Guide to Bullying Prevention

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School Spotlight: North Brookfield

North Brookfield Middle–High School has as part of its hazing policy the complete text of G.L. c. 269, §§ 17-19.


Delve Deeper

Researchers have looked at hazing and how to stop it. For more information, visit

By the Numbers

  • 48% of high school students report having been subjected to hazing, according to the Alfred University study available at

Things to Think About

  • Help meet students’ need for initiation rites in healthy ways. Offer ceremonies, mentoring programs, and other ways to welcome young people into a new school, onto a team, or into a group or activity.

  • Be sure to have adult supervision at all group activities.

  • Help educate young people about what hazing is and why it is wrong: Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right.

  • Include hazing in your discussions of bullying and in any written student agreements.

  • Ask faculty supervisors of all activities to discuss hazing with their groups and to be on the lookout for hazing behaviors.


  • What traditions do we have at our school to mark rites of passage?

  • What positive traditions could we start?

Chapter 2: Bullying Prevention Practice

“Research indicates that creating a supportive school climate is the most important step in preventing harassment. A school can have policies and procedures, but these alone will not prevent harassment.”

—a statement endorsed by the National School Boards Association73
Keys to Bullying Prevention

Research shows the best bullying prevention efforts are comprehensive in nature and address changing the culture of a school. Schools where bullying is less likely to happen and, when it does, more likely to be reported and corrected, are schools that promote caring, compassion, and a sense of responsibility among students and adults.

Changing a school’s culture is systemic in nature. Rather than trying to “fix” individual students, best practices in bullying prevention span the school community, involve all adults and students in the building, and reach beyond the school setting into the wider community. While individual interventions with targets, bystanders, and bullies are still necessary, this chapter focuses on prevention. (See Chapter 4 for more information about intervening in bullying.)

This chapter’s aim is to give administrators the tools and habits they need to change the culture of their school through:

  • Ingredients for Success: including frameworks for what works both school-wide and at the individual level.

  • Tools at the Ready: including tools and strategies to infuse into your practice.

Through reflection on your community and your needs, you can customize prevention efforts and then refine your practice as you learn from your efforts. By using a process that relies on reflection and dialogue, you will facilitate the individual commitments necessary to create and sustain progress on the difficult path to change.

Just as we might use a whisk to combine eggs, butter, and flour to make a cake, the tools presented here are to be used with the ingredients for success to create the school and classroom you and your staff envision.

Some schools may prefer to use an established bullying prevention program; there are many from which to choose. Whether or not you intend to employ an established bullying prevention program, these ingredients and tools will help you successfully implement any program and make it your own. Included in this chapter are examples of successful bullying prevention programs and suggestions for choosing a program. No single recipe for success exists, but the suggestions here will help you create a dynamic and ever-evolving community.

This chapter further looks at how bullying prevention efforts relate to character education and offers advice to tie together all your prevention efforts to optimize resources and effectiveness.

Tip: Start Early!

Coordinate your bullying prevention efforts across all schools in your district, beginning with the youngest students. As mentioned earlier, research shows that when a child reaches age 8, aggressive tendencies may already be firmly in place. The earlier you begin bullying prevention efforts the better.

Ingredients for School-wide Success

Essentials for Principals: Creating Emotional and Physical Security in Schools, a study from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (2002), co-authored by the Educational Research Service, outlines some of the ingredients common to successful anti-bullying and violence prevention programs. While many of the “ingredients” apply to all prevention efforts and good teaching, it is the combination of ingredients that helps lead to successful programming.

Ingredients for Success Examples

Activities fostering school norms against violence, aggression, and bullying

  • Developing clear policies and procedures addressing bullying and harassment

  • Using consistent, fair, and non-punitive consequences for violations of policies

  • Reaching agreement on group policies with students (both classroom and school-wide)

  • Posting school-wide rules in prominent places and places where bullying is identified as most common.

  • Using a suggestion box or other anonymous instrument for reporting incidents

  • Positively reinforcing pro-social behavior (prominently posting photos or testimonials of positive stories)

Comprehensive Approach (family, peer, media, and community)

  • Developing student public service announcements (PSAs) for local cable access that discourage bullying

  • Encouraging participation of local politicians in school events

  • Discussing how widely to spread bullying prevention efforts (e.g., at sporting events)

  • Placing articles in news media promoting prevention efforts

  • Developing community/school partnerships such as in-school DARE officers or community policing models

  • Partnering with parents to identify solutions; providing training and information to families about how to help targets and how to help bullies

  • Including parents, family members, and community members on task forces

  • Holding a whole community kick-off and follow-up events

  • Sharing information about the problem and solutions that are working with key personnel in your community

  • Giving concrete examples to community members about how they can help develop protective factors in children

  • Aligning other prevention efforts with your bullying prevention plans (See “Integrating Prevention Efforts” on page 35 for more information)

Physical and Administrative Changes to promote positive school climate.

  • Having school personnel meet buses every day

  • Changing the layout of your schoolyard to increase supervision by adults

  • Increasing lunch room supervision

  • Improving how halls are monitored or staggering class times to reduce congestion

  • Improving lighting in dark areas of the school

  • Hiring or designating an administrator to head up the bullying prevention efforts

  • Clarifying discipline code related to bullying/harassment

  • Creating positive school-wide rituals and rites of passage

  • Focusing on community building across students and staff

A minimum of 10–20 classroom sessions during first year; and 5–10 booster sessions in 2 succeeding years

  • Using an established research-based bullying prevention curriculum

  • Aligning bullying prevention curricula to school standards

  • Infusing skill lesson topics into standard subject areas such as literature, government, and history

  • Sustaining efforts beginning in early grades and throughout adolescence

Skills Training based on sound theoretical underpinnings such as Social Learning Theory

  • Training of teachers, families, and all school personnel

  • Sustaining technical support of faculty, staff, and families through coaching, peer mentoring, and other intensive and ongoing relationships

  • Training students in anger management, conflict resolution, perspective taking, active listening, “I”-messages, hate crimes, prejudice, racism, sexual harassment, and the role of bystanders

Interactive Pro-social Teaching

  • Employing group work, cooperative learning, discussions, and role plays for modeling of pro-social skills

Developmentally Tailored

  • Being sensitive to risks and opportunities of adolescence

Culturally Sensitive Material

  • Having sensitivity to different cultures and needs of families when planning events and home/school partnerships

  • Using curricula that look at issues of institutionalized oppression and “isms,” and that encourages appreciation of differences

  • Employing inclusive classroom practice (e.g., giving a voice to all students; using pedagogy that appeals to different cultures, learning styles, and intelligences)

  • Training teachers to adapt curricula to their population
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