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A first step in implementing a bullying prevention program is to conduct a Needs Assessment to obtain a set of base-rate (preintervention) measures against which to evaluate the efficiency of any preventative and treatment interventions.


Bullying is a covert or “underground” activity that is difficult for adults to detect for many reasons.

  • The majority of bullying is verbal rather than physical.
  • Bullying episodes are, on average, short-lived. Observations of bullying on elementary school playgrounds indicated that they lasted an average of 37 seconds.
  • Teachers rarely observe bullying directly.
  • Teachers intervene in only 14% of classroom bullying episodes and in only 4% of playground episodes of bullying.
  • School staff is generally unaware of the extent of bullying and victimization problems, even though much of bullying occurs on the playground, in hallways, classrooms, and locker rooms where teachers are immediately available to observe or intervene.
  • Children who have been bullied report that teachers ignore their requests for help more than half the time.
  • On surveys, teachers are only able to accurately identify fewer than one-half of bullies identified by peers.
  • Parents are often similarly unaware of the extent of bullying and victimization and they do not discuss bullying with their children.
  • Children are more likely to discuss bullying with their parents than with a teacher. Therefore, parents must be active partners in anti-bullying interventions.

This section of the website will examine ways adults can ask about, survey and observe bullying, then determine how to translate this information into achievable goals, while anticipating possible barriers to proposed interventions.

The following provides:

  • A list of questions the Needs Assessment should address
  • Various ways to obtain this information and conduct assessment
  • Ways to translate the information into measurable and doable goals
  • Possible barriers that may get in the way of intervention efforts and how these barriers can be anticipated and addressed.

Another useful resource for assessment tools for bullying and harassment can be found on the website
Canadian Initiative for the Prevention of Bullying
(See their Teacher, Student and Parent Checklists)

The Needs Assessment should help answer the following questions:

1. What is the prevalence and how widespread are bullying and victimization in my school? Is it both on and off campus?

2. What form (type) of bullying occurs in my school?

3. Where and under what condition does bullying take place in my school?

4. Are school staff members present in areas where bullying occurs?

5. How do teachers and administrators respond to such bullying incidents?

6. How effective are teachers and administrators in controlling bullying? What evidence is there that such interventions work?

7. What is the form of the critical incident reporting and accompanying referral systems?

8. Does the bullying occur alone or as part of a group activity?

9. Do gang-related activities occur on campus?

10. What are the characteristics of children who bully? Who are the victims?

11. What factors likely motivate the children who bully (e.g., issue of exerting power/control;
obtain and maintain social status; self-protection and revenge; obtain possessions; part of group activity;
lack of social and self-regulation skills; other reasons)?

12. What has the school done in the past to reduce bullying, harassment, and other forms of violence?

13. What specific intervention programs have been implemented to help children who bully and help children who are victims?

14. How do bystanders react? What can be done to engage bystanders to be part of the solution?

15. What evidence-based interventions have been found to reduce bullying?
What interventions have not been found to be effective in reducing bullying?
What lessons have been learned?

16. What obstacles/barriers got in the way of prior efforts? How can these be anticipated and addressed in the future?

17. What can be done to enhance positive relationships between students, school staff and parents and community members,
administrators (principal) and teachers?

18. How have parents been involved in the bullying prevention program?

In addition to these questions, Morrison et al. (2003) suggest that educators should
also address the following questions:

Who - Who are the students who repeatedly get sent to the office (grades, academic status,
special education status, ethnicity, gender?)

Nature of the Behavior - What is the nature of their misbehavior? Did these behaviors result in office referral?
Are there behaviors that are handled by some teachers in their classrooms, while other teachers use office referrals?
Is there a trend in the type of disruptive behaviors?

Personnel Reactions - Who refers students most often (teachers, yard supervisors)?
Would the misbehavior receive the same response in other classrooms?

When - When (time of day) do students tend to get in trouble?
What months or days of the week are most likely to result in office referrals?

Effectiveness - What consequences seem to reduce office referrals?
Do these consequences work differently for different types of students? Is there a sequence of interventions that work?
Are the consequences teaching students the skills and understanding that they lack?


