Recent statistics have shown that one out of every five students (20.2%) report being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019) and the percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have more than doubled (18% to 37%) from 2007-2019 (Patchin & Hinduja, 2019). While school-based bullying prevention programs have been shown to decrease bullying by up to 25% (McCallion & Feder, 2013), many are not developed from a more effective systems approach with school staff, student, and family involvement (Njelesani et al., 2020).
MTSS is an ideal framework to establish this integrated approach to bullying prevention as “it reaches those who are bullied, those who bully others, and bystanders to the bullying, and over time promotes policy, practice, and a positive ethos at a whole-school level that fosters sustainability” (Pearce, Cross, Monks, Waters, & Falconer, 2011, pg. 3). As schools work to spread awareness during bullying prevention month, consider the key actions below as your staff take steps to address this important issue.
Focus on prevention through the development of schoolwide approaches which foster inclusive classroom environments and promote the integration of social emotional learning (Njelesani et al., 2020).
Successful prevention of bullying behavior should teach students and adults:
- what bullying looks like, including cyberbullying,
- what to do before and when bullying behavior is observed,
- how to teach others what to do, and
- how to create positive and preventive environments that reduce the effectiveness of bullying behavior (Ross, Horner & Stiller, 2009).
Ensure that a school level leadership team exists and has access to data systems in order to analyze how often, where, when and who is involved related to bullying and aggressive behavior (Sugai, Horner., & Algozzine, 2011). These data can also help to identify potential areas for targeted staff training (Bradshaw, 2013). Families should also be involved in the development of school-wide efforts and community-level marketing campaigns, receive training and education on setting consistent positive behavioral expectations and supporting the home–school connection (Bradshaw, 2013).
Integrate bullying prevention within existing small group interventions that strengthen social and emotional skills (Njelesani et al., 2020). Collecting data on bullying through the use of anonymous student surveys and health screenings can also support the supervision and intervention process (Bradshaw, 2013). Targeted lessons for groups of students can focus on digital citizenship, emotional awareness, effective communication, and strategies for responding to, and preventing, bullying (Bradshaw, 2013).
Individualized support may include more intensive intervention that meets the needs of students identified as a bully or victim, as well as the needs of their families (Bradshaw, 2013). Incorporate bullying prevention into existing individual student sessions and interventions with students, and provide ongoing support to students who have experienced bullying (Njelesani et al., 2020). Consider the integration of school-based and community mental health supports within current student response systems that are designed to meet the needs of individual students and families (Center on PBIS, 2022).
For MTSS frameworks to be successful, everyone involved needs to understand their role as well as the school’s systems and structures. Research has proven that students and all staff within the larger school system should play a role in MTSS bullying initiatives across all three tiers (Njelesani et al., 2020). In addition, consider the integration of bullying prevention within broader efforts to enhance school climate (Bradshaw, 2013).
For more information, see the resource Reducing the Effectiveness of Bullying Behavior in Schools (Sugai, Horner., & Algozzine, 2011) which is organized around eight questions and provides an overview of how school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) can be used as a framework for improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and relevance of practices to prevent school violence and bullying behavior.
Bradshaw, C. (2013). Preventing Bullying through Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS): A Multitiered Approach to Prevention and Integration, Theory Into Practice, 52:4, 288-295.
Center on PBIS. (2022). Tier 3 Student-level Systems Guide. Center on PBIS, University of Oregon. Retrieved from https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/61fd8575fcde71e46a028720_Tier%203%20Student%20Level%20Systems%20Guide.pdf
McCallion, G., & Feder, J. (2013). Student bullying: Overview of research, federal initiatives, and legal issues. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43254.pdf.
National Center for Educational Statistics. (2019). Student reports of bullying: Results from the 2017 School Crime Supplement to the National Victimization Survey. US Department of Education. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2015056 .
Njelesani, Attard, K., Duimstra, A., & Zenderman, N. (2020). Addressing School Bullying with a Multi-tiered System of Support Approach. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools & Early Intervention, ahead-of-print(ahead-of-print), 1–16.
Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2019). 2019 Cyberbullying Data. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved from https://cyberbullying.org/2019-cyberbullying-data.
Pearce, N., Cross, D., Monks, H., Waters, S., & Falconer, S. (2011). Current evidence of best practice in whole-school bullying intervention and its potential to inform cyberbullying interventions. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 21(1), 1–21.
Ross, S., Horner, R. H., & Stiller, B. (2009). Bully prevention in Positive Behavior Support. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(4):747-59.
Sugai, G., Horner, R., & Algozzine, B. (2011). Reducing the Effectiveness of Bullying Behavior in Schools. OSEP Center on PBIS. Retreived from https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/5d6ff558d558a518da7a2e06_pbis_bullying_behavior_apr19_2011.pdf