In recent years, increasing numbers of educators, health professionals, family members and other adults who interact with children and youth have begun to realize the seriousness of bullying. A number of proven and promising prevention and intervention strategies have been developed. Unfortunately, a number of misdirected prevention and intervention strategies have also emerged.
A number of schools have adopted “zero tolerance” or “three strikes and you’re out” policies toward bullying, in which students who bully others are suspended or expelled from school. These policies (also called “student exclusion policies”) raise the following concerns:
Conflict resolution and peer mediation are common strategies to deal with conflicts among students. Many schools also use peer mediation and conflict resolution to address bullying problems, but this is not recommended, because:
Another strategy that some schools use to address bullying behavior involves group therapeutic treatment for students who bully others, including anger management, skill-building, empathy-building or other strategies to build the self-esteem of students who engage in bullying. Although well intentioned, these strategies are often counter-productive. Students’ behavior may further deteriorate, as group members tend to serve as role models who reinforce one another’s anti-social and bullying behaviors.
Often, school administrators and their staff adopt a short-term, piece-meal approach to bullying prevention. Although professional development is an important component of a bullying prevention program, a staff in-service training alone will do little to prevent bullying. Although a school-wide assembly, PTA meeting or lessons taught by individual teachers may represent important initial steps in the adoption of a comprehensive bullying prevention strategy, they will have a negligible impact on the problem if implemented in a piecemeal way. The change in the climate of the school that is required to reduce the prevalence of bullying requires a comprehensive school-wide commitment and approach.
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Adapted from Take a Stand, Lend a Hand, Stop Bullying Now, a project of the Health, Resources, and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reprinted with permission.