Best Practices in Bullying Prevention

While school-based programs are known to reduce behaviors that contribute to bullying, at times bullying prevention programs fail to reach parents or other critical partners in bullying prevention. For students and families who are impacted by bullying, this disconnect can be particularly problematic.

This toolkit and its subsequent companion guides are intended to provide additional information, research and resources to aid in the prevention of bullying behaviors and other peer abuse. It is informed by more than twenty-five years of bullying prevention research and practice, including Preventing Bullying Through Science Policy and Practice,1 a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, released by an interdisciplinary committee of experts, identified the following research-based “best practices” for school-based bullying prevention and intervention:

Adopt a multi-tiered approach by providing 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.2 This includes teaching bystander skills and strategies, as well as the skills of self-management, self-awareness, interpersonal awareness, relationship skill and decision-making/problem-solving.

Ensure effective classroom management. Students perceive well-managed classrooms as being safer and more supportive. Those classrooms also have lower rates of bullying compared to classrooms that are not well-managed.3

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 the hallways and playgrounds.2,4,5 This involves defining what effective supervision looks like and ensuring adequate adult monitoring and responsiveness to issues that emerge.

Adopt clear anti-bullying policies and responsive procedures for addressing suspected bullying incidents.4 This includes establishing systems for increased supervision and safety and following-up when bullying problem 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.2 It is critical to involve all school staff in prevention activities.6

Involve parents and the broader community in bullying prevention by providing training for parents on how to talk with their children and the school about bullying and how to support bullying prevention efforts.7,8 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.4

Integrate prevention efforts so that there is a seamless system of support.9 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.