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Most Anti-bullying Programs Don’t Work! (Here’s What to Do About It!)

Picture of depressed girl leaning against a gray cement wall.

A while back we did a post on why we take a different approach to anti-bullying assemblies.

Most presentations try to “scare the kids straight”. They hammer on the harmful effects of bullying and try to create change by making everyone feel miserable.

We’ve been skeptical of this approach from day one. We believe it makes a bad situation worse.

Turns out we’re right. There’s academic research to back it up. “Preaching” at the kids and following up with severe punishments doesn’t work.

There was a peer reviewed article published on this back in October 2011. It’s cited at the end of this post. Here are a few crucial bits that I feel are relevant.

Once school teams identify bullying behavior as a problem, the most common response is to implement a standalone, anti-bullying program. Such programs commonly include holding school assemblies with speakers who highlight the harmful effects of bullying and teach students how to identify bullies, then follow up with a focus on catching such students in the act and providing increasingly severe punitive measures…

Unfortunately, these practices have shown to be generally ineffective–they may actually be as likely to exacerbate problems as solve them.

To us that’s always been obvious. It’s nice to finally have actual academic research to prove it. While everyone else is trying to make the kids cry we’re making a rubber chicken lay invisible eggs…

Everyone knows the harmful effects of bullying. Hammering on that doesn’t help.

Rather than make kids fearful of consequences, we feel it’s more powerful to inspire them.

Think about it… If you WANT to do something you’re much more motivated than if you HAVE to do something.

Bottom line… Leaders inspire. Dictators threaten. People love a leader. They fear a dictator. A leader gets the best out of people. A dictator gets the bare minimum to meet his or her demands.

Still not convinced? Ok… Let’s look at another part of the article…

Stand-alone, anti-bullying programs and curricula are often based on the premise that bullying can be reduced solely by increasing supervision, identifying perpetrators, and punishing them until they no longer bully other students. However, a program based on such an approach was shown to increase the number of students who reported being bullied by 20%.

Students who engage in bullying may obtain social prestige or desired attention from their targets, and these rewards are often immediate and outweigh later consequences. In addition, children who are labeled as bullies may draw self-confidence and self-identification from that label, which may, in turn, cause them to use such behavior more often.

Moreover, school discipline programs that rely on zero tolerance policies and increasingly severe punishment procedures for offenders have shown to increase instances of aggression.

So basically what you create is a cycle of fear and punishment. Bullies love fear. Typical anti-bullying programs actually create the types of environments that bullies thrive in.

So what’s the solution? Character education. Specifically, Positive Behavior Support is showing very positive signs of reducing bullying.

Here’s one more quote…

A promising alternative to the standalone, anti-bullying program is to include the anti-bullying program as part of a broader systems-level approach to preventing and addressing problem behavior. One such approach is Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support.

SWPBS is a proactive, systems-level approach that provides the tools and practices to help support students and staff and promote positive social and learning environments.

Randomized control trials have consistently shown significantly improved academic and behavioral outcomes for students in schools implementing SWPBS compared to control schools.

A lot of people are surprised that we updated Character All Stars less than a year after launching it. It’s now focused around Positive Behavior Intervention Support.

Why? BECAUSE PBIS WORKS…

Remember… All this is coming from peer reviewed sources. It’s significantly easier to prevent bullying from happening than it is to react to an existing problem.

It’s our goal to give you the absolute best anti-bullying and character education assemblies possible. We want to create real change.

If the academic research says we need to throw out an entire script (which is what we did with Character All Stars), so be it.

Definitely check out the full article. It’s about nine pages long, but well worth your time. The citation is below.

Works Cited

Good, Chris P., Kent McIntosh, and Carmen Gietz. “Integrating Bullying Prevention Into Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support.” Teaching Exceptional Children 44.1 (2011): 48-56. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.

 
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