10 Ways to Improve School Climate and Prevent Bullying

What schools can do to improve their school climate


Research shows that bullying impacts not only the quality of school environments, but it also undermines academic achievement. In fact, there is a direct correlation between high rates of bullying and reduced academic achievement. And everyone is impacted.

For instance, kids who are bullied are more likely to skip school, struggle academically and have higher levels of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, bullies tend to struggle with impulse control, engage in delinquent behavior, disrupt or skip school and abuse drugs and alcohol.

Bullying even affects the academic success of bystanders. In fact, the consequences that bystanders experience can be just as severe as what the victim experiences.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. Studies have shown that students in schools with positive climates have better attendance records and study habits. They also are motivated to succeed, engage in cooperative learning, achieve higher grades and test scores and demonstrate subject mastery. Here are ten ways schools can improve their overall climate and reduce bullying.

Evaluate current bullying prevention programs. Most schools have some sort of anti-bullying policy and engage in bullying prevention programs. But not all programs are effective. Quality programs are proactive and responsive. In other words, they contain elements designed to prevent bullying from happening, but they also are effective in disciplining bullies and supporting victims of bullying.

Develop bullying prevention goals. Every school should have goals for preventing bullying. At the top of the list should be a goal of responding to bullying immediately. Not only does this help support the victims of bullying, but it also communicates that bullying will not be tolerated. Additionally, when early intervention takes place this greatly reduces the likelihood that bullying will become a lifelong pattern of behavior.

Incorporate social and emotional learning. Teaching students how to manage their emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others is an important part of education. Not only does high emotional intelligence mean kids are more empathetic to one another, but it also means more academic success. And, kids with high EQs are more successful in their careers because supervisors trust them and colleagues respect them.

Empower bystanders. Almost every successful bullying prevention program contains methods for empowering bystanders to stand up to bullies. These programs also give bystanders the tools they need to know what to do when they witness bullying. And they address the reasons why many bystanders remain silent.

Address cyberbullying. It is no secret that cyberbullying filters over into the hallways and classrooms at school. Proactive schools understand this and educate students about the consequences of cyberbullying, sexting and sexual bullying. Additionally, it is wise for schools to implement cyberbullying guidelines so that a plan is in place to address the issue when it occurs.

Taking a strong stand against cyberbullying goes a long way in improving the overall school climate.

Teach character education. Building character among a school’s students not only helps improve academics, but it also helps prevent bullying. Through character education, kids learn to be diligent, responsible and ethical in their approach to school and others. As a result, they know how to interact properly with their teachers, the staff and their fellow students, turning their school and their classrooms into a better place.

Foster respectful attitudes. Respect is at the root of bullying prevention. This means not only are the kids taught that everyone deserves respect but the teachers and staff model this behavior. And when the environment of a school is respectful, there is less bullying. This also means that relational aggression, mean girl behavior, cyber bullying, name-calling and other forms of bullying are drastically reduced too.

Empower athletes. Schools often fail to utilize all the resources at their disposal when it comes to bullying prevention. In fact, one of the best ways to prevent bullying isn’t by developing more programs, but by empowering the students to watch out for one another and to change the climate of the school. Sometimes athletes are among the most influential student groups at the school. As a result, empowering athletes to take a stand against bullying can be extremely beneficial.

Train teachers and coaches. In order for teachers to prevent bullying in their classrooms and coaches to prevent bullying on their teams, they need to be trained on bullying and how to respond to bullying situations at school. Be clear about your expectations and give them the tools they need in order to be successful. For example, talk about the common mistakes coaches make, such as not having clear consequences for sports bullying and not being proactive in preventing sports bullying.

Train bus drivers and recess monitors. Another way to improve school climate is to be sure all elements of the school day are bully-free zones. Talk to your bus drivers about ways to bully-proof the school bus. And provide your recess monitors with bullying prevention tips

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