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Bullying Assessment: Students Rate their School Climate
Several strategies exist for intervening in bullying. Some programs focus on intervening with either the victim or the bully; others take a systemic approach, addressing bullying behavior at multiple levels. Interventions for youth violence are also noteworthy. These interventions commonly have multiple components that address family and school contexts.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus & Limber) is a comprehensive intervention and is probably the most widely recognized program for addressing bullying. The program targets students in elementary and middle school and relies on teachers and school staff for implementation. The program prompts school personnel to create a school environment that is characterized by warmth and involvement, has firm limits on unacceptable behavior, consistently applies non-hostile consequences to violations of rules, and allows adults to act as both authority figures and role models. Initially implemented in Norway, researchers reported that the program was associated with substantial reductions, by 50 percent or more, in the frequency with which students reported being bullied and bullying others (Olweus & Limber). In addition, Olweus reported significant reductions in students' reports of general antisocial behavior and significant improvements in the social climate of the school. Program effects appeared to be cumulative, with some effects stronger at 20 months follow-up than at eight months postintervention. Program replications (Melton et al.;Olweus & Limber; Whitney, Rivers, Smith, & Sharp) also reported positive results. Although reductions in bullying were significant, decreasing 16 percent to 35 percent, these effects were smaller than those found in the original study.
The Bullying Project. The Bullying Project (Davis) is based on the Olweus research in Norway. In addition to adopting a schoolwide zero tolerance policy on bullying, students are taught how to stand up to bullies, how to get adult help, and how to reach out in friendship to students who may be involved in bullying situations. This project also includes interventions for both the bully and the victim. With the bully, counseling is suggested, with sessions that focus on acknowledging actions, empathy development, or restitution. For the victim, various forms of support are suggested—physical protection, support group participation with other victims, or individual therapy. Expressive arts therapies are recommended so that victims can write, act out, draw, or talk about their experiences. It is critical for victimized children to articulate their thoughts and feelings so that internalized negative messages can be countered with positive ones. No
Bullybusters. Bullybusters (Beale) is a bullying campaign geared to elementary and middle school students. The main focus of the campaign is the performance of the play "Bullybusters." Students act out short skits about common bullying situations in schools to begin classroom discussions. After the skits, the principal explains to the students that the school has a zero tolerance policy for bullying and asks the students to take positive steps to alleviate bullying in the school. Bullybusters has not been formally evaluated, but teachers in the schools where the program was implemented reported
Additional Intervention Strategies
Bullying prevention has linkages to youth violence prevention programming. The research literature on youth violence prevention makes clear that focusing only on the behavior to be eliminated is less effective than having a simultaneous focus on constructing a positive context that is inconsistent with bullying and coercion. Multicomponent interventions that focus on the child, his or her family, the school, and the community appear to be particularly efficacious. A number of longitudinal investigations have empirically tested multicomponent interventions (see for example. Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group; Hawkins, Catalano, Kosterman, Abbott,& Hill; Tremblay, Pagani-Kurtz, Masse, Vitaro, & Pihl). The Surgeon General's Report on Youth Violence (DHHS) is an excellent guide that classifies ineffective, promising, and model intervention programs based on empirical evidence.
In the school environment, psychologists and social workers are often in the best position to intervene at multisystem levels. School psychologists and social workers may detect bullying more easily than other school personnel because they understand the signs and symptoms of aggressive behavior and victimization that signal a bullying problem. Teachers might refer children who are involved in bullying situations to school psychologists and social workers for other reasons (for example, conduct problems, depression, and sudden drops in academic performance). School psychologists and social workers are also in a good position to help put policies into place that take a comprehensive, schoolwide approach to preventing bullying. The key ingredient in many bullying interventions is maintaining a zero tolerance policy with swift and serious consequences for engaging in bullying. This policy makes a strong statement about what the school, as a community, is willing to endure. All other strategies sit on this foundation. Overall, psychologists and social workers should target the atmosphere of the school to ensure that students feel safe. Of utmost importance is constructing a culture of respect and recognition where bullying is not only not tolerated hut is not necessary. In such a context, everyone works to ensure that there are no social payoffs for bullying and that consequences for bullying behaviors are clear, direct, and immediate. In addition, those who have previously been involved in bullying can be guided to discover alternative forms of personal power and more effective ways to obtain recognition or vent their frustrations.
The following proven strategies can help fashion a school culture that promotes respect, recognition, learning, safety, and positive experiences for all students:
- Smokowski PhD MSW, Paul R and Kelly Holland Kopasz MSW; Bulling in School: An Overview of Types, Effects, Family Characteristics, and Intervention Strategies; Children & Schools; Apr2005, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p101
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