B1. Open-ended Interview (Students Have a Lot to Tell Us If We Just Ask and Listen.)

Hoover and Oliver (1996) have suggested that educators interview students, either individually or in small (6-8 students)
focus-oriented groups inquiring about bullying. Here are some sample questions that they suggest.
These questions can be rearranged or added to as needed. It is important that the interviewer highlight the confidential nature of all responses.

Suggested Interview Questions
(Note it is not unusual to have half of the students or more answer “yes” to the question that they had been bullied at school.
It is the repetitive and increasingly aggressive form of bullying that has the worst effects.)

  1. What is it like here at _________________[name of school]? That is, what is the feeling or climate like here? Describe it.
  2. Generally speaking, how well do students get along with one another?
  3. Are there identifiable [nameable] groups? What are the names of the main groups?
  4. Is it common that certain students hang together? If so, could these groups be described with names? How do members of the groups relate to one another? For example, how do the [athletes] get along with [artsy] students? Where do you fit in?
  5. In your view, what is bullying?
  6. What are some behaviors that make up bullying? [What might student A do to pick on student B?]
  7. How much bullying [picking on/scapegoating] goes on at _________________[name of school]?
  8. How does bullying affect young people? Can you provide an example?
  9. Is it important to reduce bullying here?
  10. If so, why? If not, why not?
  11. Have adults [teachers, counselors, administrators] in the building done anything to reduce bullying?
  12. If yes to # 11, what?
  13. If yes to #11, how has it been going?
  14. Specifically, what has worked? What hasn’t? Why?
  15. Are there any things that teachers or other adults have done that have made things worse? Can you give examples? You don’t have to use anyone’s name.
  16. Do some students get picked on more often than others? If so, why?
  17. Why do other students get picked on?
  18. Do you get picked on frequently? If so, why?
  19. Is there an adult in the school building to whom you could turn to for help with a problem?
  20. How do you like recess time? What is it that you like and dislike about recess? What could be done to improve recess time? What could be done to improve classroom discipline?
  21. Tell me some things that teachers or other adults in the building do to stop bullying and make student relationships better?
  22. How do you or others handle bullying?
  23. How do you feel when you see someone being picked on? What do you and others do when you see bullying occurring?
  24. Do you ever step in when someone is being bullied? Why or why not?
  25. What causes some students to bully others?
  26. How do you feel about bullying? Is there anything you’d like adults in the building to know about bullying?
  27. What have you learned from any discussions of bullying?
  28. Generally, how does this school feel to you?
  29. Do you have any other suggestions about how our school can curb violence?
  30. If you were the principal what would you do to make our school safer?

The open-ended interview offered by Hoover and Oliver can be supplemented by more close- oriented structured student
Self-Report Interviews
and Questionnaires. Here are some examples and a list of additional measures.


We say that someone is bullying when he or she hits, kicks, grabs or shoves you on purpose. It is also
bullying when a student threatens or teases you in a hurtful way. It is also bullying when a student tries
to keep others from being your friend or from letting you join in on what they are doing. It is not bullying
when two students of about the same strength argue or fight.

1. By this definition, have you ever been bullied or picked on?

2. By this definition, how often have you been bullied in the past month?
(Never, Once or Twice, About once per week, Several times per week)

3. By this definition, how often have you bullied others in the past month?
(Never, Once or Twice, About once per week, Several times per week)

4. What happened when you were bullied or picked on?

5. How many times in the last month (week) have you bullied or picked on someone younger,
smaller, weaker or different (not including your brother or sister)?
(Zero, 1-2 times, 3-6 times,  more than 6 times)

6. How many times have you had something taken from you by force or by threats?

7. How many times have you been made to do something you did not want to do?

8. How many times have you been threatened or physically hurt?


The “Hot Spots” activity helps assess bullying in your school by allowing students to communicate their concerns
non-verbally and anonymously. This enables students who are not willing, or those who are unable, a way to
express their worries about bullying in school and the neighborhood.

1. Provide students with a map of the school and ask them to indicate the three (3) most frequent areas
where bullying is likely to occur inside and outside of the school building. Are there times when the places
you marked are more dangerous?

