Building Effective and Efficient Bully Prevention Systems Within the Context of Positive Behavior Support

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To date, 45 states have passed anti-bullying laws prohibiting bullying and mandating significant, immediate responses from schools and communities (Bully Police USA, 2011). The detrimental impacts of bullying on victims, bystanders, and bullies have been well documented, including academic/behavioral problems (Espelage & Swearer, 2003; Schwartz & Gorman,2003), school drop-out (Berthold & Hoover, 2000), employability issues (Carney & Merrell, 2001; National School Safety Center, 1995), and depression/suicide (Baldry & Farrington, 1998). Over the last two decades, an absolute onslaught of interventions has been developed to address these frightening outcomes, including everything from zero-tolerance policies to school-wide social skills curricula to “mean girls” groups to ambassador programs to restorative justice interventions between victims and their transgressors. Regrettably, these strategies have not proven as effective as hoped, and none have yet been proved to be evidence-based. In fact, in several cases bullying interventions have actually produced negative effects, increasing the amount of observed or reported incidents (Merrell, Gueldner, Ross, & Isava, 2008). This is especially problematic considering that many states and districts are requiring schools to implement the programs, and in many cases the resources expended to do so are substantial.

Clearly, it is not enough to simply purchase and implement the next big program. Instead, educators must approach the problem systematically, building from the universal to the individual and matching the level of support to the level of problem intensity. Specifically, three intervention components can have a powerful impact on bullying if implemented with fidelity: (a) universal strategies that promote a culture of competence, (b) specific skill development for bystanders, and (c) function-based, individualized support for students (victims as well as perpetrators) who are not responding to initial efforts.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Positive Behavior Interventions Newsletter
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Education
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

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