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Effectiveness of anti-bullying programs

March 21, 2010

I was attending a conference this week and had the opportunity to share a brief “informercial” about SocialSmarts, what we do, what my professional mission is. The presentation was for a mixed audience from different industries, with different objectives. As it turned out, one individual there was a former school district Superintendent. When I shared some of the statisitics about bullying in schools with the group, and talked about how in spite of the millions of dollars we spend on anti-bullying programs in this country our kids still have a 1-in-4 chance of being the victims of some form of school-based violence before they reach high school, most people in the audience were outraged.

The advice to me by the group was to hit the message of bulllying prevention through social skills education even harder than we had been, that this is a vital area to address in schools.

The surprising comment came from the former Superintendent. I don’t know if he just wasn’t paying attention earlier when I talked about bullying and its epidemic nature, but his comment was:

“Well, perhaps you don’t realize that every school in America is mandated to have some form of anti-bullying program in place, whether third party or home-grown. I don’t see this area as being very viable for you.”

Uh, yeah. Thank you. I DO realize that schools MUST have a program in place, and many do. But, what does it say if, in spite of that mandate and supposedly having those programs in place, we still have 25% or more (it’s over 33% if your kids are ages 12-18) involved in bullying and violence incidents at school?

Tells me something isn’t working. It’s not just enough to put something in place and say, “see, we’re doing all we’re supposed to do.” If it’s not working — which it clearly isn’t — should we be looking for something that IS?

You just can’t put discrete, disconnected policies and programs in place without relating them to everything else the students are doing and enforcing them continuously and expect anything to change substantively. We haven’t made enough of a dent in the problem and it’s our responsbility and obligation to keep working at it until we do. It’s just not acceptable that a quarter of the kids we know are going to be subjected to some sort of harassment, bullying or other anti-social behavior. Why there isn’t a greater uproar is beyond me, but I’m thinking people just don’t KNOW.

I’m glad Mr. former Superintendent feels comfortable knowing that his schools in his former district have their programs in place. Would love to know how that’s working for them… perhaps they had better luck with their efforts than another Superintendent I recently spoke with. Her comment:

“Anti-bullying programs. We’ve given up on them. They don’t work.”

Seems to be the case.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 5:27 pm

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the great work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. Mary permalink
    June 3, 2010 9:12 pm

    My 13 year old girl has been bullied for the last 4 years. The school does absolutely NOTHING for her. The school social worker most recently told her that she needs to “let it go”. The teachers are all apparently blind – they see nothing that goes on. Her self-esteem and self-confidence are shot. I’m getting the house ready to sell… I can only hope that things will be better wherever we go. I don’t know what else to do.

  3. November 14, 2010 1:33 pm

    Great post!
    I clearly remember to this day just how much bullying affected me at school.
    From the number of times i faked being sick so i could stay home to the many times i would spend my lunch break hiding in the washroom just to get five minutes rest from the onslaught. It is a massive deal to a child being bullied, but what is a 9 yr old boy to do to stop bullies messing with their life? I didn’t have the skills to sort it out for myself back then and i also knew first hand that the teachers in my school didn’t take it seriously at all.
    I ended up being more angry/frustrated at the teachers for avoiding the issue because to me the bullying was so obvious, done right in front of them,they saw it happening to me and turned a blind eye to it. That’s what i saw on a daily basis.
    At 9 yrs old and very shy I had no idea why i was being bullied and no idea of how to resolve it and I went through a long period at school very much on my own.
    Sadly many teachers are not given the time to help children understand the importance of speaking up or they simply don’t believe that it is happening in their school.
    I’m now a 46 yr old grown man and ironically i am now a private music teacher!
    I’ve also created my own anti bully program to help children realize that there is something they can do together to help stop bullying behavior in school.
    Thank you for this blog, i hope many people read it and get onto their schools to take bullying seriously and listen to the kids and i mean seriously listen to the smallest of things because for a child to speak up on this issue is a cry for help and ignoring it will only make it worse for the child who more than likely spent weeks finding the strength to actually say something in the first place.


