Bullying Awareness Guidebook: Students Staying Safe in School

In recent years, nearly 30 percent of American schoolchildren have reported being a part of bullying, either as the bully, victim or bystander, accounting for 5.7 million children throughout the nation. While those numbers are staggering enough on their own, other reports found that 64 percent of children who were bullied did not report the abuse.

Meet the Experts
Dr. Ben Michaelis

Dr. Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in Manhattan and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. He writes and speaks regularly about mental health, creativity, spirituality and motivation, and he is a popular blogger on Huffington Post and Psychology Today and a frequent guest on the Today show and Fox News. Dr. Michaelis is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. You can get the 1st chapter of his book for free at his website. You can also find him on Facebook (drbenmichaelis) and Twitter @DrBenMichaelis.

Dr. Steven C. Schlozman, M.D.

Dr. Schlozman holds many distinguished titles: he is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and also serves as the Associate Director of The Clay Center for Young Health Minds. He is the Course Director in Psychiatry and Psychopathology for the Health and Science Technology Program at Harvard Medical School and MIT. If these titles weren’t enough, he is also a Staff Psychiatrist and Consultant for the Pediatric Solid Organ Transplant Team.


Bullying is a serious subject, with short and long-term implications for both the victim and the bully. The guide below brings awareness to numerous types of bullying and who may be targeted, while also providing guidance to students, parents, educators and school professionals on how to prevent and stop this debilitating public aggression. Special attention is given to cyberbullying, an ever-growing issue for today’s generation.

Defining and Understanding Bullying

As defined by the American Psychological Association, bullying is a type of aggressive behavior that takes place when someone intentionally causes someone else discomfort on repeated occasions. Within this framework, bullying can be seen through physical, verbal or social hurt.

Physical bullying involves contact with another person or their possessions and includes hitting, kicking or pinching another person, spitting, tripping or pushing them. Other forms of physical bullying are destroying possessions or making inappropriate or mean gestures.

Verbal bullying is defined as any words used to cause pain or harm. Examples include calling someone by a rude name, making inappropriate or sexual comments, teasing or taunting, or making a threat.

Social bullying, which can also be known as relational bullying, revolves around endangering another person’s relation to their community. This type of bullying may take the form of ostracism, spreading rumors, causing public embarrassment, or telling falsities behind someone’s back.

Types of bullying reported by those who’ve been bullied:
Source: NCES, 2013
Teasing vs bullying, what’s the difference? Is it ever ok?

While the person doing the teasing may think there’s a difference between it and bullying, they may be the only one to think so. Psychology Today notes that often, the person being teased and those witnessing it often find the line between the two blurred, or even nonexistent.

Bullying In-depth: The 5 Ws

Where does bullying happen?

Bullying can happen in a variety of settings, but the highest occurrences are places where there are lots of children and less adult supervision. Prime locations for bullying include the playground, lunchroom, bathroom, bus and other areas where there is less structure. The bus is a prime example, as drivers have limited abilities to observe the children or to dissuade intimidating behavior. This is also the reason why cyber bullying is a growing problem, as children are often free to roam the Internet with less oversight.

Why does bullying happen?

While bullying can occur for many distinct or individual reasons, for the person doing the bullying, it is often rooted in feelings of jealousy, fear or distrust and paired with the need to be cool or popular.

Bullies may feel their behavior will make fellow students respect them or think they are funny, or they may not be held accountable for their unacceptable behavior by their parents. Conversely, students who experience verbal, physical or mental abuse at home frequently emulate this behavior as a way to channel their anger and vulnerability.

When does bullying happen?

Bullying statistics in America show that approximately 28 percent of school children are bullied on a regular basis, yet bullying is more prevalent in some ages than others.

  • A 2015 report by NoBullying found that over 44 percent of middle school students have been teased or called names, while 27 percent reported being threatened by classmates.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics found that while 37 percent of six graders report being bullied, only 22 percent of students in their final year of high school faced abuse at school.

Who does it happen to?

Race and ethnicity are contributing factors, though research suggests minorities tend to experience similar levels of bullying, regardless of their ethnicity. Hispanic, African American and Latino children all reported higher than normal levels of unfair treatment.