2. Ask students to draw a map of how they get from their home to school and where bullying or some
other form of violence might occur.

3. Provide teachers and administrators with a school map and ask them to identify areas that are unsupervised or
“unmanned” (e.g., bathrooms, hallways, stairwells, certain areas of playground, locker room) where bullying is likely to occur.


A number of assessment measures have been developed to ask students, teachers and principals about the
prevalence of bullying in their school and related attitudes towards bullying. A good example of these measures
has been offered by Orpinas and Horne (2006).

There are other measures that may be better suited to your school and to your intervention objectives.

Upper Elementary Aggression and Victimization Scale *

Think about what happened DURING THE LAST 7 DAYS, when you answer these questions.

During the last 7 days                               0            1            2           3            4            5            6 or more
                                                                 times       time      times     times      times      times      times

  1.  How many times did a kid                       0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       from your school tease you?

  2.  How many times did a kid                       0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       push, shove or hit you?

  3.  How many times did a kid                       0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       from your school call you
       a bad name?

  4.  How many times did kids                         0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       from your school say they
       were going to hit you?

  5.  How many times did other                      0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       kids leave you out on purpose?

  6.  How many times did a student                0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       make up something about you
       to make other kids not like
       you anymore?

  7. How many times did you tease                0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
       a kid from your school?

  8. How many times did you push,                0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
      shove or hit a kid from your school?

  9. How many times did you call                   0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
      a kid from your school a bad name?

10. How many times did you say                    0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
      that you would hit a kid from
      your school?

11. How many times did you                          0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
      leave out another kid on purpose?

12. How many times did you                          0            1            2            3            4            5            6+
      make up something about another
      student to make other kids not
      like them anymore?

Victimization Scale: Overt victimization = questions 1-4, relational victimization = questions 5-6.
Aggression Scale: Overt aggression = questions 7-10, relational aggression = questions 11-12.

(Reference Orpinas & Horne, 2006, p. 162)

A somewhat different Assessment Tool was suggested by the authors of the website
Stop Bullying Now (
They propose asking students directly if they bully others.

For example, ask students if they:

  • Repeatedly push, shove or threaten other students because you felt like it?
  • Spread nasty rumors about someone?
  • Teased someone in a mean way or made fun of someone
    because he/she is different?
  • With their friends or by themselves, excluded someone on purpose?
  • Had someone else hurt or embarrass someone you don’t like?
  • Been part of a group that do any of these things?


    Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire     Olweus, 1996
    Peer Relations Questionnaire Rigby & Slee, 1995
    Social Climate Survey  Lehr & Christianson, 2002; Pyper et al 1987
    California School Climate and Safety Survey  Furlong & Morrison, 1998
    Measures of Sexual Harassment   AAUW, 2001; U.S. Dept. of Education, 1999  
    Bully Survey   Swearer et al., 2001   
    Aggression and Victimization Scales     Orpinas & Frankowski, 2001: Orpinas & Horne, 2006
    Students’ Attitudes Toward Bullying   Hoover & Oliver, 1996; Rigby, 1997
    Principals? Attitudes Toward Bullying Tattum, 1997
    University of Illinois Aggression Scales Espelage, 2001; Espelage & Swearer, 2004
    Peer Victimization Scale Nasby & Joseph, 1994
    Children’s Inventory of Anger Nelson & Finch, 2000
    Vengeance Scale Stuckless & Garansen, 1992
    Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Scale Asher & Wheeler, 1985
    System Screening for Behavior Disorders Walker & Severson, 1990
    Teacher Inventory of Skills and Knowledge about Bullying Horne et al., 2003
    Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Bullying O’Moore, 1997
    Behavior Assessment System for Children Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992

    For additional ways to assess students see Kelly et al. (2003), Dahlberg et al. (2005).
    These measures can be supplemented with locally developed needs assessment measures and behavioral observations. Order information of the widely used Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire can be obtained at

B5. Peer Nominations: Ask Students

   Another way to assess for bullying is to use peer nominations by asking students to offer names
   of fellow students who bully others, and names of fellow students who are victims of bullying.

