Written by Néhémie Bikin-kita
Bullying at school is a common and persistent problem which many students face. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), about one third of teenagers around the world have recently experienced bullying1. Many different elements come into play whenever bullying occurs. However, when it comes to bullying at school it is important to:
- Look at the context in which it happens
- The specific school-related factors which help either foster or reduce bullying
Research has shown that in schools which foster a positive school climate, where disapproval of bullying is clearly stated and policies and practices towards this aim are clear, students are less likely to experience peer victimisation and bullying2.
What is a positive school climate?
☑️ Space where students feel secure
School climate refers to the “the collective beliefs, values, and attitudes that prevail at the school and that are (re)produced through social interactions between students, teachers, and other school staff”3. In a positive school climate, students feel safe and comfortable. They perceive the school to be a good environment with fair rules and where they are treated with respect4 and this affects how they perceive the school’s effectiveness when it comes to dealing with bullying incidents. Fostering a positive school climate is thus an important aspect of reducing cases of bullying at school.
3 ways for schools to promote a positive school climate:
🔶 Clear policies for dealing with bullying situations
Having firm rules regarding what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour has been linked to a lower prevalence of bullying5). It is important for schools to have policies that clearly describe to students how they are expected to treat each other, and for them to clearly state and enforce the sanctions for behaviours deemed inacceptable6.
🔶 Teachers that are supportive and committed to preventing bullying
Teachers’ attitudes towards bullying also affect the prevalence of bullying in schools; classrooms in which teachers intervene when bullying occurs are associated with lower rates of bullying. Teachers should encourage the inclusion of all students in the class, and promptly intervene whenever bullying occurs. This includes imposing sanctions according to the policies set by the school7.
🔶 Campaign to change students’ mentalities
A focus on preventing bullying by encouraging students to change what they perceive as social norms is also essential. Instead of seeing bullying as normal and unavoidable, students should be shown that it is normal to be kind to each other or seek help from adults. This shifting of norms has been shown to reduce levels of bullying8.
1 UNESCO. (2018). New data reveal that one out of three teens is bullied worldwide. [online]. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/news/new-data-reveal-one-out-three-teens-bullied-worldwide [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
2 Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A Review of School Climate Research. Review Of Educational Research, 83(3), 357-385. doi: 10.3102/0034654313483907
3 Låftman, S., Östberg, V., & Modin, B. (2016). School climate and exposure to bullying: a multilevel study. School Effectiveness And School Improvement, 28(1), 153-164. doi: 10.1080/09243453.2016.1253591
4 Kutsyuruba, B., Klinger, D., & Hussain, A. (2015). Context and Implications Document for: Relationships among school climate, school safety, and student achievement and well-being: a review of the literature. Review Of Education, 3(2), 136-137. doi: 10.1002/rev3.3045
5 Gregory, A., Cornell, D., Fan, X., Sheras, P., Shih, T., & Huang, F. (2010). Authoritative school discipline: High school practices associated with lower bullying and victimization. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 102(2), 483-496. doi: 10.1037/a0018562
6 StopBullying.gov. (2019). Set Policies & Rules. [online]. Available at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/at-school/rules/index.html [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
7 Stopbullying.gov. (2017). Misdirections in Bullying Prevention and Intervention. [online]. Available at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/files/2017-10/misdirections-in-prevention.pdf [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
8 Perkins, H., Craig, D., & Perkins, J. (2011). Using social norms to reduce bullying. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(5), 703-722. doi: 10.1177/1368430210398004
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the international coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.