What Makes Effective and Ineffective Anti-bullying Programs?

With research reviewing anti-bullying programs showing vague results, parents and schools must continue to work together to address expanding concerns regarding school-based bullying. By comparing effective and ineffective programs’ characteristics, anti-bullying advocates can make the first move in subduing a very old problem booming in U.S. schools.

What Makes an Ineffective Anti-bullying Program?

School systems designating harassment and persistent teasing as “usual” childhood behavior create an environment where negative peer relationships prosper. Ineffective programs give room for varied interpretations in terms of “girls just being girls” and “boys just being boys.”
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Among the most harmful ambiguities in present anti-bullying practice burdens the victim with the responsibility of advocating for their needs and defending themselves against bullies. By making victims stand up to their bullies, educators, and even parents, are indirectly showing that the victims’ own social deficiencies are the root of bullying. Furthermore, this kind of focus can actually put victims in a dangerous position.
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Ineffective anti-bullying programs are only focused on individual incidents of bullying. To address the causes of bullying, schools need to start a school culture of acceptance and tolerance. Add to that, most bullying incidents will happen right under the nose of school staff. Quite scary, but because it is impossible to “be everywhere” and “see everything,” options for intervening in all bullying situations are limited.

Educators have to be firm and consistent when implementing anti-bullying policies. Unless the whole institution is united against bullying, students will always seek acceptable places where they can harm other students physically and emotionally.

What Makes an Effective Anti-bullying Program?

Effective anti-bullying programs are geared for the entire school environment and not merely specific peer interactions. Such programs not just teach students appropriate communication and positive social leadership techniques, but go to the extent of redesigning school hallways and classrooms in a way that promotes a sense of community and acceptance. Many programs are specifically designed for school climates ripe for bullying and negative behavioral influences.

An effective program makes use of supports and strategies at all fronts – from students and classrooms to anti-bullying teams of which educators and students are members. Some of the best school-based bully prevention programs use a systemic approach, focusing on all level components, from community to individual to classroom to school. In supportive anti-bully programs, perpetrators are isolated. They have zero tolerance for harassment and bullying and pinpoint clear consequences for students who will commit such offenses.

One of the most crucial, and often ignored, pieces of the anti-bullying puzzle centers on school and domestic partnerships. To eliminate bullying, parents and educators should be firm on negative peer interactions, and there should be more communication that includes parents in school’s initiatives against bullying events.