Schools' Anti-Bullying Efforts Don't Always Work

Anti-bullying programs aren't always effective.

Schools’ Anti-Bullying Efforts Don’t Always Work

Anti-bullying programs aren’t always effective.

-Jane Farrell

Bullies tormenting a girl

With the recent wave of horrifying bullying stories, it sounds like a great idea to have schools for schools to hold anti-bullying and empathy forums.

But an effective anti-bullying technique isn’t just a matter of holding a platitude-laden lecture in an auditorium. According to a report on, the success of anti-bullying programs often depends on the kind of school where they’re taking place, the age of the students, and the behavior of the kids’ parents.

“School districts can choose from dozens of programs,” Scott W. Ross, a University of Utah professor and one of the researchers on a study of anti-bullying efforts, told Newsweek. “It’s hard to say this or that program really works to stop bullying.”

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In some cases, bullying actually increased after a program, because students misused the information they learned. In Ross’s study of 16 anti-bullying programs, that was the exception. But at the same time, the study showed only small positive effects, according to Newsweek.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that schools should stop try to stop bullying. The best, most comprehensive programs, according to other studies, include the use of videos, the increased supervision of bullying sites like schoolyards, and training of parents.

Also important: the age at which kids start taking part in anti-bullying education. Says Malcolm Watson, a Brandeis University professor who studies adolescent aggression, “It’s a tougher sell to teach adolescents than kids of a younger age.” A Cambridge University study suggested that the ideal age to start education was 11. But whatever the differences in studies, experts generally believe that teaching high school students is difficult or impossible.

But just as crucial, says psychologist Barbara Gueldner, who worked with Scott Ross on the study of anti-bulling programs, is the role of parents. “You have to be aware of your own behavior, and what you’re modeling to your kids,” she told Newsweek. “This requires a certain amount of self-reflection–you have to care about your own behavior and what it says about you.” (newsweek)

Jane Farrell is a senior editor at BettyConfidential.

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