Update Your Bullying Prevention Policy, But Don’t Stop There

Advice for Administrators

Bullying remains a concerning and unacceptable problem that impacts approximately 20-30% of any typical school’s student population[1]. This October, schools across the nation are hosting educational events to mark Bullying Prevention Month. These events typically include assemblies, staff development and school-wide campaigns that raise the awareness about the problems of bullying and seek to reduce bullying behaviors among students.

Now is a good time to review your bullying prevention policy.

Too many schools lag behind in writing and implementing a clear bullying prevention policy. A clearly-written and comprehensive policy is an important part of your bullying prevention and intervention efforts. Your policy should:

  1. define bullying and cyberbullying and the unacceptable behaviors associated with them
  2. list the consequences for students who engage in those behaviors
  3. explain the internal investigation process for reported incidences of bullying and
  4. outline the prevention and intervention programs available to students who are bullied AND to those who bully others. 

When crafting your policy, do some additional research.

Twenty years ago, the state of Georgia passed the country’s first bullying prevention state law. By March 2015, there were bullying prevention laws on the books in every state[2]. New Jersey has what is widely considered to be the country’s most comprehensive legislation. The NJ law stipulates that every school district has a designated and trained bullying prevention coordinator[3]. Although this is not a requirement in every state, it is a good way to ensure that attention to bullying prevention remains a priority. You can learn more about each state’s bullying prevention legislation at www.stopbullying.gov  which includes a state-by-state listing of laws, policies and regulations.

It’s a good idea to involve your school climate committee (or similar group) to assist with the evaluation of your current policy.  Use this checklist as a helpful evaluation tool. Don’t forget to get legal advice as you normally would where policies are concerned. You may need approval from the board or governing body for proposed changes. Keep in mind the ways that technology is influencing bullying behaviors and be sure your policy’s language is inclusive of cyberbullying as well. The most reliable and up-to-date information on cyberbullying prevention can be found at the Cyberbullying Research Center.    

Consider this: it’s not necessarily the case that stricter policies will yield better results.

Recent research reviewed by a panel of experts of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has questioned the effectiveness of “zero tolerance” disciplinary practices. These practices often ignore broader social contexts, and the critical issues of intent and understanding based on a child’s age and cognitive development.[4]  Zero tolerance policies can be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. In using a one-size-fits all punitive approach, schools miss the opportunity to educate the students involved in incidents as well as the wider school community. Such policies might also decrease the reporting of bullying behaviors (and associated pre-bullying behaviors), because the consequences for doing so are high. I recommend that you consider a more nuanced approach that includes appropriate consequences for bullying behavior, support for targeted students, and educational interventions for offending students.

Updating your policy is only a first step. Implement educational programming to prevent bullying before it starts.

As an administrator, you can ensure that effective prevention programming is prioritized in your school or district. The best programs involve students and staff in creating a culture of kindness: a caring school community that is physically and emotionally safe for all. It’s especially important that students and staff receive diversity training that emphasizes the dignity of individual students and the importance of empathy, kindness, and respect. Students who learn “upstander” skills will be more prepared and confident to interrupt bullying scenarios and to support targets. See this free resource from Teaching Tolerance which explores upstander skills. Research suggests that character education, social-emotional learning and restorative practices, combined with targeted interventions with “at-risk” youth, may lead to a more positive school climate. [5] And positive school climate has been positively correlated to student achievement, which is an additional motivation to focus on climate.[6] 

In short, now is a good time to review and update your bullying policy, and to focus on bullying prevention and school climate. In doing so, you will be one step closer to a bullying-free school.


If you enjoyed this article, you may also like 10 Ways to Sustain Your Bullying Prevention Month Efforts Through the School Year.

Christa M. Tinari, MA is co-author of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying. She serves as the Senior Instructional Content Developer at The Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning Program at The Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics, Emory University.

Contact: ctinari@peacepraxis.com 267-885-4177. www.peacepraxis.com

[1] https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp

[2] www.bullypolice.org

[3] https://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/behavior/hib/

[4] https://doi.org/10.17226/23482

[5] http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/alternatives-to-zero-tolerance.pdf

[6] https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02069 

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Create a Culture of Kindness When It’s Hard to Do!

If everyone agrees that being kind is cool, how come your students still struggle with kindness?  Time to face reality: being kind is not always as easy as we make it out to be! How do we help kids be kind throughout the year? These tips can help!

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21 Kindness Tips!

How can we create a culture of kindness? What does it mean to be kind?

It means a whole lot more than “being nice!”  Instead, being kind involves being aware and concerned about the well-being of those around you- and then taking positive action based on that concern.  It includes some really nitty-gritty stuff like challenging stereotypes.  The new middle school curriculum, Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School , addresses that tricky issue, as well as inclusion, compassion, empathy, perspective-taking, bullying, and conflict resolution.

Based on that work, I’ve included below a link to ’21 Kindness Tips’ that invite you to go beyond “being nice.”  We had a great conversation about these tips during my talk on “Raising Kind Kids” at the Doylestown Bookshop.