Within gender and sexual identity, students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are at a much higher risk for being targeted:

NoBullying found that 3 percent of LGBT students missed at least one day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe, while 10.6 percent missed four or more days in the same timeframe.

What does bullying look like?

Bullying can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, given the range of forms it may take. While all children may be prone to mischievous or mean behavior at times, WebMD notes one of the defining features is repetition. Typically bullying is not an isolated occurrence, but rather multiple abuses of the same subject. In some cases, this behavior can even take on the form of a “campaign,” as students doing the bullying become focused on taking down a classmate and enlist the help of other bullies or followers to assist in their mission.

In addition to face-to-face aggression, today’s students are also much more likely to come in contact with cyberbullying. Forms of harassment within this platform include abusive text messages and attacks via social media.

Text messaging:

While previously bullying had been limited to the hours during the school day, text messaging gives oppressors greater access to their targets, while software which allows them to make their numbers appear anonymous make it hard for targeted individuals to escape from their ridicule. According to a report by Edutopia, one in five teenagers will be the victim of text message bullying at some point during their secondary school years.

Social media:

While social media can provide the same anonymity of a text message, one of the defining features is the ability to distribute information about another person quickly to a wide audience. Social media bullying can include sharing false stories, posting unflattering photos or information about another person, writing harassing messages, and more. Because it can sometimes be difficult to trace the root of these attacks, targets may struggle to have the content removed or ever know who is bullying them.

From the Experts:

Where can bullying happen and who does it happen to? Are there certain
populations more prone to be bullied than others?

Dr. Schlozman: It’s easy to imagine specific populations likely to be bullied, and there exists some research to support these assertions. Adolescents and even younger kids of minority sexual orientation, of unclear or minority ethnicity, or children who are to some extent developmentally out of sync with peers have all been shown to heightened vulnerability. This list is by no means exhaustive, and the risk of saying that bullying only occurs among certain populations is missing bullying when it occurs to people who we might not expect to be bullied. To this end, bullying can occur anywhere where social dynamics exist and to anyone. By social dynamics, I mean circumstances where there is a natural and long-ago hard wired tendency to determine a pecking order. This process is of course part of socialization, and given its persistence in virtually every social species, we’re probably fighting an up-hill battle if we try to change it. It isn’t even by definition a bad thing. Instead, we need to be AWARE of it and vigilant for how it can go awry. Not every socially ambiguous circumstance becomes Lord of the Flies, but they call can that way if left unfettered. That’s the take-home.


Dr. Michaelis: Unfortunately, bullying can happen anywhere: In public or private settings, in school, on the playground, in the home or office. The people who tend to be targeted are more likely to have something unique about them. This is often something physical, because these things tend to be easier to see, and thus easier for bullies to seize upon. Although it does not necessary have to be physical. People with more unusual names or with different accents or different life circumstances are also often targeted.

What types of issues can bullying cause? How does it manifest in
those being bullied?

Dr. Schlozman: That depends on what we mean by “issues.” It isn’t good for anyone, and that includes bullies, the bullied and the bystanders. The unfair exercise of unchecked power differentials creates a kind of social anarchy that then brings with it, on the individual level, psychiatric syndromes like depression, anxiety and trauma, symptoms like suicidal behavior and substance abuse, and learning and socialization problems across the life span.


Dr. Michaelis: The psychological scars of bullying can last decades. I have a man in my practice now that is in his 50s, brilliant and successful by most measures but he is still plagued by the bullying he endured as a child. Bullying can manifest in many ways, but from a psychological perspective the main symptoms are: increased anxiety, depression, insomnia, heightened vigilance, persistent fear of re-experiencing the bullying and sharpened sensitivity to feeling or seeing others bullied.

What can students do if they are being bullied, and how can parents
help their children?