  (Note that the correspondence between self-report and peer reports is near zero at kindergarten
  and increases to about .50 among 4th graders, but can range from .14 to .50.)

  • Name the students in your grade who get picked on and teased by other kids.
  • Name the students who get hit, pushed or picked on by others.
  • Name students who have rumors, lies or mean things said about them.
  • List three students who frequently bully others.
  • List three students who are bullied often.

    Often peer nominations are embedded in what is called a Class Play Measure where students are asked
    to play the part of a Director of a movie or play. The Director gets to choose which students play which parts.
    The students are then given a sheet with all of the boys’ names in the class and a sheet with all of the girls’ names.
    They are then asked to check the names of which students in their class would be “best” to play the part of someone who:

    At this point, both positive and negative roles are offered such as:
    • “Someone who helps younger students”
    • “Someone who would be fun at a birthday party.”

They are also asked to identify which students would be “best” to play the part of:

    • “Someone who picks on younger children”
    • “Someone who bullies (picks on) others.”

   Such a Class Play Measure can be used to obtain peer nominations.


Jim Larson (2005) suggests that teachers be asked to nominate students who could be candidates
for a skills-based intervention program. The Teacher Nomination form he uses is as follows:

To the Teacher:

Please think about the pupils in your classroom and identify those children, who to some degree,
seem to fit at least three (3) of the five (5) statements below. Please feel free to be “liberal” in your
selection; we will narrow it down later.

1. The child has marked difficulties with interpersonal problem-solving; seems to argue or fight
with other children more than most.

2. The child is prone to anger management problems and may use both physical and non-physical
aggression against peers at rates higher than most.

3. The child is frequently disruptive and gives oppositional responses to teacher directives.

4. The child seems to be rejected by the more adaptive children in the class.

5. The child is having academic failure or underachievement problems.

Please list the names below. Rank ordering or filling in all of the slots is not necessary.

___________________________                                    ________________________

___________________________                                    _________________________

___________________________                                    _________________________

___________________________                                    _________________________

___________________________                                    _________________________

Teacher Name:___________________            Room:___________


The objectives of the Office Discipline Referrals and the Critical Incident Reports are to:

1. Track school discipline incidents;

2. Provide a tool where students can reflect on their actions;

3. Provide means to engage students in a collaborative problem-solving exchange;

4. Provide a way to solicit the student’s commitment to future behavior change;

5. Provide a mechanism for parent contact.

   a. Office Discipline Referrals and Critical Incident Report

   While the specific information included in office referrals varies from school to school,
   Morrison et al. (2005) indicates they may include:


Students Name ________________________                        Grade  ___________________

Date of Offense ________________________                        Teachers Name ________________

Location of Offense ____________________                       

Narrative description of offense (by teacher/by student)



Who else was involved or present _______________________________________________


Consequences or actions taken __________________________________________________


Acknowledgement of offense by student

(narrative apology) ___________________________________________________________


Documentation of previous offenses _____________________________________________


Signature of student _____________________________

Signature of teacher _____________________________

Signature of parent   _____________________________                        Date _______________


Students Name ________________________                        Grade  _______      Date _________

Teachers Name ________________________                        Date of Offense _______________

Location of Offense ____________________                       

Name of Reporting Person _______________

Description of offense _______________________________________________________



Who else was present ________________________________________________________


Comment on the students account and reactions to the offence ________________________



Actions taken ______________________________________________________________


Evidence of previous offenses _________________________________________________


These Office Referral Forms will permit the school to answer the following questions:

1)  Who – Who are the students who repeatedly get sent to the office?

2)  Nature of Behavior-- What is the nature of the misbehavior? Are these behaviors handled by some teachers?

3)  Location/When-- Where and when did the behavior occur? Alone or with peers?

4)  Effectiveness-- What were the consequences and are they effective in reducing office referrals?
What should be tried and how should they be evaluated?

In some schools it is not unusual for a majority of the students being referred to the principal’s or vice principal’s office to be made up of less than 10% of the schools’ population. Teacher referrals for problem behavior tend to peak in Grades 9 and 10. Walker and his colleagues (2004) observe that this percentage is consistent with research that indicates that 65% of all juvenile crime is accounted for by 6%-8% of the juvenile population.

