Bullying Prevention: Checklist for Principals

By Donald Weise Communicator August 2014, Volume 37, Issue 12 Educators know bullying programs are important—but how do we know if all the necessary concepts are in place? According to the literature on bullying, there are 16 key steps principals should take to strengthen bullying prevention programs. They are:

By Donald Weise
August 2014, Volume 37, Issue 12

Educators know bullying programs are important—but how do we know if all the necessary concepts are in place?

According to the literature on bullying, there are 16 key steps principals should take to strengthen bullying prevention programs. They are:

  • 1. Understand and distribute district policy on bullying.
  • 2. Prepare and distribute school rules and procedures for dealing with bullying.
  • 3. Institute awareness training for students, staff, and parents.
  • 4. Form a coordinating committee.
  • 5. Obtain school data on bullying.
  • 6. Establish a schoolwide positive culture development plan.
  • 7. Train staff on prevention and intervention.
  • 8. Identify problem sites for bullying.
  • 9. Establish adequate adult supervision.
  • 10. Define a bullying complaint process and response.
  • 11. Develop a parent information and involvement plan.
  • 12. Identify curriculum content for classroom support.
  • 13. Identify methods for bringing new students and staff up to speed.
  • 14. Plan specific help for victims.
  • 15. Plan specific help for bullies.
  • 16. Conduct ongoing evaluation of the program.

Each of these elements is important in its own right. Review this list and affirm your school program’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are more details about each concept.

1. District Policy. This provides the underpinnings for your school’s decisions. Everyone in your building should be familiar with the policy.

2. School Rules. Your handbooks for students, staff, and parents should clarify building procedures in audience-appropriate language. An unclear code of conduct can lend itself to confusion and misunderstanding.

3. Awareness Training. Student, staff, and parent trainings on bullying awareness can open the door to the topic. At this training, provide definitions of bullying terms, a clear vision of your school’s policies, and rationale for your efforts. A book like The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander (From Pre-school to High School-How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence) by Barbara Coloroso (Collins Living, 2008), can provide insight for personnel and parents, and answers to tough questions.

4. Coordinating Committee. Comprised of administrators, faculty, staff, counselors, students, and parents, this committee steers your school’s bullying strategy, offering input and collecting feedback from constituents. It gives your stakeholders a tangible vehicle for voicing their views and an opportunity to work together for a common good.

5. School Data. Conduct surveys of students, staff, and parents to get a clear sense of where your school stands with bullying. Pay close attention to feedback from students who have been harassed or bullied, along with observations from playground aides, faculty, bus drivers, and parents of victims or bullies. Such information can provide a much clearer idea of where your bullying prevention efforts should be focused.

6. Schoolwide Positive Culture. A positive, caring school culture is at the heart of bullying prevention. Some approaches to establish a positive culture include peer help training, cyberbullying resources, posters, yearly schoolwide focus on particular issues, or commercially developed programs like Steps to Respect-A Bully Prevention Program (3-6) by the Committee for Children.

7. Staff Prevention and Intervention Training. Principals need to provide specific, helpful direction to employees on bullying prevention. Staff needs to understand how bullying is defined, your school’s rules, the district’s policy, and what to do if they encounter bullying. One helpful instructional tool is the DVD collection by Dr. Kenneth Shore, The ABC’s of Bullying Prevention, (National Professional Resources, Inc., 2011).

8. Identifying Bullying Sites. Bullying can take place anywhere, but your surveys conducted with students, staff, and parents will provide very specific information about areas that may be problematic in your school. Likewise, student, staff and faculty verbal or written complaints of bullying can identify areas of concern.

9. Adult Monitoring. Playground aides, lunchroom supervisors, faculty, and bus drivers typically have close connections with students. Make sure to provide them with clear procedures for observing, reporting, and coping with bullying. Making some spots safer—such as restrooms, locker rooms, and bus stops—may take more creative thinking. Try calling on parents, counselors, or other administrators to monitor problem areas, or monitor known bullies’ behavior.

10. Bullying Complaint Process and Response. Define a procedure for staff to follow when dealing with bullying complaints. Have specific forms to facilitate the process. A Bullying Complaint Form makes it easy for staff to bring documented issues to administrators’ attention, and for administrators to document response to an incident. Have a clear, easy-to-record Disciplinary and Remedial Action checklist, as well.

11. Parent Information and Involvement. Parents can, and should, be very involved in bullying prevention. Share information about your bullying prevention efforts in your newsletters, websites, and handbooks. Clarify what parents can do to help meet your goals. The 34-page booklet, Bullying is Not a Fact of Life by Dan Olweus (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is just one of many resources that principals can recommend to parents.

12. Classroom Reinforcement. Focus on the ways to support your faculty in bullying prevention. Books like The Bully in the Book and in the Classroom by C.J. Bott (Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004) and others can give faculty support as they cope with problems related to bullying. Teachers can use commercial whole-class activity programs to establish a caring classroom culture.

13. Bringing New Students and Staff up to Speed. Make sure the newest members of your building are given up-to-date information on bullying prevention.

14. Specific Helps for Victims. Knowing in advance how to help victims is very important. Books like How Can I Deal With Bullying? by Sally Hewitt (Black Rabbit Books, 2009), or Bullied (What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear) by Carrie Goldman (Harper-Collins, 2012), are two helpful resources. Your counselor or social worker can also be an invaluable help.

15. Specific Help for Bullies. Bullies have very often been victims themselves. Your counselor or social worker should become well-informed about dealing with how to help bullies change their behavior. Bullying-Changing the Course of Your Child’s Life (For Parents on Either Side of the Bullying Fence) by William Voors (Hazelden, 2000 is one resource that can help.

16. Evaluation. Use student, staff, and parent surveys to evaluate your program. Review the logs of administrative action regarding bullying and ancillary issues such as truancy and fighting, too.

Some schools may develop these components in a different order—but how efforts begin isn’t as critical as the end product. Every educator hopes to foster an environment that is as bully-proof as possible. The more that these elements are put in place, the greater the likelihood that students will be safe.

Don Weise, who was a principal for 23 years, is the author of Bullying Prevention for Principals, which explores in detail how to implement these strategies.

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