Bullying prevention programs

School-based anti-bullying programs

Canadian students suffer from bullying at school at rates and frequencies that cannot be ignored. The National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) is committed to providing information on school-based anti-bullying programs.

Fast facts

A study conducted by the World Health Organization, which surveyed the health behaviours of school aged children around the world, found that Canada ranked in the middle of 35 countries studied for level of bullying.

Bullying in Canada

Studies have shown that a higher percentage of students engage in bullying behaviours in middle school and high school than in elementary school. But, the percentages of students victimized gradually decreases with age.

Gender differences also exist: elementary school boys report higher levels of bullying, but lower levels of victimization, than girls. In middle and high schools, boys reported bullying others almost twice as much as girls in the same grades.

Handling bullying situations

Peers and adults who witness bullying behaviour can intervene to help the victim. Canadian studies on peer intervention reveal that only a small number of elementary and middle school students attempted to stop bullying incidents. Adult intervention rates are similarly low - often because they are not present when bullying occurs.

Fast fact

Intervention is a key part of stopping the bullying cycle.

The whole school approach

Successful intervention decreases the amount of bullying in schools by 20 to 70 percent. Most often, interventions work best when part of an organized, whole school approach where an anti-bullying policy and anti-bullying initiatives are put into effect throughout the school.

Anti-bullying policy:

  • Includes a needs assessment: this helps determine the parameters and extent of the bullying problem before committing to an action plan.
  • Involves multiple stakeholders: development of the policy should include input from multiple stakeholders to help ensure commitment to, and respect for, the policy.
  • Is formally introduced: the anti-bullying message stated in the policy must be understood and consistently communicated by everyone in the school.
  • Includes an evaluation: periodic review and revision of the policy is required for it to remain relevant to the school and students.

Anti-bullying initiative:

  • Is well planned: including content development, evaluation framework and a plan for sustainability.
  • Involves multiple stakeholders: involvement of community members and organizations increases the level of success.
  • Includes students in program development and delivery: this increases the students' sense of commitment to and ownership of the initiative.
  • Addresses multiple risk and protective factors: the intervention works on several levels to reduce multiple risk factors and reinforce protective factors.
  • Provides age-appropriate materials, discussions and time limits: all elements of the intervention are age-appropriate; they are easily understood by and relevant to the students.
  • Creates a gender-specific approach: this takes the fact that bullying and responses to anti-bullying initiatives can differ between boys and girls into account.
  • Intervenes when target behaviour is emerging: intervention occurs early on to reduce the likelihood anti-social behaviours continue or escalate as children mature.
  • Creates a long-term intervention: long-term interventions generally have a stronger, more lasting impact and result in more sustainable initiatives than short-term solutions.

The comprehensive community approach

Involving the broader community may enhance the effectiveness of whole school interventions.

Canada's top five successful bully intervention programs share these characteristics:

  • Intervened at three levels - the whole school population, students who were just beginning to bully or be bullied and students with serious bullying or victimization behaviours.
  • Addressed the attitudes, behaviours and interpersonal and emotional skills of students.
  • Involved parents in the initiative.
  • Involved the larger community.

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