As you already know, bullying is an academic issue.

It’s also a legal issue. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have anti-bullying legislation in place, but because there’s no federal law, laws and policies vary greatly (View your state’s anti-bullying laws and policies).

Does your school have policies to deal with bullying? If so, are they working?

School anti-bullying efforts make a difference

If your school doesn’t have a policy, or you think it could be improved, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a page of bullying prevention resources for educators and school administrators. Top research on bullying suggests that changing the school climate can go a long way in reducing the impact of bullying.

According to Dan Olweus, who studied the effect of school-based actions on bullying, schools most effectively decreased bullying when they did the following:

  • Created a school environment characterized by warmth, positive regard, and involvement with adults. Schools worked with families to create similar environments at home.
  • Established firm limits against unacceptable behavior.
  • Applied non-physical, non-hostile negative consequences for students for breaking rules.
  • Expected all adults to take responsibility for maintaining a safe and supportive school climate.

Drafting a school policy

Knowing that a warm and positive school environment prevents bullying is one thing. Writing and implementing policies that will help schools reach those goals is another. There are numerous guides for school leaders who want to write or improve anti-bullying policies, but according to the NASP, policies need to:

  • Build relationships among staff, parents, and students. Students need to know that adults will support them if they are bullied. Parents need to know what the school is doing to prevent bulling, and also be responsible for how they can help at home.
  • Show bullies and non-bullies clear consequences of non-acceptable behavior.
  • Empower witnesses or bystanders to take action when they see bullying behavior. Assure the bystanders they are supported by their peers and adults in the school.

One of the toughest aspects of detecting and preventing bullying is that adults often don’t know when or where bullying is happening. Empowering students is key. Educators have a much better chance of helping by creating an environment where students know the adults will listen and take their concerns seriously. When students have the confidence and skills to report bullying, a school has a much stronger chance of reducing bullying and creating a safe and effective learning environment.