Academic journal article School Community Journal

Consultation in Bullying Prevention: An Elementary School Case Study

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Consultation in Bullying Prevention: An Elementary School Case Study

Article excerpt


Bullying among children is not a harmless rite of passage. Effective programs are desperately needed to prevent bullying and assist youth in coping with its impact, particularly in the school setting. In the current manuscript, we first provide an overview of bullying and bullying prevention in schools, while emphasizing the importance of individualizing prevention programs to meet school communities' unique needs. Next, we explain the potential role for professional consultants in helping schools strengthen and personalize their antibullying efforts and, finally, describe a pilot consultation with one public elementary school.

Background on Bullying

Bullying refers to an abusive pattern of repeated aggression within a social relationship in which there is a clear imbalance of power (Olweus, 1991). Roughly 30% of youth are involved in bullying on a frequent basis (Nansel et al., 2001). Bullying emerges as early as preschool and becomes an increasingly chronic experience for many children throughout childhood (Monks, Smith, & Sweetenham, 2003; Perry, Hodges, & Egan, 2001). Research links bullying to a wide range of correlates, including social, emotional, behavioral, medical, and academic difficulties (Gini & Pozzoli, 2009; Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Kumpulainen, 2008; Nakomoto & Schwartz, 2010). Bullying is also associated with long-term consequences in adulthood; bullying behavior is linked to later criminality (Sourander et al., 2007), and peer victimization is connected to poor health, lowered wealth, and problematic relationships (Wolke, Copeland, Angold, & Costello, 2013).

When examining bullying and its effects, it is critical to consider the larger school context. Bullying is most likely to occur at school (Olweus, 1993) and frequently takes place in locations that are difficult to monitor (e.g., playgrounds, cafeterias, hallways, restrooms), as well as in classrooms (Whitney & Smith, 1993). Bullying that takes place off school grounds (including cyberbullying) can also impact students' functioning at school (Tokunaga, 2010). Moreover, students who simply witness school bullying (without direct involvement) are also at heightened risk for mental health difficulties (Rivers, Poteat, Noret, & Ashurst, 2009). Furthermore, the ways in which student bystanders respond to bullying is related to the frequency of bullying in their classrooms (Salmivalli, Voeten, & Poskiparta, 2011).

In particular, it is important to consider the links between bullying and the school community, defined as the composition of individuals (e.g., students, parents, staff, faculty, administrators), groups, and agencies associated with the school and its welfare. A sense of school community arises from the relationships among members and their shared values and goals (Redding, 1991). High-community schools are characterized by respectful and supportive relationships among community members, and these schools tend to emphasize prosocial and civic values, such as fairness, concern for others, and personal accountability (Schaps, 2009). In addition, high-community schools are likely to foster positive school climates, which typically place high value on learning, school spirit, opportunity for student autonomy, and quality relationships among school community members (Emmons, Comer, & Haynes, 1996).

In terms of bullying and school community, students who are bullied tend to have more problematic relations with peers and report more negative attitudes toward their schoolmates (Perry, Kusel, & Perry, 1988; Salmivalli & Isaacs, 2005). Bullying is also linked to less supportive student-teacher relationships, in which students feel less empowered and less encouraged by teachers (Nation, Vieno, Perkins, & Santinello, 2008). Compared to their non-bullied peers, bullied students also report feeling less safe at school (Varjas, Henrich, & Meyers, 2009) and a more negative school climate (Swearer, Turner, Givens, & Pollack, 2008), along with lower levels of school commitment and attachment (Cunningham, 2007). …

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