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Bullying Prevention: Ross Ellis 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 Stomp Out Bullying founder Ross Ellis shared regarding best practices. See how other experts answered similar questions. Also, don't miss EducationWorld's additional resources that address school-based bullying.

By Ross Ellis

Ross Ellis is founder and CEO of Stomp Out Bullying, a national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization focused on reducing and preventing bullying, cyberbullying, sexting and other digital abuse, educating against homophobia, racism and hatred, decreasing school absenteeism, and deterring violence in schools, online and in communities across the country.

Most states now have some form of anti-bullying law that requires K-12 schools to put in place various policies and practices to prevent and respond to student bullying. Do you think these laws are making a difference? If they aren't currently, could they, or will they?

No, the laws aren't making a difference, simply because most schools are not enforcing them. The only way most of these laws can and will work is for schools to enforce them and offer real, long-term appropriate solutions.

What are state anti-bullying laws getting right/wrong when it comes to actual evidence-based best practices for preventing and responding to bullying?

Anti-bullying laws that get it right do the following:

  • Outline the range of detrimental effects bullying has on students, including impacts on student learning, school safety, student engagement and the school environment.
  • Declare that any form, type or level of bullying is unacceptable (including cyberbullying whether on or off-campus), and that every incident needs to be taken seriously and dealt with in an appropriate manner by school administrators, school staff (including teachers), students and students’ families.
  • Train all faculty and administration on how to handle bullying situations. Many schools use a popular program to train faculty and administration; however, it doesn’t seem to be working in most cases.

Anti-bullying laws that get it wrong do not include behavioral therapy management for the bully in order to change the behavior.

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?

Schools must offer or arrange for the bully to receive behavioral therapy management rather than punishment. In severe cases expulsion may be necessary, but fixing the root of the problem is the route to take.

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?

  • Many schools take the student’s report and do nothing. 
  • Some take an intervention approach by having the bully apologize to the target--this does not work and exacerbates the problem.
  • Some suspend the bully for a few days--not fixing the problem.
  • Some take the situation seriously--still not changing the bully’s behavior.


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