The typical antisocial student in the intermediate elementary grades will average 10 or more office referrals per year.
Any student who has 10 or more office referrals per year is considered to be a chronic discipline problem and in need of intervention.

Useful resources to monitor and analyze Office Discipline Referrals are available from School Wide Information System, a computer monitoring system.
(Contact Rob Horner, Ph.D. College of Education, University of Oregon OR 97403 http//

Also see:   

Boys Town Report System

Powers Goal Assessment

School Safety Software

Schoolmaster Assessment

B8. School Climate Measures

The School Climate reflects the degree to which a school is perceived as being safe and inviting. 
Measures of School Climate have been developed by Furlong and Morrison (1998), Lehr and Christianson (2002) and Pyper et al (1987.)

In addition, to these general measures, each school has specific data that reflect the school’s climate.
The following list provides examples of the type of indices that delineate School Climate.

Indicators of School Climate

Student Data Indicators

  • Attendance Records (Truancy)
  • Lateness Reports
  • Critical Incident Reports
  • Office Referrals
  • Number of violent assaults occurring on campus
  • Number of incidents reported to the police
  • Number of after-school detentions
  • Number of suspensions (out of school, in-school and length of each suspension)
  • Number of expulsions
  • Percentage of students who dropout of school (graduation rates)
  • Percentage of students who are referred to community agencies (mental health, justice department)

In high school, student academic performance measures include the percentage of students:

    • in your school in college preparation track
    • taking college level courses
    • expected to complete at least a four year college program
    • participating in extra-curricular activities

Schoolwide Indicators

  • Parent involvement (e,g, attendance at parent meetings, parent participation in student and school activities)
  • Community Involvement
  • Integration of different groups and cliques of students (e.g., efforts to integrate diverse ethnic and racial groups)
  • Acceptance of all types of students (e.g., groups who differ in academic abilities, physical limitations, sexual orientation)
  • Teachers’ involvement

The following Scale by Altman and his colleagues provides some way to assess your School Climate.


(Adapted from Altman, 1996)

This self-assessment tool can provide a means to determine the level of “risk” for violence in your school. 
These questions can be addressed by all interested parties and provide the basis for intervention planning.

How safe is your school?

1. How many fights have occurred on school property during the last 12 months?
2. How often have weapons (knives, guns, etc.) been brought into the building during the last 12 months?
3. How often has drug dealing been observed on school property within the last 12 months?
4. How often has property been deliberately damaged or stolen on school grounds within the last 12 months?
5. How safe/secure do the faculty/staff feel when they are on school property? 
(1 = very unsafe/insecure; 7 = very safe/secure)
6. How safe/secure do the students feel when they are on school property? 
(1 = very unsafe/insecure; 7 = very safe/secure)

How safe is the route to your school?

1. How many fights have reportedly occurred before or after school during the last 12 months?
2. How often are children recruited for gang membership on the way to and from school?
(1 = not at all; 7 = daily)
3. How much illegal drug trafficking exists in the neighborhood surrounding the school? 
(1 = none; 7 = primary economic activity in the community)
4. Do you have a parent patrol or some other mechanism for ensuring that caring adults are
visible on the routes to and from school?
5. How safe/secure do the faculty/staff feel when they are on the way to and from school?
(1 = very unsafe/insecure; 7 = very safe/secure)
6. How safe/secure do the students feel when they are on their way to and from school?
(1 = very unsafe/insecure; 7 = very safe/secure)

What resources do your school and community already have?

1. What violence prevention efforts are occurring in your school?
2. What already exists in your school’s instructional program that covers topic areas related to violence prevention and teaches accompanying skills?
3. Who in the school community (students, teachers, parents, community members) has the potential for taking leadership roles in promoting a safe, inviting school?
4. How involved are student leaders in developing and implementing plans for school improvement and violence prevention?  (1 = not at all involved; 7 = very involved)
5. How involved are parents in developing and implementing plans for school improvement and violence prevention?  (1 = not at all; 7 = very involved)
6. How involved are community leaders in developing and implementing plans for school improvement and violence prevention?  (1 = not at all; 7 = very involved)
7. What other violence prevention efforts are occurring in your school community?
8. Which adults (faculty, administrators, maintenance staff, food service personnel, parents) in the school do students go to when they have problems?
9. Who in the school community has the potential for taking leadership roles in promoting a nonviolent community?
10. What additional resources do you have or would you like to obtain in order to create and maintain a nonviolent school?


