A Community Responsibility
Bullying is such a long-established behavior in our society and schools that it has often been ignored as "a normal part of growing up." However, research has shown that there are severe long-term consequences for both the targets and the bullies. Further, severe reactions to bullying have been cited as one of the causes of the extremely violent incidents on school campuses that have received so much media attention in recent years.
Fortunately, well-documented research has been done which provides techniques for preventing bullying, responding to incidents of bullying, and dealing with its long term consequences. The key elements of a bullying prevention program are:
- Raising awareness of bullying through actions such as surveys of prevalence and role-playing events at assemblies.
- Formation of a bullying prevention committee which represents the entire school community and which is responsible for choosing and implementing a prevention program.
- Defining bullying and making it clear to all staff and students that it is unacceptable.
- Adapt and implement bullying prevention policies.
- Training all members of the school community in the appropriate responses to observed incidents of bullying.
- Providing counseling for persistent bullies, targets, and their parents/guardians.
- Regular review of effectiveness of the anti-bullying program.
There are a number of resources available which contain detailed information about comprehensive bullying prevention programs. These research-based programs describe the elements above, and also contain:
- Broadly conceived definitions of bullying, including behaviors such as social ostracism in addition to the traditionally-considered physical dominance behaviors.
- Bullying prevalence questionnaires.
- Appropriate interventions for bullying situations, and for chronic bullies and targets.