I hear a lot of difficult stories from the teachers, school principals and parents who attend my anti-bullying workshops, but the mom who approached me after an evening information session for parents this week has lingered in my mind. She was a single mom of three boys, two in high school and one in sixth grade. Her older boys had experienced a fair amount of harassment and bullying in school, she said, but they seem to be mostly handling it. It was her youngest that worried her.
“He’s such a quiet boy. Into books and computers. I’m terrified about what will happen to him next year when he starts high school,” she confided, recalling with tears in her eyes some of the abuse her older sons had endured. “I’m especially worried about the school bus. I’ve called the school in the past and nothing has changed.
“My older boys made it through OK, but my youngest? They are going to eat him alive.”
We spoke about how she might intervene with the school and transportation company. How Bill 56, Quebec’s new anti-bullying and anti-violence legislation, might provide parents and schools with new policy tools and protocols to help deal with these stories.
This story was fresh in my mind as I spent the following day at McGill University, facilitating a full-day working session on Bill 56 policy documents with a select group of principals, directors general, administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and resource people from English schools around the province. This initiative was organized as a collaborative effort with MELS and the Office of Leadership in Community & International Initiatives (LCII, formerly CEL) and the Faculty of Education at McGill.
One of the requirements of the new legislation is that all schools put together an action plan to combat violence and bullying in their schools. And implementing prevention initiatives is to be a critical part of that action plans.
The 60-odd educational professionals brainstormed a list of some excellent prevention programs, ideas and initiatives, which I jotted down as a list. I’d like to share that list with you here, with links provided to resources wherever possible. I’ve also added a few of my own to the end. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, it offers a snapshot of some excellent programs and ideas. Please feel free to let me know of any additional programs or protocols that have worked for you – I’ll be happy to add those in as well.
Some of the entries on this list are well-known formal programs, while others are suggestions for more short-term strategies or smaller things that can be done on a daily basis. It’s my sincere hope and fervent belief that a combination of formal programs and small, every-day strategies together can help keep many more of our children from dealing with bullying on a regular basis.
- Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Developed 35 years ago in Norway, this program is now established in schools around the world, and has emerged as a research-supported gold standard in the area of bullying prevention.
- Pacific Path: This program aims to reduce violence in schools by encouraging social skills development and conflict resolution strategies in children 4-12 years old.
- Second Step: Second Step is a classroom-based social-skills program for children 4 to 14 years of age that teaches socio-emotional skills aimed at reducing impulsive and aggressive behavior while increasing social competence. The program consists of in-school curricula, parent training, and skill development.
- CommonSenseMedia.org: This site is chock full of resources for educators, parents and kids. Lesson plans on bullying include “Screen out the mean,” “The power of words,” “Cyberbullying: Be Upstanding,” “Reality of digital drama” and more.
- Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit: Students with special needs are at far greater risk for being bullied. This toolkit looks at why this is the case, and what educators, parents and students can do to prevent and/or deal with bullying issues.
- PREVNet(Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network): This umbrella network of 65 leading Canadian research scientists, more than 90 graduate students, and 52 youth-serving organizations maintains as its mission the prevention of bullying and promotion of safe, healthy relationships for Canadian youth.
- Don’t Laugh At Me (Operation Respect): DLAM is designed to inspire students, along with their teachers and other educators, to transform their classrooms and schools into “Ridicule Free Zones”. The program materials include a curriculum guide, CD, video and pre-and-post implementation questionnaires for both schools and summer camps. The school program consists of two separate curricula; one developed for grades 2-5 and the second developed for grades 6-8.
- Stand up! (Be a friend!): An initiative of www.bullying.org with a variety of activities for an Anti-Bullying Week at school.
- Finding Kind: A documentary, movement and school program aimed at encouraging kindness (and discouraging relational aggression) among girls.
- Tribes: This research-based, whole-school program builds Tribes Learning Communities in schools around the world. Lesson plans, teaching resources, posters and videos round out a program at teaching collaborative behavior and respect in children.
- Bullying.org: This association offers educational programs and resources to individuals, families, educational institutions and organizations. This includes online learning and educational resources in order to help people deal effectively and positively with the act of bullying and its long-lasting negative consequences.
- TeachingTolerance.org: This project of the Southern Poverty Law Centre includes resources on a wide variety of subjects, including bullying. There are teaching kits, lesson plans and educational resources for professional development.
- Dr. Gordon Neufeld talks about “What Makes a Bully” in this informative video, which suggests that some empathy training may actually backfire when bullies feel validated learning of the hurt they have caused.
- Character Counts!: A character education program with training and resources for educators.
- Sunburst.com: This organization offers online learning programs related to cyberbullying as part of their SimpleK12 offerings, called “Protecting Students in the 21st Century.”
- Fluppy: A program designed to teach pro-social behaviors to preschool children.
- Face It – intervention theatre production offered by Théâtre Parminou.
- Organizing workshops and awareness sessions for parents and teachers. Check out RiskWithinReason’s presentations called “Beyond Sticks and Stones: What Parents/ Teachers Need to Know About Bullying.”
- Define The Line: Excellent resources on cyberbullying for educators, parents and students.
- Connect For Respect: The U.S. National PTA has put together this prevention program to involve parents in school initiatives to prevent bullying.
- BeWebAware: This Media Awareness Network site offers resources for educators and parents on promoting cybersafety and digital citizenship.
- Develop an accessible social media policy for students and staff at your school. Check out this template here for how to get started.
- Developing an excellent Code of Conduct for students and staff, written in accessible language.
- Integrating key concepts of dignity, respect, manners and civility in existing curriculum through books, theatre, videos, classroom projects, etc. (check out the NFB’s Bully Dance animated short and accompanying Teacher’s Guide).
- Visits with pro-social messages by sports figures (such as the Alouettes).
- Organizing sessions with officers from your local police station.
- Sensitizing staff to issues related to bullying, handling bullying incidents, re-integrating students involved in bullying.
- Secret friends: An informal program concept linking compassionate student volunteers with counterparts who have been bullied, to aid social re-integration.
- Students trained as peace ambassadors for their peers.
- Public recognition of outstanding citizens in the school community (in an assembly, with certificates, etc.).
- Focusing on self-esteem and self-confidence in an ethics class.
- Hiring character education consultants as resource professionals in the school.
- Nominating a student of the week.
- And last but not least, this outstanding Resource Manual on School-Based Violence Prevention Programs from the University of Calgary assesses 29 different bullying and violence prevention programs according to their objectives and research support.