What Schools can do
Nine intervention strategies
Sources of information about these methods are described in A simplified guide, Information on interventions, Shared Concern Method.
- Direct sanctions. Sometimes referred to as the Traditional Disciplinary Method. This approach makes use of disciplinary procedures or penalties as a punishment and/or a deterrent to prevent further bullying. These may include verbal reprimands; meetings with parents; temporary removals from class; withdrawal of privileges; school community service; detentions and internal exclusion in a special room; short-term exclusion; and permanent exclusion. Over 90% of schools sometimes make use of direct sanctions.
- School Tribunals. Also known as Bully Courts, this approach enables a body of appointed or elected students to meet under supervision by staff to examine the evidence relating to a case of school bullying and to make recommendations as to what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. Only a very small number of schools use this approach.
- Serious talks. This approach is used in most schools with students and parents to draw attention to the seriousness of the offence and possible consequences.
- Bully Prevention in Positive Behaviour Support (PBIS). This approach has become popular, especially in the United States. Students are repeatedly made aware of what behaviours are unacceptable, including bullying and how, as potential victims, they should respond. When cases need to be handled by teachers, both negative reinforcement for undesirable behaviour and positive reinforcement for desirable behaviour are consistently applied.
- Strengthening the victim. This approach aims at strengthening the victim to resist being bullied. Training may involve instruction in martial arts or (more often) in the use of appropriate social skills, such as 'fogging.'
- Mediation. This process employed in a small minority of suitable cases requires the unforced cooperation of both the person who has been engaging in bullying and the target of the bullying in seeking a solution using the services of a trained mediator, either an adult or a peer.
- Restorative Approaches. These involve getting the bully, sometimes termed the 'offender' or 'perpetrator' to reflect upon his or her unacceptable behaviour, experience a sense of remorse and act to restore a damaged relationship with both the victim and the school community. Often used in schools as an alternative to a more punitive approach,its application may take place (i) at a meeting with just the bully and the victim (ii) with a group or class of students involved in bullying behaviour or (iii) at community conference attended by those involved in the bullying plus significant others such as parents.
- The Support Group Method. Used mainly in primary schools, this is a non-punitive approach in which students, who have been identified as collectively bullying someone, are confronted at a group meeting with vivid evidence of the victim's distress derived from an interview previously conducted with the victim. Those present at the meeting also include a number of students who have been selected because they are expected to be supportive of the victim. The victim is generally not present. It is impressed upon everyone that they have a responsibility to improve the situation. Each student is required to say what he or she will do to make matters better for the victim.
- The Method of Shared Concern Used by a small minority of schools,this is also a non-punitive approach, sometimes known as the Pikas Method after its originator. It is used for working with groups of students who are suspected of bullying someone. The practitioner begins by interviewing the suspected bullies individually, sharing a concern for the victim and inviting a helpful response to the problem. Subsequently the victim is interviewed and offered support. The possibility of the victim having provoked the bullying is also explored. When progress has been ascertained, a meeting is held with the suspected bullies as a group to plan how the problem might be resolved. They are subsequently joined by the victim and an agreed solution is negotiated.