If you’ve been following my posts you know that I’ve been doing a series on the issue of bullying. The series includes the following posts:

In these posts, I’ve looked at some of the whats, the whos, the whys, the whens, the wheres and the hows of bully. (I’m a teacher so of course I’m going to look at the 5 “w’s” and the how of things- that’s what teachers do. Ask any student.) Those of you who are listening to this as a podcast can come to today’s post at www.teachersatrisk.com and find the link to any or all of my six previous posts on bullying. To be honest, focusing this much on the topic of bullying is starting to get to me-all that negativity. I usually focus on catching kids being good, not on catching kids being bad. But we, that includes me need to focus on the issue of bullying and work together to stop bullying. I can’t pretend it’s not the, or it’s just what kids do. Right now I just want to find an anti-bullying program that stops the bullying and implement it ASAP- preferably next Monday morning. So my question is: What could we do to stop the bullying that goes on in schools and else where? I’ve used Dr. Ken Rigby’s report on bully interventions to help answer this and other questions.

We could educate the staff about bullying by first taking surveys to find out what type and how much bullying is going on. Then we could discuss the results at staff meeting so that teacher become more aware of the issue.

We could get parents and students more involved by discussing the problem and asking them for their support.

We could include anti-bullying content like social skills and anger control training, developing empathy, learning to be assertive and not aggressive, and conflict management and mediation.

We could increase supervision to try to identify and stop bullying during the times kids aren’t in the classroom.

We could encourage kids to tell us if they are being bullied or see someone being bullied.

We could develop a plan to deal with bullying when it happens.

According to Dr. Rigby we could emphasize the

need for clear rules about how students should treat each other and the need to apply sanctions when rules were broken. The sanctions could include detentions, loss of privileges, and suspensions, the sanction depending on the seriousness of the bullying (see Olweus, 1991).

We could place

greater emphasis upon problem-solving approaches in dealing with bully/victim cases. These included the use of mediation between bullies and victims and the use of the No-Blame Approach (Maines and Robinson, 1992) and the Method of Shared Concern (Pikas, 2002).

OK, we could do all those things, but what should we do? What does Dr. Rigby’s research tell us is the most effective thing to do to stop the bullying that goes on.

With several exceptions, the interventions (above) were reported as successful in reducing bullying The scale of the reductions varied widely. Very few have achieved greater than 50% reduction. The average reduction in bullying after interventions was around 15%, arguably only a modest achievement.

The first time I read that research showed that interventions on average reduced bullying by just 15%, I was stunned. The average success rate of anti-bullying programs was 15%. Why that’s hardly anything. Surely some programs are more successful than that. Logically, the next questions for Dr. Rigby would be

Have some programs been shown to be more successful than others ?

The answer at this stage is ‘No’. The reported outcomes of well evaluated programs do not allow us to claim that the ‘content’ of some programs is ‘better’ than others. The most widely evaluated program in the world is the Olweus program. This has enjoyed some notable success in the three applications in Norway, but has not been successful elsewhere – for instance in Germany, Belgium and South Carolina, USA, the outcomes were disappointing. Quite different programs – ones emphasising problem-solving approaches – have yielded some success in England, Spain and Finland. (See Smith, Pepler, Rigby, 2004, for details)

Under what circumstances are interventions likely to be more successful ?

Reports indicate that success is more likely to be achieved when they are (i) applied with younger, primary school students (ii) are applied thoroughly. This implies that early intervention in addressing bullying must be a priority and thoroughness of application is crucial.

OK. So for a anti-bullying program to be more successful than that average 15%, the kids in the anti-bullying program need to be in the primary grades and the program needs to be applied thoroughly. But, the kids I teach are in high school, not in the primary grades. I want to know what we can do to stop teenagers from bullying. As for thoroughness, I think that could apply to the high-school setting. What does it mean to be thorough? Dr Ridley defines thoroughly this way

1. An anti-bullying policy and associated program is carefully formulated and is communicated to all members of the school community

2. Members of the school community accept responsibility for carrying out the program – and do so. In particular:

  • Work is done on bullying with children in classes, as part of a planned curriculum
  • There is thoughtful attention continually paid to how children relate to each other, especially when there are indications that bullying is taking place.
  • Action is consistently taken to deal with cases of bullying in accordance with an agreed policy

3. Thorough implementation is likely to occur when:

Teachers care about the problem of bullying (Hence the need for surveys and subsequent discussion)

Teachers are meaningfully involved in the development of anti-bullying policy and know what they are expected to do.

