2. Developing a Policy and Programs
Working on Focus Areas
Research has shown that a successful plan to combat bullying must be school-wide. Decide what focus areas need to be addressed within your school. Develop an Action Plan. Divide the plan into action areas. A school may go through each of the steps in this Action Plan more than once. For instance an overall plan may have several action areas and this Action Plan can be used also to address each action area as well. The school would appoint a leadership team to address one aspect of the plan and then they would work through the Action Plan by creating a plan for this one area, developing a vision for it, and assessing how the plan for action worked.
Source: “Focus on Harassment and Intimidation” (2001), B.C. Ministry of Education at 23.
Prepare a plan of action
- Plan must be comprehensive
- A single individual or group can not be expected to address the issue alone
- Successful plan to harassment must be school-wide
- Include all affected community members
A comprehensive plan will include not only the entire school, but also the broader community if possible. However, interventions such as the following have limited effectiveness:
- Focusing solely on the bully and the victim.
- Using only situational deterrents (i.e., higher supervision).
- Zero tolerance policies, including school expulsion.
Research has shown that zero tolerance policies may in fact increase or exacerbate the problem of bullying. These policies emphasize control over cooperation and put the focus on the bully rather than the problem as a school-wide issue.
Use an existing policy or develop your own.
Explore whether the Board of Education of in your school jurisdiction has an existing policy or sample to follow. Look online to develop your own policy. See the tips in the next section on making a school policy.
Develop an anti-bullying policy that takes into consideration the needs of your individual school. Make sure the policy outlines:
- the roles, responsibilities and procedures of each person/position;
- the reporting steps for when an incident occurs;
- a code of conduct for students;
- how staff and teachers will respond to an incident; and
- the consequences for bullying.
Include students, staff, teachers and administrators in the development of the policy as much as possible so that the entire school community takes ownership and leadership in upholding the policy.
“Bullying Prevention in Schools” (2004), National Crime Prevention Strategy.
See the School-Wide Plan Evaluation Checklist for more ideas on what components make up an action plan against bullying.
“Focus on Harassment and Intimidation” (2001), B.C. Ministry of Education at 23.
Two approaches: Off the shelf or a Customized approach
Once the school has adopted or developed a policy and has assessed the needs of the school, then teachers, administrators, parents and students can work together to determine what program to offer to address the areas of need. It is important to involve the entire school community as you develop this program. This initial stage may involve some questions about what resources the school can afford. The school may decide to use an off-the-shelf program or a customized approach. Here are some pros and cons of each of these approaches.
- designed by someone else
- can show whether it has been successful in other schools
- can customize it to a certain extent
- costs money
- Addresses the specific issues of the school
- Sense of ownership from developing program
- Fits the particular culture of the school
- Takes time to develop
- No evidence of success so may or may not be effective
Bullying Prevention in Schools reports:
“A team of Canadian researchers conducted a recent review of 46 school-based bullying prevention initiatives … and found that the top five successful programs had the following characteristics:
- Intervention was at three program levels;
- Universal programs, targeting the entire school population,
- Indicated programs, focusing on students with initial involvement in bullying or victimization,
- Selected programs, dealing with students having serious problems with bullying or victimization.
- Involved parents in the initiative; and
- Involved the larger community.
The results of this study suggest school interventions should target multiple levels, allowing for the whole school to become aware of bullying and how to effectively [address it] with those students most in need or at risk.”
Source: “Bullying Prevention in Schools” (2004), National Crime Prevention Strategy at 19.
Making a policy or rule for your school
- Needs of the schools
- Define it
- Groups protected
- Easy to read
- Reporting complaints
- Education and awareness
A policy to address sexual harassment, whether at the school board level or at the individual school level should be specific. Ensure that staff, teachers, and students are involved in the process of developing a policy so that once the policy is in force, the whole school community encourages everyone to follow it. A good rule or policy will:
- Be based on the needs of the particular school. Developing a policy based on a needs assessment at that particular school. See the Behaviour Management Evaluation Sheet for more information.
- Outline the behaviours that are not allowed. Encourage positive behaviours.
- Define bullying or harassment so students and teachers are clear about what actions the policy is addressing.
- Name the specific groups that are covered under the policy. For instance, the groups covered by the Alberta Human Rights Act should be named since the school has a positive responsibility to protect the human rights of these groups. The policy should also be clear that it protects general bullying, since bullying is often not focused on the particular traits of an individual.
- Make it in plain language, easy to read so that everyone from Kindergarten children to teachers can understand clearly what the policy says. Consider translating the policy to simpler language for younger grades.
- Outline who a person should report a complaint to, and give an alternative person as well.
- Provide continuing education and awareness about the policy.
- Making a policy or rule for your school
Keep the policy active in the teaching and learning process.
It is also useful to make information available on how to resolve the bullying. There are many excellent anti-bullying websites available online that are listed in the resource section of this resource.
Making a policy for your school is a first step to addressing bullying and harassment. Staff, teachers and students should have had input into the policy so that they believe in the value of the policy. Once the policy is implemented make sure there are opportunities to discuss it on a regular basis so the feeling of its importance in the school is kept alive.