Bullying behavior in schools is more likely to occur when there is a gang presence on the school grounds.
The following Gang Assessment Tool provides a way to determine the degree of gang presence on your campus.


(National School Safety Center, Pepperdine University,

4165 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Suite 290, Westlake Village, CA 91362)

  1. Do you have graffiti on or near your campus?  (5)
  2. Do you have crossed-out graffiti on or near your campus? (10)
  3. Do your students wear colors, jewelry, (or) clothing, flash hand signals, or display other behavior that may be gang-related? (10)
  4. Are drugs available near your school? (5)
  5. Has there been a significant increase in the number of physical confrontations or stare downs within the past 12 months in or around your school? (5)
  6. Is there an increasing presence of weapons in your community? (10)
  7. Have you had a drive-by shooting in or around your school? (15)
  8. Have you had a “show-by” display of weapons in or around your school? (10)
  9. Is the truancy rate of your school increasing? (5)
  10. Are there increasing numbers of racial incidents occurring in your community or school? (5)
  11. Is there a history of gangs in your community? (10)
  12. Is there an increasing presence of “informal social groups” with unusual names – for example: “Woodland Heights Posse,” “Rip Off and Rule,”
    “Males Simply Chillin,” or “Kappa Phi Nasty”? (15)

(Source National School Safety Center, 1992)

                                    0 – 15 Points           - indicate no significant problem

                                    20 – 40 Points           - indicate an emerging gang problem

                                    45 – 60 Points           - indicate significant gang problem for which an intervention – prevention should be developed

                                    65 + Points            - indicate an acute gang problem that requires urgent attention


C1. Screening for High-Risk Children

The need to identify high-risk children early before such behavioral patterns (as noted below) consolidate and become resistant to change is underscored by the observation that:

“Children who have not learned to achieve their social goals other than through coercive behavioral strategies by
around 8 years of age (end of grade 3) will likely continue displaying some degree of antisocial behavior
throughout their lives” (Walker et al. 2004, p. 9.)

In most instances, aggressive behavior declines with age as children learn to control their natural tendency to be aggressive.
Preschool children who have not learned more socialized behaviors to replace their “inborn aggressive tendencies”,,
will often persist unless they are provided with the necessary supports to learn how to control their behaviors and
emotions and get along with others.

The children who are referred by elementary teachers because of their behavior and attention problems with
accompanying academic difficulties, especially in reading, will often show evidence of continuing adjustment difficulties.

C2. Guidelines for Early Screening

Walker and his colleagues (2004) offer the following guidelines when conducting screening of high-risk students.

1. Universal screening procedures should be implemented at least twice annually (preferably in October and February.)

2. Screen and identify at-risk students as early as possible in their school careers - ideally at preschool and kindergarten levels.

3. Use a multi-agent (teacher, parent, peers, observers) and a multi-setting (classroom, playground, home setting) screening identification approach.

4. Use teacher nomination and rankings or ratings in the early stages of screening and supplement these later with direct observations at school.

Several instruments have been developed to screen for high-risk in young students.

Measure Reference
Systematic Screening for Behavioral
Disorders (SSBD)
Walker & Severson, 199
Student Risk Screening Scale (SRSS) Drummond, 1993
Teacher Rating Scale Anger Inventory  Dodge & Coie, 2006
Multidimensional School Anger Inventory Furlong & Smith, 2006
Social Skills Rating Inventory  Elliott, 1991

a. The SSBD Measure uses a multi-gating procedure that combines teacher nominations
(Gate 1)
with teacher rating scales
(Gate 2)
and direct observations of classroom plus playground behavior
(Gate 3).
Examples of student behaviors include:

1. Defying teachers

2. Aggressing toward others

3. Failing to comply with teacher directions

4. Arguing

5. Social withdrawal, depression, anxiety

6. The amount of academic engaging time (AET).

     The SSBD has been extended downward for children ages 3-5

     (Severson & Walker, 2002).

b. The SRSS Measure asks teachers to rate students on seven items:

                        1. Stealing

                        2. Lying, cheating, sneaking

                        3. Behavior problems

                        4. Peer rejection

                        5. Low academic achievement

                        6. Negative attitude

                        7. Aggressive behavior

When considering the results of these screening efforts keep in mind the so-called 50% rule.

