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Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention
There are several best practices that have been found through research to be most effective at reducing bullying in schools. As part of the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant (BPEG) program, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) completed a literature review to determine the five core components of the grant program. These five core components are the big buckets of best practices schools can consider when preventing bullying:
Positive School Climate
Definition: Approaches and strategies to prevent bullying that are supported by research, matched to need, and culturally responsive.
Importance: A positive school climate is foundational to effective bullying prevention. Research demonstrates a strong correlation between low levels of bullying and a positive school climate.
Definition: The experience of students, families, and staff within a school that is marked by feelings of safety, trusting relationships, and a sense of belonging for all.
Importance: Using evidence-based practices to prevent bullying provides districts and schools with the approaches that research suggests are more likely to reduce its prevalence.
Data-Based Decision Making
Definition: A continuous improvement process used by the BIT to collect, analyze, and evaluate information to inform decision making at the system and student level.
Importance: Data-based decision making ensures evidence guides effective and efficient decision making at the system and student levels.
Family, School, and Community Partnerships
Definition: Families, schools, and communities actively partner to develop, implement, and evaluate effective and equitable practices to reduce bullying for students.
Importance: Family, school, and community partnerships (FSCP) are shown to reduce the likelihood of bullying and improve the buy-in of all stakeholders.
Definition: A district Board of Education Policy on bullying prevention and the bullying prevention handbook policy of a school.
Importance: Research demonstrates that district bullying prevention policy can reduce specific types of bullying. School handbook policy provides clear guidance to students, families, and staff on all aspects of the school's bullying prevention efforts.
You can find more information about the five core components of the BPEG program, including a rubric of key activities for each component, in the BPEG Practice Profiles.
Bullying Prevention Curriculum
Since the BPEG program began in 2016, grantees have used several different bullying prevention curricula. The CDE does not endorse or recommend any specific curriculum. Rather, each school and district is encouraged to review all of their options and determine what works best given their community. Below are the evidence-based curricula most commonly used by BPEG program grantees.
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) was developed by Dr. Dan Olweus, a leading international bullying expert. The OBPP was designed for elementary through high school students and includes program components that address four distinct levels: school-level (e.g., assess bullying using the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire, create school rules targeting bullying behaviors), classroom-level (e.g., enforcement of school anti-bullying rules, meetings with parents), individual-level (e.g., individual interventions for students involved in bullying), and community-level (e.g., share bullying practices with community members).
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a framework in which staff and other key stakeholders (e.g., parents, students) work to develop consistent expectations and guidelines for appropriate behaviors for students in all areas of the school. By teaching and reinforcing these specific behaviors and peer interactions, staff work to increase positive and prosocial interactions while providing less social attention for negative or less appropriate behaviors. PBIS also requires that staff are provided with training and opportunities to best learn how to effectively respond to negative behaviors, such as bullying.
Within PBIS, there is a specific curriculum called Bullying Prevention in PBIS (BP-PBIS). This is a whole-school bullying prevention program that is designed to be incorporated as part of a school’s comprehensive PBIS plan. The program seeks to teach students to differentiate between respectful and disrespectful behavior. By doing this, bullying behaviors are given less social attention while positive peer interaction is rewarded. The curriculum includes lessons that teach students how to respond to disrespectful behaviors (e.g., “Stop/Walk/Talk”). Subsequent lessons promote the use of these skills with other types of behaviors (e.g., gossip, inappropriate remarks, cyberbullying). The BP-PBIS program guide also addresses staff skill acquisition, such as learning to reward stop/walk/talk behavior and how to respond to student reports of bullying. A secondary curriculum, Expect Respect, is also available and focuses on bullying prevention specifically.
Second Step - Bullying Prevention Unit
The Second Step – Bullying Prevention Unit (SS-BPU) program is a supplemental program to the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning (SS-SEL) program. These programs are evidence-based and the bullying prevention program is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten through 5th grade students. The SS-SEL program is evidence-based for preventing bullying for elementary through middle school. The program includes video stories co-written by children’s book author Trudy Ludwig and materials for families to reinforce the lessons taught in the classroom. Typically, there is one lesson per week in the SS-SEL program and lessons take between 20 to 50 minutes depending on grade level.
No matter how many best practices you use, if you’re not implementing them effectively, you won’t reduce bullying. This is where implementation science comes in. Implementation science helps schools and districts bridge the gap between research and the real world. In short, it tells you how to use best practices.
The BPEG program uses supports provided by the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) to help schools and districts engage in implementation science. To learn more about implementation science, you can visit NIRN’s website or the Active Implementation Hub.
If you are a state or federal agency, school district, CSI, or SSRC and have bullying prevention and education best practices you would like for us to review and potentially add to our website, please contact Dr. Adam Collins.