Guidelines for Disciplining Bullies at School

Ideas for disciplining school bullies


When it comes to school bullying and prevention, it is important that schools have clear plans in place on how to discipline bullies and implement corrective measures. Overall, the schools that develop clear rules about bullying and then enforce those rules consistently have more successful bullying prevention programs.

Typically, the most successful disciplinary procedures are graduated in nature.

In other words, as bullying increases in severity so should the disciplinary action. By contrast, zero tolerance policies are usually not effective. For instance, if a suspension is the only consequence for any type of bullying, students and teachers may fear it is too harsh and refrain from reporting bullying incidents.

Finally, for bullying prevention programs to be successful, discipline must be consistent. This means that no student is exempt from being disciplined for bullying including gifted students, star athletes and even kids with parents who work for the school. Consequences for bullying have to be implemented without regard for who the student is. If a school fails to do this, the students will not trust that there is fair treatment and bullying at the school will escalate.

Here are guidelines schools should follow when disciplining bullies.

Investigate all bullying complaints immediately

Once the school receives a complaint about bullying, it is imperative that an investigation begins right away.

This demonstrates not only that you aware of the situation, but also that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Address the bullying immediately.

This will let the victims of bullying, as well as any bystanders, know that your school does not tolerate bullying. Additionally, it communicates to the bullies, and potential bullies, that the school will take action when bullying occurs.

Confront the bully privately.

Let him know that you will not tolerate his bullying behavior, and that if you see any sign that this was not an isolated incident, there will be additional repercussions including a call to his parents and a visit to the principal’s office. Talking with the bully publicly may cause him to lash out at the victim again. Or, it may be the type of attention he was seeking all along. Do what you can to avoid giving the bully too much attention or increasing his credibility among his peers.

Remind the bully that bullying is a choice.

Bullies need to recognize that no matter the reason behind his bullying behavior, bullying was a choice he made. And he is responsible for his actions. As a result, you need to be sure that the bully owns his choice and accepts responsibility for his actions. Sometimes kids refuse to take responsibility. Don’t let this attitude slide. Refer the bully to the guidance office until he can communicate that he understands his responsibility.

Develop logical consequences.

The disciplinary plan developed for the bully should be logical. For instance, if the bullying occurred on the bus, then the bully should lose his bus riding privileges for a period of time. Or, if the bully used his status on the football team to bully others or bullied others because he is part of a clique, then he should lose that status for a period of time. You might choose to suspend him from a game or two or not allow him to eat lunch with the friends he was trying to impress. Just remember that every bullying situation is different and as a result the consequences will be different. The point is to demonstrate that bullying behavior has consequences and will not be tolerated.

Alert the guidance office about the bullying.

Typically, the guidance office will have ideas and resources they can pass on to bullies. If given the right skill set, most bullies can change. Be sure to provide the names of the victims as well so the counselors can reach out to them too.

Contact the bully's parents.

Explain that their child has been bullying other students and ask them to help you intervene. Ask the parents to tell their child that his behavior is unacceptable and to implement consequences at home. Stress the importance of respect at school.

Continue to monitor the situation.

Sometimes when bullying is caught early, it won’t happen again. But don’t automatically assume this is the case. Instead, monitor the bully’s behavior and continue to discipline if necessary.

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