How can schools help?

Schools can put programmes in place to help reduce bullying.

Those that work best are the ones that attempt to change the school environment rather than focusing just on the students involved in bullying (both the instigator of bullying behaviour and their targets). Simply punishing the person or group that is doing the bullying doesn’t make a difference.

Information on what works in schools

We know that bullying behaviour does not result simply from personality, but also from peer, family, school, community and societal factors. Reducing bullying needs to address all these factors.

We know that the following works for reducing bullying behaviour:

  • taking a whole school approach/community approach
  • approaches that include students, school staff, parents and whanau working together
  • reducing inequalities
  • modelling positive behaviours
  • encouraging mindfulness
  • restorative justice
  • social and emotional competencies training.

“There’s never a point where you can’t do something about it; there is always another step.”

Cody, 17

A whole school approach encourages students, teachers, Board of Trustees, parents and the wider community to share responsibility for changing the school culture and developing a positive school climate that discourages bullying and encourage students to care about each other.

A whole school approach to bullying is one that includes:

  • A shared responsibility for creating a positive school climate.
  • A shared understanding of what bullying is and why it is a problem, including the effects it can have.
  • A shared responsibility to reduce bullying.
  • A plain English anti-bullying policy that has been developed with consultation from students and the wider community. This should include common definitions of bullying, violence and abuse, procedures for responding to bullying and preventive programmes integrated into the school curriculum.
  • A multiple level initiative that includes all the points above.
  • Professional development for teachers.
  • Curriculum-based activities.

Generation Queer (GQ) Group: Schools play a part in preventing bullying

"Schools always say ‘be supportive, don’t discriminate,’ but they don’t teach us how. More support groups and diversity classes would be really helpful.” Michelle

Here's the GQ group's ideas about ways schools can step up and be more supportive for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) students:

  • Have clear, specific policies about inclusivity, equality, diversity and preventing discrimination. Make sure both students and staff are aware of these policies and that they are easily accessible and enforced.
  • Give actual advice on HOW to support people being bullied rather than just say we should be giving them support.
  • Create an atmosphere where you can feel safe going to a teacher – giving teachers diversity training is a great place to start, they need to have at least some understanding of what we’re going through to be able to help.
  • Make sure there is more than one person who students can go to to report bullying – if you don’t connect with a certain teacher, that should not mean you can’t get help.
  • Visibility is key – teachers should be seen to be doing supportive things like attending Queer-Straight Alliance group meetings.
  • Have a process where teachers can be held accountable for their behaviours.
  • Foster older/younger student relationships so students have one more person to go to – sometimes you just don’t want to talk to a teacher, but talking to an older student is easier.
  • Have lots of different support groups, queer, cultural, interest based, sports etc.
  • Regular weekly counselling appointments, not just when something bad happens.
  • List of information on helplines in schools that are not in an obvious place; maybe listed in diaries.
  • Schools can organise appointments with counsellors outside of the school system and allow students to go to them in school hours.
  • Have counsellor feedback forms.
  • Be respectful when informing parents about struggles their kids are going through – some things are private and it’s up to students to confide in their parents if and when they feel comfortable and safe doing so.
  • Let the student decide what involvement parents can have.
  • Always inform students first before a parent has to be involved.
  • Have all conversations with parents in front of students.

“Effective bullying prevention involves the whole school community staff, students, parents and whanau. It means having well-planned responses in place for when bullying does occur.”

Mike Williams

Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand (SPANZ).