A Framework for School-Wide Bullying Prevention and Safety

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Editor's Note: This handout is fully formatted for distribution and available for downloading on the NASP website. Click on Communiqué Online.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) is committed to supporting accessible, high-quality education that prepares our children for college, work, and citizenship. Creating safe and supportive schools that are free from bullying, discrimination, harassment, aggression, violence, and abuse is essential to this mission. Bullying among school-age youth is a particularly serious, insidious, and pervasive problem that undermines the teaching and learning environment, increases mental health and behavior problems, diminishes school connectedness, and violates the right of students to receive equal educational opportunities in a safe environment. In response, schools have an ethical and legal responsibility to prevent bullying of any kind, ideally as part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring school safety and promoting positive behavior.

NASP developed this document to provide a guiding framework to local education agencies and school administrators for implementing effective, sustainable school-wide bullying prevention and safety efforts. Specifically, effective school-wide approaches to bullying:

* establish clear practices and policies that emphasize prevention;

* regularly assess and monitor needs and effectiveness of efforts;

* implement timely and consistent prevention and intervention strategies;

* provide social, emotional, and mental health supports for students involved in bullying, including bullies, victims, and bystanders;

* encourage positive discipline; and

* elicit engagement and commitment by all members of the school community.

NASP represents more than 24,000 school psychologists who work with students, educators, and families to improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health. The guidance provided in this document supplements the information provided in NASP's position statement, Bullying Prevention and Intervention in Schools (NASP, 2012; http://www .nasponline.org/about_nasp/position_paper).

BACKGROUND

Bullying is unwanted, repetitive, and aggressive behavior marked by an imbalance of power. It can take on multiple forms, including physical (e.g., hitting), verbal (e.g., name calling or making threats), relational (e.g., spreading rumors), and electronic (e.g., texting, social networking).

Estimates of the prevalence of bullying in the United States vary significantly depending on methodology, setting, or age groups studied, revealing the absence of consensus. Nevertheless, research on bullying and victimization generally suggests that approximately 70% to 80% of school-age students have been involved in bullying at some point during their school years, whether as bully, victim, or bystander (e.g., Graham, 2011; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Rúan, Simons-Morton, & Scheldt, 2001).

Effects of bullying on students. Involvement in bullying creates barriers to learning and is associated with a host of negative outcomes including increased risk of substance abuse, delinquency, suicide, truancy, mental health problems, physical injury, and decreased academic performance. Students involved as both bullies and victims (i.e., bully-victims) are often the most troubled or negatively impacted. Importantly, even those witnessing bullying in school are at an increased risk to experience adverse mental health problems as a result, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse (Rivers, Poteat, Noret, & Ashurst, 2009), and an increased sense of vulnerability (Glover, Gough, Johnson, & Cartwright, 2000).

Contributing factors. Bullying occurs as part of a broad social and environmental context that includes individual, family, community, and school factors (Swearer, Espelage, Koenig, Berry, Collins, & Lembeck, 2012). Successful bullying prevention efforts in schools should consider this range of factors, including the facilitation of active involvement from families and the community. …