Dr. Schlozman: Despite the best efforts of policy makers, parents and teachers, there still exists a notion that to tell someone about being bullied is a kind of weakness. This is silly and untrue on many levels, though one can understand the origins of the idea. Folk wisdom has erroneously taught us that we need to learn to “stick up for ourselves,” and that the only way to do this is to “handle our own problems.” However, the power differential, either through social forces or just pure brawn, is so severe in bullying that taking on the problem alone inevitably leads to disappointment, victimization, and a vicious cycle. Instead, students should absolutely tell their parents and their teachers. If a student senses that one adult is not or will not be receptive, that student should turn to someone new. There is no honor or psychological growth in needless martyrdom. Social creatures like humans need to enlist social supports in healthy ways. If you are a child or an adolescent, that almost always involves the help of a designated adult or more than one adult.


Dr. Michaelis: The key thing that students need to do is to tell someone. The biggest advantage of bullies is the silence of their targets. If students tell their teachers or even other students then something can be done. Parents who want to help should assess the best channels of communication in their particular situation. Sometimes when parents intervene directly it can actually make things worse, so it may mean developing a unique strategy with your own child depending on the circumstances.

Aside from traditional physical bullying, what other forms can it take?

Dr. Schlozman: The harder question than this one is the reverse: are there things that look like bullying but that aren’t? As our means of being social grows, so too grows the means by which we can be mean to one another in a way that avoids taking responsibility or suffering consequences. To that end, bullying can and does happen often online, and it can happen faster and more efficiently than ever before. A prank that 25 years ago would have gone unrecognized by all but a few is now quickly known by everyone. Given that bullying is defined as requiring a power differential, the capacity for social media to expedite and add momentum to bullying behavior is unprecedented and something for which we will always have to be vigilant and creative in combating.


Dr. Michaelis: Emotional or psychological bullying can be even more damaging than physical bullying. With physical bullying at least you know when it is happening, other forms of can be more nefarious because they are happening when you don’t even know it.

What form can bullying take on in later years, such as college or the workplace?

Dr. Schlozman: Increasingly, it all looks the same. The big issue here is that bullying and being bullied are learned and reinforced behaviors. Behaviors are more elastic when kids are younger. As they age, kids become more set in their ways. That’s why we need to be proactive early. Remember that no one benefits in these circumstances.


Dr. Michaelis: In college and the workplace bullying can take on other forms such as coercion– forcing someone to do something that they don’t want to do under threat of firing, lowered pay or denial of bonus or threats to one’s professional reputation.

How can schools help prevent bullying?

Dr. Schlozman: By having frank, honest, non-shaming and all-encompassing discussions. Don’t just single out the bullies or the bullied. Everyone plays a role. That’s the way social systems work. Ask students how things got to where they got. Understand that it’s hard to give up power (that will allow some empathy for the bully) and it’s hard to be overpowered (to create empathy for the bullied). Make clear as well that no one wants to be bullied. That why the folks on the sidelines stay silent. They don’t want to direct the attention towards themselves. Finally, and if it works for a given teacher, there are all sorts of teaching exercises that can be done in displacement. Can you imagine reading Lord of the Flies or The Outsiders or Girl Interrupted without thinking about bullying? Work the lessons into the curriculum about socialization. That will make it seem less like the lessons about bullying are separate from the rest of what school does.


Dr. Michaelis: The data suggests that bullying takes place when it is tolerated in a given culture. When schools provide the message that bullying will not be tolerated and they make it clear that there are consequences to bullying it tends to trickle down to the students.

Effects of Bullying

Students and young people who are bullied can face a number of effects from being treated poorly. Whether abused mentally, physically or socially, there can be both short term and long-term effects. Some of the most common consequences are listed below, along with a resource guide for helping bullied students who are facing these issues.


Withdrawal can be one of the most notable symptoms of bullying, and may be discernible early on. Students being bullied may pull away from their social groups and even their families, instead seeking self-destructive coping mechanisms to deal with their pain and hurt. Withdrawal may be one of the earliest signs that something is wrong within a child’s life.


While researchers have yet to pinpoint why depression and bullying are so intimately linked, the two are consistently paired. While depression is more common in those being bullied, recent reports have even shown that aggressors also have higher levels of depressed thoughts. Other common features or symptoms also includes a lower self esteem, which only pushed the victim into further depths of depressive thoughts and behavior. In addition to the immediate effects during school, a June 2015 report by The British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that those who had been bullied in secondary school experienced higher percentages of depression later in life.


