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Bullying Prevention: Elizabeth Donnellan on Best Practices

EducationWorld asked a number of authors, college professors and other experts for their take on bullying prevention and whether schools, states and the country are getting it right—or wrong. Below is what Elizabeth Donnellan, MEd, ABD, Psychology Professor at Kaplan University shared regarding best practices. See how other experts answered similar questions. Also, don’t miss EducationWorld's additional resources that address school-based bullying.

Elizabeth Donnellan currently is an associate editor for the International Journal of Technologies and Educational Marketing. Certified as a field traumatologist and licensed in the mental health and addictions fields, she has over 14 years of college teaching experience. She served as both a direct care provider and an administrator in the fields of school counseling (K-12), substance abuse/addictions treatment, mental health counseling, rape/crisis counseling and traumatology.


Are there things that K-12 schools have to do to successfully prevent bullying, but that can’t be covered or mandated in a law?

There are many things that school staff members can do to discourage bullying both in school and at home. Studies indicate that bullying behaviors indicate that a child does not feel securely connected to a peer group. The more divided that the school's social system is, the greater chance that bully tactics will be used by individuals and groups. To prevent or reduce bullying, all school staff need to help students to feel connected to the school's mission, understand that all students are to be respected (but not necessarily liked), to work effectively in teams, and to teach students to make and be motivated by goals.

bullying prevention

When students have specific goals for their future (even young children), they become interested in preserving those goals. Consequences for bullying need to be creative so that the student or student group doing the bullying learns about respect (rather than simply sitting in the office). Lastly, school communities should teach parents to guide their children in creating positive, healthy goals for their future. Parents need resources to help them teach their children about respecting others both at school, online, and in the neighborhood.


Laws aside, what are K-12 schools currently doing right/wrong when it comes to preventing and responding to bullying? What are some common mistakes that schools make?

One of the common mistakes made by schools in their efforts to thwart bullying is in teaching students that "bullying is wrong" and going no further. Yet the common precept of behaviorism is that effective change comes when an undesirable behavior is replaced with a desirable one. Effective behavior change should begin with teaching students what to do INSTEAD of bullying.

Some children do not know how to act in social situations when they feel uncomfortable. To gain control over that feeling, they might bully others. However, if teachers and parents work together to promote pro-social behaviors, students will understand better how to act in those situations. Schools who adopt this model report less bullying and a better overall school sense of community.


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