Intro to an Anti Bullying Environment

Bullying is a problem in schools across the nation.  According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, one in every five students report being bullied in some form.  Bullying affects, not only the victim, but also the bully.  Both victims of bullying and bullies are at increased risk for a host of social, academic, and mental health problems.  What’s more, victims of bullying who blame themselves—feel that the bullying was warranted—are more likely to experience risks, such as depression, maladjustment, and a continued cycle of bullying. An anti-bullying environment starts with every aspect of the student’s life, including school, home, and community involvement.

Schools, however, can take action to make a difference and decrease instances of bullying.  When students who are bullied have access to supportive adults or peers, there are positive outcomes.  Teachers and faculty who take the time to listen to a student who has been bullied and who follow up with them to ensure that the bullying has stopped make a positive difference.  In addition, implementing a bullying prevention program in your school can decrease bullying incidents by up to 25%.  Bullying prevention programs are especially effective when implemented as part of a larger school-wide effort to improve school climate and behavior.  For example, the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports framework (PBIS) is a school-wide framework for improving positive behaviors.  PBIS recommends that bullying be targeted through teaching all students and faculty a common language and strategy for preventing bullying behavior, but also strategies for intervening and responding to bullying when it does occur.

Something else that schools can do to support students is work with them to foster a sense of self-acceptance, or a positive outlook and acceptance of oneself, no matter what is going on externally. When students accept themselves, and all of their strengths and weaknesses, they are much less likely to engage in bullying behaviors, as well as less likely to be a victim of bullying.  When our students have a strong sense of self-acceptance, it means that they are okay with who they are, flaws and all, and they do not feel the need to be like someone else.

One way to foster self-acceptance in students is to engage them in reflection on their own strengths and weaknesses—their own thoughts, attitudes, character.  What makes each student unique?  This self-reflection can then be followed by working with students to develop their own unique talents and gifts.  For example, as an adolescent, one of our colleagues had to accept that she did not have the athletic ability or coordination to join the cheerleading squad with her best friend.  However, she did have talent as a musician.  She had to accept her own strengths and weaknesses and work to develop her unique talents.  When she let go of the desire to be a cheerleader, she found her place in the marching band, and eventually became the drum major!

Students need a school environment that supports accepting others, which is a focus of many anti-bullying and school climate programs.  However, students also need support to foster self-acceptance.  As educators, we can work with students to reflect on their unique strengths and how they can develop those strengths over time. Part of setting this vision is taking stock of personal strengths.

Imagine if you spent time working with students to recognize their unique strengths and how those will carry them through to college and careers?  When students have a sense of self-worth, they will be less likely to bully others, and less likely to feel the effects of bullying behaviors.  So, as you implement programs to target the outward displays of bullying, simultaneously work to foster the strength to combat bullying from within.



Becker-Phelps, L. (Nov. 10, 2010).  Self-acceptance: More substance than self-esteem.  Psychology Today.  Sussex Publishers.  Available from:

Burns, C. (Jan. 8, 2017).  Power of self-acceptance.  Your Life Matters Anti-Bullying Foundation.  Available from:

PACER. (n.d.). Bullying statistics.  PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  Available from:

Sugai, G, Horner, R, & Algozzine, B. (2011).  Reducing the effectiveness of bullying behavior in schools.  OSEP Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.  Available from: