Group of teenager students with young teacher at classroom, sitting talking and sharing conversation together

Adopt a multi-tiered approach.

Provide universal prevention programs and activities, selective interventions for students who are at risk of bullying involvement, and targeted interventions for students who are bullied and students who bully. While discipline may be warranted in some cases of bullying, additional supportive interventions should be considered for both the target and student who bullies.

Dedicate class time to fostering social and emotional skills and competencies, and communication skills and strategies for responding to bullying.

Teach bystander skills and strategies, as well as the skills of self-management, self-awareness, interpersonal awareness, relationship building, decision-making and problem-solving.

Ensure effective classroom management.

Well-managed classrooms are perceived by students as being safer and more supportive. These classrooms also have lower rates of bullying compared to classrooms that are not well managed.

Clearly define positive expectations for student behavior and reinforce prosocial expectations across contexts.

It is important that students are taught and rewarded for prosocial behavior as well as for complying with schoolwide behavioral expectations that support academic learning.

Provide effective supervision, especially in bullying “hot spots,” like hallways and playgrounds.

Define what effective supervision looks like and ensure adequate adult monitoring and responsiveness to issues that emerge.

Adopt clear anti-bullying policies and responsive procedures for addressing suspected bullying incidents.

This includes establishing systems for increased supervision and safety, and following up when bullying problems occur or are suspected.

Collect data on bullying via anonymous student surveys to inform schoolwide efforts.

Because bullying can be difficult to detect, and students may be reluctant to report bullying to adults, disciplinary referrals may not accurately reflect the bullying that is occurring in a school. It is important that students are surveyed periodically and that students have opportunities to make anonymous reports about bullying they have witnessed or experienced in the school.

Train all school staff on bullying prevention and intervention, as well as trends in bullying.

Involving all school staff in prevention activities is critical.

Involve parents and the broader community in bullying prevention.

Provide training for parents on how to talk with their children and the school about bullying and how to support bullying prevention efforts.

Community awareness and information campaigns should ensure that other youth-serving agencies understand the importance of responding to bullying and have opportunities to align their strategies with the school’s bullying prevention efforts.

Integrate prevention efforts so there is a seamless system of support.

Instead of adopting a different program to combat each new problem that emerges, schools should develop a consistent and long-term prevention plan that addresses multiple student concerns through a set of well-integrated programs and services.

Strategies Kids Find Most Helpful in Response to Bullying

Children who witness or experience bullying often may not know how to respond. They may have received mixed messages about bullying from adults or they may be worried about how their response will affect their relationship with other students. Often adults will suggest that children use a predictable strategy or set of strategies when faced with bullying like, “ignore it, walk away or tell the person to stop.”

To determine the effectiveness of these common strategies, Nixon and Davis asked over 12,000 students, including over 1,600 students who experienced bullying, what strategies they have used in bullying situations and which of those strategies were most or least effective in making the situation better.

student holding a sign with red palm print and text stop bullying against a green chalkboard background

Strategies identified by bullied children as MOST helpful:

  • Told an adult at home.
  • Told a friend.
  • Made a joke about it.
  • Told an adult at school.
  • Reminded myself that it was not my fault.

Strategies identified by bullied children as LEAST helpful:

  • Hit or fight back.
  • Plan to get back at them.
  • Tell the person to stop.
  • Ignore it.
  • Tell them how I felt.

These results suggest that strategies that involve accessing support from others are much more helpful to students who experience bullying than other common strategies. In addition, most bullied children do not benefit from being told to ignore the bullying or make assertive statements. This research underscores the importance of training adults and bystanders to respond effectively to students’ reports of bullying.

When Bullying Crosses the Line

The majority of bullying behaviors are most appropriately responded to by supervising adults. In some instances, however, peer aggression may cross the line into illegal activities. When a crime is committed, students who are targeted may be eligible for support from the local victim services agency. If civil liability is suspected, parents should contact an attorney.

Public schools should be aware of their responsibilities to address certain forms of bullying under federal and state civil rights laws. Specifically, when bullying targets a child’s protected class, schools are obligated to provide a remedy and prevent the bullying from reoccurring. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or other characteristic. When schools fail to respond effectively, parents may file a complaint with their state’s Human Relations Commission and/or the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Examples of potential crimes and civil laws that may be implicated in bullying situations:

Potential crimes

  • Assault.
  • Harassment.
  • Harassment by Communication.
  • Possession or Distribution of Child Pornography.
  • Sexual Assault.
  • Stalking.

Civil issues

  • Civil Redress (victims of ethnic intimidation.)
  • Defamation.
  • Discrimination.
  • Harassment or Sexual Harassment.
  • Libel.
  • Slander.

Bullying based on race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Discrimination based on disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.