Leadership in a school produces a ‘whole school approach’ in which coordinated activities to address bullying actually occur.

Now, in this report Dr Rigby does note that the evaluations of anti-bullying programs are rare and consist mainly of anecdotal evidence and not the usual scientific experimentation with its control or comparison groups and calls for neutral evaluators who do not have a vested financial interest in reporting successful outcomes from a given anti-bullying program. Those are certainly good points.

If it is the case that anti-bullying programs are not as effective as we had hoped, what are our other options. . The Canadian Public Health Association published its Safe School Study– all 62 pages of it in 2004 and suggests that we need to look at bullying as a public health issue.

Bullying as a public health issue. What exactly does that mean? I’m not sure now, but you know what? I’ll read those 62 pages of the CPHA’s report and anything else I find on the topic and tell you next time. Next time will probably be in two weeks. I’m getting really busy at school with year end stuff and now that Spring has finally come to Mississagua my garden beckons.

I might write a blog post or two before I do another podcast. Writing and publishing a blog hardly takes any time, unlike a podcast, and I do have some things that I’m working on for my grade 11/12 Learning Strategies Class that focuses on how to be successful in your career despite having learning disabilities. I think that even if you don’t have learning disabilities or aren’t a high school teacher who might be able to use what I’ve created for my senior class, you might learn something that can help someone you know who has learning disabilities. A lot of adults have learning disabiliites and don’t know it. Something I’ve said may be helpful. You never know. So check out my blog in mid week and I should have that post up.

Theme music- 3 feet upPodsafe Music Network

Enjoyed reading this post? Subscribe to Teachers at Risk.


6 Responses to “How effective are anti-bullying programs?”

  1. Julie on October 14th, 2007 2:10 pm

    Great questions. Focusing on kids being good neglects the victims, though. With the amount of kids missing school each day, clinical depression, and bullycide, ignoring the victims will not stop bullying.

    I’ve written a guide about what to do about Relational Aggression, a form of bullying, that could be used for other forms of bullying as well. There is also a sample respect contract in the 27 page guide that can be added to or amended as needed.

    Parents need to do their part. The school can only do so much, so educationg the parents, students, and staff as to what constitutes bullying and what sanctions will be handed down for incidents of bullying needs to spelled out clearly. Even with all of the anti-bullying programs available, teachers and students agree that bullying is getting worse, and meaner.

  2. Elona on October 14th, 2007 6:37 pm

    Focusing on kids being good is not the only thing we need to do. I certainly don’t mean that. I agree with you that there are other problems kids come to school with and that ignoring victims of bullying will not stop bullying. If you read all my articles on bullying, you’ll see that’s not what I support. Parents need to do their part, schools need to do their part, the community needs to do its part and the kids need to do their part. Everyone needs to do their part. That’s what I believe. Telling kids to ignore whatever was said and done is not the way to go. Implementing programs like Tribes in the schools is a good beginning.

  3. Johnny on July 25th, 2010 1:46 pm

    I’m a tutor in the UK and i recently developed an anti bully program for primary school children which may be of interest to everyone.
    The website is..


    Or you can view the children from one school who are 6 and 7 yrs old performing the song taken from the program here.



  4. Articles on Bullying | Bullying Program on March 22nd, 2011 7:45 pm

    […] How effective are anti-bullying programs? : Teachers At Risk – If you read all my articles on bullying, you’ll see that’s not what I support. Parents need to do their part, schools need to do their part, the community needs to do its part and the kids need to do their part. … […]

  5. Lisa on August 16th, 2011 10:23 pm

    Teachers really have to put up with a lot. Its not just teaching maths and spelling anymore…….now you are social workers too!!! To me 15% reduction in bullying is not a success!!! I could not believe this when i found out. Konfident Kidz has been running in schools in New Zealand for 3 years. We have had an immediate reduction of bullying by 80% and after 1 year a 95% reduction. This isnt in just 1 school this is the standard over all of our schools. The system is being re-developed for worldwide use currently, but have a look at

    It really does work!!! Feel free to email me!!

  6. Janet on October 26th, 2011 10:51 am

    Elona, have you read the Stan Davis book “Schools Where Everyone Belongs”? His school in Maine has had a dramatic decrease in bullyihg. I do believe it is an elementary school. The book was written in 2005. He uses an olweus-based program.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 Subscribe to stay up to date. Teachers at Risk is informative. It's free.

  • apple144
  • Meta

  • BlogWithIntegrity.com
  • Archives