5 Reasons Why Bullying Prevention Programs Fail

Avoid these common pitfalls in bullying prevention programs


Developing a bullying prevention program is not an easy task. There are a lot of factors that contribute to successful bullying prevention programs to be considered and implemented. And yet with all the effort expended to develop the perfect program, program developers often wonder why their bullying prevention efforts are not effective. Here are the top five reasons why bullying prevention programs fail.

Bullying prevention programs fail because students are not involved in program development.  If students help come up with the ideas that go into bullying prevention and bullying intervention they are more likely to support it because they feel a sense of ownership.

Also, remember that the students are you primary target audience. They also know a lot more about the types of bullying they witness and experience than teachers, administrators and parents. As a result, if you want your bullying prevention program to be a success you need to communicate regularly with a cross section of your student population. Find out what they are seeing and experiencing. Ask them for ideas on how to address bullying at the school. They will provide you with an inside look at the problems.

For instance, if the students regularly suggest that the teachers need to take bullying more seriously then this should be the first issue you address in developing your program.

Get your teachers educated and onboard. Make sure they clearly understand your expectations regarding bullying prevention as well as bullying intervention.

Bullying prevention programs fail because they do no engage parents and community. Parents and community members are crucial to the success of any bullying prevention program because they interact with students outside of the school day.

If you want your bullying prevention efforts to be supported at home, you need to educate parents not only on what the school expects from their student during the day, but also on how they can reinforce positive messages at home.

For instance, if cyberbullying is an issue at your school, look for ways to educate parents on responsible social media use. Be sure they understand the risks associated with allowing their kids to have social media accounts before the age guidelines. They also should be made aware of the legal risks associated with cyberbullying as well the risks for sexting.

Bullying prevention programs fail because they do not evolve over time. Do not fall into the mindset of “we have always done things this way.” Not only does your student population change regularly, but also the types of bullying your students experience will change.

For instance, as social media changes, the nature and severity of cyberbullying also may change. Likewise, you need to be aware of new apps and how kids are using them.

Almost overnight, a new app can emerge that kids find a way to exploit and use to hurt others. Additionally, new “games” that physically or emotionally hurt others may emerge. Consequently, it is important that you are regularly reviewing and adjusting your bullying prevention program to address new issues as they arise.

Bullying prevention programs fail because they are not consistently implemented. Too many times, administrators and bullying prevention advocates spend so much time on developing their bullying prevention program, that they miss opportunities to actually implement their ideas. A wonderfully written and developed bullying prevention program is of little to no use if it is not implemented consistently.

Likewise, bullying prevention programs fail when the disciplinary procedures are not consistently enforced. Be sure that once you communicate your guidelines that everyone is adhering to them consistently. This includes messages that are communicated to students and parents as well as how you are intervening in daily bullying incidents. If students and parents perceive your efforts as inconsistent, they will likely lose confidence in your bullying prevention efforts.

Bullying prevention programs fail when teachers and staff do not support them. Teachers and staff are the first line of defense in successful bullying prevention programs. Most likely, they will be the first to hear complaints about bullying. And they will be the more likely to witness bullying incidents than administrators. As a result, be sure your staff members buy into the prevention program.

One way to do that is to involve them in the development process. Like students, they probably see and hear more than administrators. And if you are expecting them to implement and enforce the program, you need to give them a voice in the plan’s development. They are more likely to support a program when they feel a sense of ownership in its development.

For teachers and staff not involved with the development, be sure you hold regular meetings with them to assess the effectiveness of the program. And be sure they know how implementing bullying prevention programs will benefit their classroom in the long run. For instance, bullying disrupts the learning environment. But research shows that in schools where bullying is addressed effectively and consistently, test scores go up.

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