In a report by the CDC, the organization lays out the most recent research correlating suicide and bullying. While students who are bullied undeniably have higher levels of suicide-related thoughts or behavior, researchers have not yet ascertained if bullying directly causes these thoughts or rather bullying mixed with other risk-factors ultimately produces suicidal tendencies.

Illegal Substance Abuse

While abuse of alcohol, cigarettes and/or marijuana is typically more closely linked to the abuser rather than the individual being abused, recent reports, including one from Ohio State University, have suggested that bully-victims (those who bully but are also bullied themselves) often resort to illicit substances far more often.


In rare cases, those who have been or are being bullied may retaliate with violent behavior. While instances are isolated and research is not extensive, StopBullying.Gov points out that 12 of the 15 school shooting incidences in the 1990s were committed by students who had a reported history of being bullied.


Bullies Out: Provides an overview of the traumatic effects bullying can cause.

WebMD: Highlights common characteristics of children who are bullied.

Stomp Out Bullying: Reviews the effects of bullying and what victims can experience.

No Bullying: An interview with a leading child psychologist about the causes and effects of bullying

uKnowKids: A look at the long-term effects of bullying on the victim

Association for Psychological Science: How long-term effects of bullying can be seen in both the victim and the bully

The Cycle of Bullying

The Cycle of Bullying is a clinical tool that was developed by Norwegian psychologist Dan Olweus in an effort to understanding how to best prevent bullying. Olweus hypothesized that for bullying to occur, there must be three components: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. These three parties play significant roles in the cycle of bullying, as demonstrated below:

The Cycle of Bullying


Responsible for starting the bully cycle


While not initiators, they actively participate in bullying

Passive Bullies/Supporters:

Not active bullies, but support the activity

Passive Supporters:

Will show private support for bullying, but no open displays

Disengaged Onlookers:

Participants who observe but feel it’s not their issue to deal with

Possible Defenders:

Disapprove of bullying and consider lending a hand

Defenders of the Victim:

Actively participate in helping the victim and stopping the bullying

Courtesy of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Hazelden Publishing

Help for students and parents

What can you do if you’re being bullied?

Bullying can take on many forms and levels of aggression, so it’s best to have a few options when it comes to diffusing the situation. If students feel they can handle the situation, the first tactic would be to try to diffuse the situation themselves. The crux of many bullying actions depend on the victim reacting to their taunting, so the best way to take away their power is to ignore them or to show that you are not affected by their behavior.

If the bully doesn’t respond well, it may be time to talk to someone else or ask a school leader to help you. Whether it is a teacher, guidance counselor, or school psychologist, these professionals can provide guidance and censure the bully. According to Stomp Out Bullying, the most important thing is to maintain your own levels of anger. If a bully sees that you’re not affected, they lose their power.

ReachOut.com suggests a few other tactics to try, including:

  1. 1. Build a wall. Imagine an invisible wall where any verbal abuse bounces off the wall, unable to reach you.

  2. 2. Use visualization. Rather than thinking of a bully as scary, try to help think of them in a silly way to make the situation less intimidating.

  3. 3. Stay positive. When someone is trying to tear you down, it’s easy to lose confidence. Focus on all the things you’re great at, and the people who value you.

  4. 4. Spend time with people who love you. Soak up positive affirmations and friendships that make you feel great.

  5. 5. Spend time in groups. Bullies are less likely to attack if surrounded by your friends, so try not to be alone.

  6. 6. Show strength. Bullies like to pick on those who they feel are weaker than they are, so focus on feeling empowered and strong.

What should you do if you see someone being bullied?

Students who see their classmates or other acquaintances being bullied can utilize numerous approaches to help resolve the issues. Girls Health, a subsidiary of the Office on Women’s Health within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, has numerous suggestions:

  1. 1. Don’t give bullies what they want. More than anything, bullies love an audience. Rather than standing and watching, walk away and go get help. You can also encourage others to do the same.