  4. lisa permalink
    December 6, 2010 6:20 am

    My daughter is 15 and my son is 18. They both attend a “good” public school. However our school is made up of student whose parents have more money then common sense and once the kids go to school they are gone. These kids bully,degrade and just destroy any student that is not “like” them.(Money wise that is) The student that bully in our school are the football players, cheerleader,and other athletes. In other words they are “UNTOUCHABLE” The teachers are told to NOT discipline them because they are “role models” well my daughter has been bullied now for 3 months. Her grades have dropped and we are now starting counseling. Something has to change and soon. Oh and we have the bullying campaign in our school. IT IS NOT WORKING. Any suggestions?

    • Corinne Gregory permalink*
      December 6, 2010 9:25 am

      What you are experiencing is one of the problems of schools’ “anti-bullying” efforts. Because schools must have some sort of anti-bullying program or policy in place to satisfy States’ requirements, they put something in place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something works! There’s no incentive, really, to do more because they can check the box that they are in legal compliance with mandates.

      Now, what you also see is a problem with an entrenched culture of the school. And, you can’t change a culture with an anti-bullying campaign. This is why we advocate for pro-social skills education because it deals with all degrees of positive and negative social behavior, and teaches students (and adults, too!) why we don’t treat one another with disrepect, incivility or lack of consideration. As a result, bullying disappears…but so do a lot of other discipline and behavior issues. Also, because what we do is designed to work with and support parents, we have the effect of being able to work beyond the schools so that parents become part of the solution. While there are certainly parents who abdicate their parental responsibilities — we all those types exist — it’s my belief that most parents do really want the best for their kids, but either lack information or practical advice for how to help them develop positive social skills.

      I hope this has answered at least some of your questions — if not, write back and I’ll be happy to share more. Thanks for your comment; I hope you find our blog of value to you!

  5. December 11, 2010 7:11 pm

    I read the responses and it hurts me to know, that bullying is as old as humanity…and nothing is changing. I was bullied as a kid, but I was lucky to have had an older sister. It helped, but lots of kids don’t have an older sibling to deffend them, and they should not have too. This was happening in communist Poland 20 years ago. Same thing is happening in Australia and the US, and other counties I suspect.
    I think that most people were bullied at one time of their life, whether at school or later at work place. I am sure, that in time the bullying culture will vanish, but it is a long while yet. It will happen just because humanity is wanting it to change, so parents, teachers, schools with clear leaderships of governments, will be working toward achieving this goal.
    Till then, it will be too late for many kids and people. So for the moment, I believe, kids who bully, and parents of bullying kids, should be held accountable for their actions. Schools should have legal policies in place to remedy the bullies. If attempts to remedy fail, the kids should be expelled from schools, with a permanent record of it. Kids who are bullies and treat schools as their bullying playing playground, do not deserve to have the privilege of school education. Simple.
    Further, kids and adults, who are involved and proved to be the cause of consequential suicide, should be legally trialled for negligence and or murder.
    I know, that this may sound drastic to some, but there is no excuse, when a child or a person is bullied to the point, that they take their own life, because they see no way out.
    Nobody deserves that. Every life is so very precious and sacred.
    The ones who do not honor it, and destroy it, forgo their own right to live and their own freedom.
    So, please speak out, if your child is being bullied. Go to school and speak to them, till they get sick of you…and go back to tell them again and again. Keep demanding for the school to take action. Wait for the parents or go to see them at their home, and demand for them to take action.
    If all fails,do go to the police to lodge a formal complaint against the nasty kid and the parents, charge them! If it’s a group of them, charge them all. Your child will know, that you care and you are in charge.
    I will be writing to the government and to the educational department, to start on working and implementing programs and strong anti-bullying laws and policies. Please, do that as well…the more voices are heard, the sooner it will vanish.


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