorance is No Defense" uses suggestions by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to help students resolve problems and educate them about bullying and hate crimes.
Communicate with Administrators and Support Staff
Bullying is often referred to as the silent epidemic, so teachers need to keep the communication ongoing with administrators, counselors, and students. School administrators and teachers need to stay abreast of the social climate in their schools and be in tune with their students.
Administrators need to prioritize anti-bullying training for their teachers and staff. Responding to bullying incidents together and being on the same page when enforcing school rules and policies will prevent future bullying incidents. Administrators should make themselves available to teachers and students and spend time speaking about bullying.
Teachers understand the adverse effects bullying has on the academic, emotional, social, and overall well-being of students and believe it is part of their job to intervene and prevent bullying incidents. They can collaborate with administrators, counselors, and parents to develop and implement programs and school policies to ensure an anti-bullying culture.