  2. 2. Keep the rumors at bay. If you hear something about someone that isn’t true, stop it in its tracks and make sure not to repeat the gossip. Remember how you would feel if someone was telling untrue things about you.

  3. 3. Be an advocate for the victim. Unless the situation feels unsafe, in which case you should get a school leader, try to defend the person being attacked. Bullies hate being made to feel uncool, and calling them out for their behavior may make them think twice.

  4. 4. Tell an adult. Especially when still in school, bullies will often be scared of an adult finding out and getting into trouble. If you are worried the bully will find out who told, ask the adult to keep the conversation private.

  5. 5. Encourage the victim to speak with an adult. Often those who are bullied can feel like it’s somehow their fault. Encourage them to talk to a school counselor and perhaps offer to accompany them.

  6. 6. Offer support. Showing the victim that you care can mean more to them than you know. Even if you aren’t close, try to be friendly in the days after the event, it can really make a difference.

What can parents do if they suspect their child is being bullied?

While children are often fearful of telling that they are being persecuted as they may somehow feel it is their fault, there are numerous signs to look for if you suspect your child is being treated poorly at school. Some of the telltale indicators include:

  1. 1. An aversion to school. Kids who are being bullied may suddenly tell you that they don’t want to go to school, often without reason. While it could be something else, it could also mean they are being bullied.

  2. 2. Being afraid of certain settings. The school bus and restroom are two prime locations for bullying to take place, as bullies can much more easily get away with taunting behavior. If a child rushes to the bathroom once arriving home or displays an aversion to riding the bus, these could be sensitive places for them.

  3. 3. Becoming withdrawn.Often, a victimized child can feel that they’ve done something wrong and brought these actions on themselves. They may even be afraid to tell you because they’re worried they will be punished. If your child suddenly retreats into him/herself, this could be a sign of bullying.

Once establishing that your child is on the receiving end of a bully’s cruelty, Empowering Parents suggests the first step is to make them feel safe and heard. Rather than asking if they did something to cause the attention or calling the bully a bad child, listen without judgment and try to learn as much as you can about the situation.

Next, try to make your child feel empowered: Ask them to think if they may be able to handle the situation and help them think through possible ways to solve the problem on their own terms. Based on how your child feels about this suggestion, you’ll have a better sense of how serious the bullying may be.

If they are scared to confront the bully, it is probably time to alert school officials. This could involve a meeting with their teacher or alerting the principal to the situation. If there is threat of violent behavior, it’s imperative to bring in school officials and alert the police immediately. Once a threat of violence or criminal behavior has been mentioned, it’s a case for the police. Recognizing the signs early on and talking about it openly with your child can diffuse many situations before they reach a more serious level.

Bullying Spotlight:

Cyberbullying and Physical Bullying/Violence

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying consists of acts of meanness or cruelty that are propagated via electronic technology. Some of the most common devices for disseminating acts of cyberbullying include cell phones, computer and tablets, while the most common platforms tend to be social media websites, text messages, chat rooms, websites or emails.

Where does cyberbullying happen?

The most common platforms for cyberbullying include social media websites, text messages, gaming systems, chat rooms, websites or emails. While traditionally bullying has been limited to in-person aggression, cyberbullying is different as the victim is exposed at all times. Additionally, cyberbullies can more easily remain anonymous, making it difficult for those being bullied to trace the source and making it easier for harmful content to be circulated to a large body of people.

How do you spot cyberbullying?

The National Crime Prevention Council provides a comprehensive list of red flags to look for you if you suspect a child may be a victim of cyberbullying. Some of the most common include not wanting to go to school, becoming withdrawn or shy, suddenly not using the computer, or being secretive about how they spend their time online. The biggest warning sign is suddenly withdrawing from technology.

When should it be reported, and how?

Cyberbullying should be reported as soon as it is recognized and examples can be compiled. No Bullying states that if a parent feels it is life-threatening, local emergency systems should be contacted immediately. Parents should try to collect any incriminating materials, such as text messages, social media posts or emails. Once collected, the school’s bullying policy should be reviewed and a meeting with the school district should be scheduled. Parents should also comfort their child and install special measures to block the bully and make sure the child’s online presence is properly secured. After dealing with the attack, parents and school administrators should work together, both to monitor the victimized child and to ensure the bully has ceased all online attacks.