My 9-year-old daughter and I truly enjoyed Christa’s discussion about creating a culture of kindness, not just in schools, but in our lives. We discussed the value of listening to others, creating a climate of openness and emotional safety. My daughter was encouraged to share her thoughts about how she could be a better listener at school during times when she doesn’t feel like listening (her words). As a  parent, I’m reminded that our children need and deserve eye contact and to be given our full attention amidst the ever-present distractions of technology. I was grateful that my daughter was there to learn about being an upstander and receive tips on how to support the unsupported. Christa is a gem, and our community is very lucky to have these conversations with her! ~ Meena Dershin,  parent and Licensed Professional Counselor.

Use the tips at home or school as conversation starters and reminders of how our actions have a big impact on others, and our community.  Get  the 21 Kindness Tips !


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Create a Culture of Kindness Book Signing

“Raising Kind Kids” talk at the Doylestown Bookshop.

To purchase a copy of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying, visit Free Spirit Publishing . Use coupon code CULTURE for a 25% discount! Also available on amazon.com

(Heidi Roux, Guest Blogger.)

The Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School book launch, led by author Christa Tinari, had a celebratory feel and engaged every attendee present. On April 26th at 6:30pm, the Doylestown Bookshop hosted an audience consisting of the book’s co-author Naomi Drew, community members, parents with children of various ages, non-profit leaders, teachers, and students.  During the free thirty-minute talk on “Raising Kind Kids” Christa Tinari provided a concise talk focusing on ways to foster empathy and understanding in children and youth. She shared with participants a handout consisting of 21 kindness tips and actions.  Access the 21 Kindness Tips here!

The interactive conversation that ensued included practical ways to implement the ideas at home and school. Ms. Tinari’s passion and expertise ignited a momentum for change among the crowd. The audience’s enthusiasm was contagious and many said they felt better prepared and were excited to take more action for kindness!

Following the talk, there was no shortage of audience questions. They ranged from concerns about school environment to the current social climate. The audience disclosed and shared details about personal accounts of bullying. Tough questions arose such as, “How do I stop bullying among a group of my three-year-old daughter’s friends?” from one concerned mother. Ms. Tinari’s response included a brief overview of developmental stages in children and cited several research studies. She discussed inclusion, and how that affects group dynamics among youth. The author emphasized the importance of communication and support for anyone facing challenging situations. “You can make a positive impact on a victim of bullying by simply offering support. Support strategies include sending a complimentary text message, offering to walk or sit with the victim, and reassuring the victim that the bully’s criticisms and harsh words are uncalled for and untrue. Every student can use a support strategy- even students who are shy themselves. Support strategies have been found to act as a defense against the pain that bullying inflicts.”

After signing the purchased books, Ms. Tinari sent attendees off with a small goodie bag with a “kindness makes a difference sticker,” chocolate kisses, and a reminder of one of the 21 tips. They also walked away empowered by having learned a lesson or two from the author and her book, Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying.

As a prelude to the book launch, PeacePraxis created a virtual event on social media which asked for random acts of kindness to be performed. Participants shared their efforts using #actionforkindness. In the morning, Ms. Tinari presented a talk on “Creating a Culture of Kindness at School” to 75 NJ educators and counselors. Dragonfly Yoga Studio joined as an Action for Kindness Partner, and hosted a free, lunch-hour compassion meditation class that was well attended. Another event was co-sponsored by Girls Empowered and Nina’s Waffles which focused on raising self-esteem and provided an interactive photo booth with positive affirmations. Thanks to the Doylestown Bookshop, Dragonfly Yoga Studio, Girls Empowered and Nina’s Waffles for partnering with PeacePraxis to celebrate Action for Kindness Day 2017!

To purchase a copy of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying, visit Free Spirit Publishing . Use coupon code CULTURE for a 25% discount!

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PeacePraxis Welcomes Associate Heidi Roux

Founding Director of PeacePraxis, Christa Tinari, is pleased to welcome new Outreach Coordinator, Heidi Roux!

Heidi’s professional experience is in nonprofit management and program development. She has developed and implemented various awareness and advocacy campaigns in education and around issues involving children and youth. Heidi has an MBA from Northern Arizona University. While in the market research field, she co-authored various studies on social and public health issues. In 2012, she was named one of Wells Fargo and Univision’s 40 Hispanic Leaders under 40 in Arizona.

“Heidi’s passions are completely aligned with the values and purpose of PeacePraxis. I am excited about the ways she will use her consulting talents and skills to increase our positive impact” says Christa Tinari.  Heidi brings an enthusiasm for impacting social change through the support of PeacePraxis’ mission. She believes we are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in our social climate and culture. Her hometown of Washington, DC showed her change is possible when you take action. Heidi says “I know with the services PeacePraxis provides, issues such as bias-based bullying can be eradicated. My belief is that every child will succeed and thrive if we create a sustainable culture of kindness.”

Heidi is an avid reader and dreamer. She loves to hike and enjoys nature. She is married and has a young son. Her family thinks it is important to acknowledge others with a smile while making friends and creating community.

As a consultant to PeacePraxis’ outreach efforts, Heidi will be reaching out to past clients, as well as new ones. Please join PeacePraxis in giving Heidi a warm welcome!

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