Bullying in School

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A Bullying Abstract

This work was funded through an American Psychological Association Foundation Visionary Award.

Bullying is increasingly being recognized as a major detriment to the academic, social, and emotional well-being of students. It has been consistently and repeatedly linked to negative health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide (Brunstein, Sourander, & Gould, 2010; Fedewa & Ahn, 2011). Thus, there is an urgent and vital need for effective bullying prevention programs that reduce the rates of bullying and victimization in schools. The Stand for Courage (SFC) program is a positive-focused and strengths-based school-wide bullying prevention and intervention program that teaches students simple and effective ways to address bullying behavior and reinforces students for standing up for their peers.

SFC’s message is, “You stand for courage, and we stand for you!” and empowers the bystander to redirect the coveted social attention from the bully towards respecting the diversity of everyone (including the target). Many bullying prevention and intervention programs attempt to teach students how to recognize and address bullying situations by shaming the bully and reporting violations. Over time, these programs have shown negative effects on the mental and emotional health of the students involved (Cantone et. al, 2015). Stand For Courage uses strengths-based recognition through peer elections and creatively sourced community-based rewards to redirect the entire school’s fear-based “bullycide” culture to a diversity-inclusive honoring of the unique parts all students are able to contribute towards a safe and engaging social and academic climate.

In order to assess the effectiveness of the SFC program, we conducted a matched control trial with six public high schools in Colorado. Schools were matched on demographic and socioeconomic variables (e.g., percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch, school size, and racial and ethnic composition of the study body). One school in each pair was then randomly designated to implement the SFC intervention (i.e., the intervention condition) while the other schools were assigned to the control condition and were instructed to continue using the bullying prevention and intervention strategies that were already in place. Before the intervention was implemented, we assessed the rates of bullying victimization and perpetration using a brief, anonymous, and electronic student survey system. We then surveyed students again using the same system at the end of the year. Over 4000 students provided data at each time point.

At Time 1 (prior to the intervention), students at schools in the intervention and control conditions reported similar rates of bullying victimization (23.0% and 22.7%, respectively; χ2(1)=.069, p=.797) and perpetration (8.5% and 7.8%, respectively; χ2(1)=.778, p=.397). However, the rates of reported victimization and perpetration differed significantly between the two sets of schools at Time 2, after the schools in the intervention condition had implemented SFC.

The schools in the control condition evidenced a significant increase in the rate of reported victimization compared to Time 1 (23.0% to 28.8%; χ2(1)=17.55, p<.001) with no significant change in the rate of perpetration (8.5% to 8.0%; χ2(1)=.427, p=.538). In contrast, schools in the intervention condition showed a dramatic and significant decrease in both victimization and perpetration rates at Time 2. The victimization rate fell from 22.7% at Time 1 to 10.9% at Time 2 (χ2(1)=103.503, p<.001), and the perpetration rate fell from 7.8% at Time 1 to 3.6% at Time 2 (χ2(1)=37.33, p<.001). These statistics represent decreases of over 50% in the frequency of both bullying perpetration and victimization among students in schools that implemented the SFC program. In contrast, schools that did not implement the program saw increases in student-reported victimization and no meaningful changes in perpetration over the same time period. This contrast further supports the idea that the SFC program was responsible for these dramatic changes in bullying prevalence among schools that implemented the program and suggests that the SFC program is highly effective at reducing bullying among high school students.

SFC shows great promise in revolutionizing the field of bullying intervention and prevention models because it takes the focus off the bully and empowers the bystanders to “Step In. Speak Up. And Stand for Courage.” In sum, SFC opens up a new wave of possibilities in not just reducing bullying in the average school culture, but cultivating new generations of collaborative and positive focused leaders in our youth.

Brunstein Klomek, A, Sourander, A., & Gould, M. (2010). The association of suicide and bullying in childhood to young adulthood: a review of cross-sectional and longitudinal research findings. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(5), 282-288.

Cantone, E., Piras, A. P., Vellante, M., Preti, A., Daníelsdóttir, S., D’Aloja, E., … Bhugra, D. (2015). Interventions on Bullying and Cyberbullying in Schools: A Systematic Review . Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH, 11(Suppl 1 M4), 58–76.

Fedewa, A. L., & Ahn, S. (2011). The effects of bullying and peer victimization on sexual-minority and heterosexual youths: A quantitative meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 7(4), 398-418.
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It's not the bully.
It's not the victim.
It's you.
Don't be a bystander.
Stand up, step in, and speak out.
Get caught doing the right thing:
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