What are some examples of cyberbullying?

Examples include sending harassing text messages or emails, creating rumors via social media or email chains, or posting embarrassing or harmful pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles.

Physical Bullying/Violence

What is it?

While students may have isolated physical altercations with one another, typically these interactions are only considered bullying if a specific person is targeted repeatedly and the would-be bully means to cause harm or embarrassment via an imbalance of power. Specific types of physical bullying many include hitting, pushing, tripping, slapping, spitting, or stealing/destroying personal property.

Where can it happen?

While physical bullying is more likely in elementary school, it reaches its highest levels in middle school. Reported incidents decrease in high school. Typically it happens in the same settings as other types of bullying, the common denominator being a lack of adult supervision. Common places include the school bus, cafeteria, playground, bathroom, or other enclosed spaces.

How and when should physical bullying be reported?

Even if only a threat of violence has been made, parents should immediately contact school authorities to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Once a physical action has been made, it becomes a case of assault and parents have a legal right to report this to the police, regardless of the bully’s status as a minor.

How can physical bullying be prevented?

The most successful methods for preventing physical bullying start within the homes of the bully. Bullying in all forms originates from lack of self-worth and not being able to share emotions. Parents should treat their children with respect as a way of demonstrating how all people should be treated. These methods can extend into school settings, where educators can teach all students about respecting both themselves and others who are different from them.

Other types of bullying:

Verbal bullying: This form of bullying can take on many forms, but generally revolves around a goal of using words in a negative way against another person. Examples may include embarrassing or rude name calling, personal insults, teasing, or hurtful remarks about someone’s race, religion, sexual preferences, or disability.

Emotional/Psychological bullying: Unlike verbal bullying, this form tends to be more covert, and may rely on gossiping, spreading rumors or other subtle tactics to make victims feel marginalized. Most types tend to be focused on slight gestures, such as excluding someone from a group activity or making the victim feel unwanted.

Sexual bullying: According to the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, sexual bullying can be physical or non-physical and is based on using a person’s sexuality or gender as a weapon against them. It can be sexual slurs or homophobic comments or it can be sexual assault or rape.

Bullying in college and other special circumstances

Awareness: While many assume bullying tapers off during the high school years, bullying remains an issue throughout college as well. According to a study from The University of Indiana, the added stress of a full postsecondary course load can bring out old habits. While bullying at this age may take different forms, it still exists.

What does bullying look like in college? A 2012 Health Day News study found that 15 percent of college students reported being bullied, while 22 percent were victims of cyberbullying. The introduction of new people and less authority creates a perfect storm for bullies to resume old habits, while the heavy use of social media by the current generation increases the likelihood of online bullying incidents.

Resources for college bullying:

Many campuses are becoming much more aware of bullying incidents occurring on campus and offering resources to help combat these activities. Counseling centers and college psychologists are excellent resources. President Obama’s introduction of the “It’s On Us” campaign to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses has also brought more awareness to the issue. In addition to on-campus offerings, there are a number of off-campus resources available to college students who feel they are being bullied. Some of these include:

Special circumstances/specific types of bullying

Outside of the types of bullying mentioned already, there are numerous populations who experience higher levels of bullying than others. Some of these groups will be discussed below, alongside providing ways to take action and specific resources.

LGBTQ: In 2011, a survey conducted by GLSEN found that 82 percent of LGBTQ students had been bullied about their sexual orientation, while 64 percent felt unsafe while at school due to their sexual preferences.

Disabled/Special Health Needs: The imbalanced nature of physical and psychological power can often leave disabled students at an even greater risk for being bullied. PACER reports students with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied, while 60 percent of this student population reported being bullied on a regular basis.

Race: Students from minority races can often face higher levels of bullying, with one-third of youth reporting bullying based on their ethnicity. Within ethnic groups, studies show that Hispanic and African American youth who are bullied have a higher risk of poor academics.

