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Section 9
Effective Bullying Interventions and Implications for
School Programs

Question 9 | Test | Table of Contents

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
formal program evaluation data is available for the Bullying Project.

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
that students seemed to be more willing to report bullying behavior. Administrators in charge of student discipline also reported a 20 percent reduction of bullying incidents during the first year of the program (Beale)

Additional Intervention Strategies
Behavioral contracts and social skills training may be helpful for some bullies (Morrison & Sandowicz). Also, bullies must be aware of school policies on bullying and should be held accountable if a rule is broken. Because bullying is often committed by a group of children against a single victim, each child in the bullying group may need a chance to speak, seek support, and receive help to change his or her behavior. Bullies often need long-term counseling services (Roberts & Counol). Interventions for victims arc less common. Many victims cope by trying their best to be invisible. School psychologists and social workers should seek out children who may be victims of bullying. This is extremely important because most victims will not come forth and ask for help. For most victims, being bullied is shameful and frightening. Victims typically want to hide and do not want to discuss this issue. For some victims, coming to talk about being bullied may cause embarrassment. Social workers and psychologists, therefore, need to be gentle and sensitive with victims, normalize the experience, and make sure the session is not humiliating for the child. The school psychologist or social worker should work to break the victim's isolation. If the victim can make and maintain one friendship with a peer, the painful consequences of bullying would markedly decrease and long-term loss of self-esteem may be avoided. Psychologists or social workers might also try pairing the victim with an older, supportive peer in a big brother or buddy program to break the victim's sense of isolation and loneliness. This may also provide some protection and possibly some social status for the victim. Outreach is a critical component because of the nature of bullying. It is not exaggerating to say that the school psychologist's or social worker's efforts to be a friendship broker at this critical time may have a significant impact on this vulnerable child's life that reaches well into adulthood. Generally, interventions for victims should focus on supporting the victim, providing counseling, and building friendships between the victim and supportive peers.

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:
• Reach out to victims.
• Set and enforce clear rules and consequences for bullying behaviors.
• Supervise students during breaks, especially on playgrounds, in restrooms, and in busy hallways.
• Engage classes in discussion and activities related to bullying so that students who might otherwise watch passively become empowered to intervene and victims are allowed to have a voice without shame.
• Encourage active participation by parents and other adults, making this a community issue that is addressed by community action.

- 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

Personal Reflection Exercise #8
The preceding section contained information about effective bullying interventions and implications for school programs. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
“Can a school-wide bullying prevention program improve the plight of victims? Evidence for risk × intervention effects”: Correction to Juvonen et al. (2016) (2016). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(6), 483. 

Espelage, D. L. (2016). Leveraging school-based research to inform bullying prevention and policy. American Psychologist, 71(8), 768–775. 

Fung, A. L. C., Tsang, E. Y. H., Zhou, G., Low, A. Y. T., Ho, M. Y., & Lam, B. Y. H. (2019). Relationship between peer victimization and reactive–proactive aggression in school children. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 350–358.

Menolascino, N., & Jenkins, L. N. (2018). Predicting bystander intervention among middle school students. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(2), 305–313.

Merrell, K. W., Gueldner, B. A., Ross, S. W., & Isava, D. M. (2008). How effective are school bullying intervention programs? A meta-analysis of intervention research. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(1), 26–42.

Midgett, A., Doumas, D. M., Myers, V. H., Moody, S., & Doud, A. (2021). Technology-based bullying intervention for rural schools: Perspectives on needs, challenges, and design. Journal of Rural Mental Health, 45(1), 14–30.

According to Smokowski, what is more effective in preventing bullying than focusing on the behavior to be eliminated? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 10
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