- Fifty percent (50%) of hard-to-manage preschoolers do not persist in demonstrating problem behaviors past ages 6 to 9.

- Fifty percent (50%) of children diagnosed with conduct disorders will improve over time, no longer showing signs of aggression or antisocial behavior.

C3. Evidence for the Stability of Aggressive Behavior

The presence of ongoing risk factors in the school, home and community, and the absence of protective factors that nurture “resilience,”
will determine the likelihood of aggressive behavior persisting.

  • Which students are most “high-risk” for engaging in aggressive and violent behavior at school? 
  • How early and with what reliability can we identify these potentially “high-risk” students?

Clearly, the best predictor for the likelihood of students being violent is their past history of aggressive behavior.
There is a relatively high stability in students’ aggressive behaviors when aggression began early in life.
The following illustrative findings on stability of aggressive behaviors underscore the need for
early identification and interventions:

  • Repetitive noncompliance in preschool predicts school age aggression (e.g. 18 months predicts 2 years of age.)
    Temper tantrums and physical aggression peaks around the end of two years of age and the beginning of year
    three 50 % of boys and 40% of girls demonstrate aggressive behavior and need to learn prosocial behavior.
  • Fifty percent (50%) of children as young as 4 and 5 years of age, who demonstrate aggressive problems,
    will develop persistent adjustment problems.
  • Thirty-eight percent (38%) of kindergartners who show evidence of aggressive behavior will fail grade 3.
    Those who fail grade 3 have a 33% chance of demonstrating adolescent delinquent behavior.
  • Aggressive behavior in grade 4 leads to peer rejection at grade 6 and accompanying academic failure.
    Two-thirds of aggressive boys are rejected, while only 20% of non-aggressive boys are rejected.
    Rejected children are two to three times more likely to leave school before graduation.
  • Children identified as bullies have a four-fold increase in criminality as adolescents. Sixty percent (60%) of children who bully between
    grades 6 and 9 have one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent (40%) of children who are considered to be bullies engage
    in criminal activities as adolescents.

C4. Which Students Are Most at Risk for Engaging in Aggressive Behavior at School?

   Students who:

  • Have a past history of physical fights (either alone or with groups of students).
  • Were injured and/or treated for aggressive acts.
  • Are sent to the principals office repeatedly (10 or more times per year).
  • Carry a weapon to school.
  • Use substances at school (alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, marihuana, and/or sell  drugs).
  • Steal property at school and/or who damage school property.
  • Have been in trouble or who have been arrested before age 12.
  • Are potential dropouts. Youth who are having frequent thoughts about quitting school
    (e.g., in one study, 34% of these students reported carrying a gun to school).
  • Are absent frequently (3 or more times without an excuse or without permission).
  • Have been suspended 1 or more times.
  • Associate with like-minded peers and are members of gangs. Association with a peer who is carrying
    a gun is one of the best predictors for students bringing guns to school.



How can one tell if the bullying prevention interventions are working?
A variety of indicators should be used that include:

  • reports and observations of students
  • reports and observations of teachers
  • reports of parents
  • school indicators

A useful resource has been offered by Dahlberg et al. 2005. 
Measuring violence-related attitudes, behaviors and influences on any youth:
A compendium of Assessment Tools Student Measures,

D1. Student Measures

  • Administer self-report measures (students being bullied and bullying others.)
  • Use student reports of interventions by others in bullying episodes.
    (Did teachers, school staff and/or peers intervene?)
  • Assess students’ attitudes toward bullying and subjective norms towards bullying.
  • Record the occurrence of observed peer instances for giving assistance to victims of bullying.
  • Determine the student’s involvement in school-wide bullying prevention activities.
  • Assess the student’s sense of school belongingness. Ask the student:

“If you were absent from school, who besides your friends would notice you are missing and would miss you?”