Within all of these types of population bullying, the steps for helping victimized students are similar. The first step is to identify if a student is being treated poorly. While it’s unlikely they’ll be forthcoming about being bullied, telltale signs such as a sudden aversion to school or a withdrawn attitude can help pinpoint the problem. Once identified, it’s important to ascertain the type and level of bullying taking place. If the incidents do not pose an immediate physical harm, the child may want to try to handle the situation on their own or bring in a teacher or school counselor. If the bullying has progressed to something more serious, it may be time to bring in law enforcement professionals.


Take Action: Bullying Prevention

Prevention Techniques

The National Education Association provides a helpful 10-step guide to stopping and preventing bullying, outlined below:

  • Pay attention

    Often, parents or educators can recognize warning signs if they know what to look for.

  • Don’t ignore it

    All students are different, so don’t ignore something or assume teasing behavior is less serious.

  • See something? Do something

    As soon as something seems wrong, take appropriate action.

  • Remain calm

    Make sure both parties are safe and unharmed, then question both with respect.

  • Deal with students individually

    Speak to involved parties and by-standers one-on-one to ensure all sides of the story are heard.

  • Don’t make involved students apologize or shake hands immediately

    Both sides should recognize the serious nature of the incident and understand it can’t be easily shaken off. There could be repercussions for bullying and it’s important to get to the bottom of it before talking about outcomes.

  • Hold bystanders accountable

    Bullies love an audience, so it’s important to explain that fellow students should feel responsible to report bullying to help prevent further occurrences.

  • Listen. Don’t pre-judge

    While likely that the accused bully is in the wrong, there could be an underlying issue causing poor behavior. Try to ascertain if there is a bigger reason for their actions.

  • Get appropriate professional help

    Don’t provide advice outside of your expertise. Schools have professionals on staff to deal with the larger issues surrounding bullying, so it’s best to refer students and their parents to them directly.

  • Receive training on dealing with bullying

    Learning about how to diffuse bullying situations can help reduce and ultimately prevent further incidents.

Are You a Bully?

Do you sometimes treat other classmates poorly? Have you been in trouble for saying hurtful things to other students? The quiz below helps to decide if students are displaying behavior associated with bullies:

  • 1

    Have you ever hurt another student on purpose?


    Have you stolen or demolished someone else’s personal property?


    Have you ever left out a fellow student from an activity or group on purpose?


    Do kids find you threatening or scary?


    Have you ever made rude comments about someone’s appearance, ability level, gender or race?


    Have you ever used social media or other technology to post mean comments or start rumors?


    Do you like making others upset?


    Do you feel cooler or more popular when your friends see you treating someone else poorly?

  • While you may not be an active bully, if you have done or said any of these things, you have engaged in bullying behavior. You’ve taken the most important step by admitting the truth, and now that you’re aware that these behaviors are considering bullying, you can strive to do better.
    While you’re not a bully, you’ve probably seen someone else engaging in this behavior. Silence is not an option. Stand up for the one being bullied, and if you don’t feel safe doing so, speak to someone who can help the bullied person.

Legal Recourse for Bullying

While there are no federal laws in place that relate specifically to bullying, all states have policies in place and 41 have both policies and laws enacted. Stop Bullying provides an interactive map for identifying state-specific measures to better understand your child’s rights.

In addition to governmental measures, all states are required to have a written anti-bully policy to both dissuade aggressive behavior and provide recourse if a bullying incident occurs. While these policies can help rectify non-violent instances, once a student has been threatened, it’s important to involve law enforcement. Depending on the level of bullying, some of the charges that could be made include threatening behavior, indecent assault, criminal offense of assault, or negligence.

Bullying Policies

As mentioned previously, by law all schools are required to have anti-bullying policies in place. These will all be individualized to the school, but common components include the following:

  • A mission statement, where the school outlines how students will learn in a safe and bully-free environment
  • A code of conduct, where expected students behaviors are laid out in detail
  • A bill of rights, a short and memorable document outlining the individual rights of students and how they can expect to be treated by teachers, staff and fellow students while at school
  • A reporting system, a clear, standardized and concrete protocol for students to report rule violations
Resources for Prevention