Research shows that adult intervention is the single most effective way to stop bullying behaviour. Adult visibility within the school has also shown to be effective. Ensure that school staff members are visible in and around the school, particularly during unstructured times such as before class, breaks and over the lunch hour. Encourage students to report bullying and harassment and provide them with a clear and easy-to-access process to do this.
Advice such as “just ignore it” or “walk away” is not helpful and sends a message that adults will not help. Ensure students know that you will respond to inappropriate behaviours and that they can turn to you for help. Take each reported incident seriously and act on it.
Teach awareness and anti-bullying strategies directly. Teach students the difference between bullying and normal conflicts, and the difference between tattling and reporting bullying. When students tattle they are trying to get another student into trouble. When students report bullying behaviour they are trying to help themselves or other students to be safe.
Use anonymous surveys to find out if bullying is a problem. Key information includes:
- gender / grade level of person responding to the survey
- areas on / around the school where students feel safe / unsafe / somewhat safe
- staff responses when help is requested (helpful / somewhat helpful / not helpful)
- type and frequency of bullying behaviour
Do not use anonymous surveys to find out names of students who engage in bullying behaviour.
With student participation and involvement, establish codes of conduct that include expectations around reporting and not participating in bullying behaviour. Stress that breaking the code of silence surrounding bullying is an act of courage and strength.
To support a student who is bullied:
- Understand that a student may struggle with talking about the bullying.
- Talk to the student alone and offer support. Assure the student that bullying is not their fault and reporting bullying is always the most appropriate action. Affirm their courage in reporting the incident.
- Let the student know that you care and that you want to help. Focus on the student and listen to what they are saying.
- Get the facts. Learn what the situation is and what has happened to date.
- Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the student might react if the bullying occurs again. Encourage the student to be assertive, to look people in the eye. If appropriate, coach the student on how to confidently say that bullying is not OK to the student who is bullying.
- Consider referring the student to a school counselor, psychologist or other mental health service. Ensure that the students’ parents are contacted and that you explain what action the school is taking to support their child and ensure the bullying will stop.
- Work together to resolve the situation and protect the student. School staff, parents and the student may all have valuable input into the process. Ensure there is a plan in place to monitor the situation and follow up with the student and parents.
- Encourage the student to participate in activities they enjoy or are good at to help them build self-confidence. Involve the student in groups and situations where he or she can make reliable friends, build confidence and develop social and assertiveness skills.
- To protect the people involved in bullying incidents, take care to ensure that privacy and confidentiality are respected.