     D2. Teacher Measures

  • Supervision patterns are increased in “high-risk” areas where bullying occurs.
  • Teachers intercede in bullying episodes in and out of their classrooms.
  • Classroom curriculum includes discussion about bullying and victimization.
  • Teachers report that students approached them about bullying.
  • Teachers’ attitudes towards bullying reflect a constant concern for students’ wellbeing.
  • Teachers foster student and staff involvement in schoolwide bullying prevention activities.
  • Teachers use the “teachable moment” to immediately address bullying issues throughout the academic day.

     D3. Parent and Community Members Measures

  • Reports discussion about bullying with students
  • Role model and encourage prosocial behaviors
  • Actively participate in schoolwide bullying prevention activities

     D4. School - Based Measures

  • Critical Incident Reports
  • Office referrals
  • Absentee rates
  • Social action indicators such as detentions, suspensions and expulsions
  • Principal’s initiatives and involvement

Any assessment approach needs to realistically consider the possible barriers or obstacles that may
interfere with both assessment and intervention efforts, and plan accordingly.
Being prepared is the best strategy.

Some of the obstacles may be practical in terms of resources (money, time, personnel)
but the biggest barriers are likely to be attitudinal.

What are some of the attitudes that might interfere with the implementation
of a bullying  prevention program?

Consider the following expressed attitudes that adults may offer.

Possible Attitudes That May Act As Barriers:

“Boys will be boys.”

“Bullying is part of growing up.  Bullying is child’s play.”

“Children out- grow bullying.”

“Children need to learn how to handle bullying if they want to succeed in this competitive world."

“My intervening will only make it worse.  It is like adding fuel to the fire.”

“The bully will retaliate more.”

“It is best to ignore bullying incidents.”

“The victim most likely was asking for the bullying.”

“Bullying is part of the natural social order.”

“If other students intervene to stop bullying, they will be bullied and lose social status with peers.”

“Teachers aren’t trained to intervene and it’s not their job to be a policeman.”

“Teachers can’t really be sure what happened, so it is better not to intervene.”

“There is not enough time during the school day to address bullying.”

"I don't have the energy to take on additional work"

"I don't feel comfortable with intervening"

"Bullying prevention is the program de jour"

“Bullying programs don’t work.”

“Bullying is not a problem in my class or in my school.”

Educators who want to introduce a bullying prevention program in their school need to consider
how they would address each of these attitudinal statements. 
In fact, these attitudinal statements fall into the following categories:

            1. Bullying is a normal part of growing up.

            2. Interventions will make things worse.

            3. There are too many barriers to intervene (lack of teacher training and resources).

            4.  There are questions about the effectiveness of such programs.

How can promoters of bullying prevention programs respond to each category of attitudes?
As Espelage and Swearer (2004) observe:

1. “Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Most children do not bully others and ignoring bullying by teachers and adults sends the wrong message of acceptance and
can have long-term consequences for all students.”

2. “Intervening by teachers and peers has been found to reduce bullying. Teachers need to teach students the difference between tattling and reporting as well as provide a classroom that is safe and supportive where all students have a meaningful bond with someone in their school.”

3. “When students bully others without consequences, it can undermine school climate and interfere with academic performance. The costs of not addressing bullying far outweigh the efforts of intervening. Training students in bystander intervention programs, involving parents and community members in anti-bullying programs may take some effort initially, but will save time in the end.”

4. “The increased awareness and assessment of bullying and harassment may result in an initial increase in such reports of bullying. This is a good sign. It means teachers will do something about bullying.”

5. “Research has indicated that a comprehensive intervention program to which the principal and teachers, students and parents are committed can reduce the level of bullying and lead to many other favorable results.”
This web site has been produced by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators. The web site has been made possible with the generous support of the Robert and Renee Belfer Foundation and other supporters.
The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators
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