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How school leaders and teachers can prevent bullying using PBIS

Stephanie CarmichaelNovember 15, 2017

In a paper titled “Bullying in secondary schools: Action planning using a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support framework,” Tory De Shannon Lawrence suggests ways to incorporate proactive initiatives into a PBIS framework to prevent bullying behavior.

Lawrence, a PhD student at Liberty University in Virginia, has worked with several schools to create action plans that address problematic student behaviors. In her paper, she cites a number of studies to support her position on bullying and PBIS. She argues that bullying has a negative impact on the entire school environment — students might feel unsafe in hallways, restrooms, classrooms, etc. Using a PBIS framework to implement schoolwide prevention and intervention strategies could provide the consistency necessary for effective anti-bullying practices.

What school leaders can do

After reflecting on how they can make students feel safe and supported and how to cultivate positive interactions at school, school leaders can collect assessment data to get a better portrait of the situation.

They can survey teachers to better assess how equipped educators feel in identifying bullying behavior and intervening with victims and bullies. Results can then be used to offer adequate professional development opportunities. It’s important that teachers feel included and supported by the school administration in implementing schoolwide anti-bullying strategies.

School leaders can also survey students anonymously to “identify the ‘how, when, and where’ of bullying behavior,” as well as any contributing environmental factors, then put in place strategies to counter those situations. For example, Lawrence suggests offering mentoring activities during lunch if it has been identified as a time when bullying behavior happens.

Students Bullying School PBIS

As prevention, school leaders can use the tiered approach of PBIS to give lessons on social-emotional skill development for students. According to Lawrence, “simply teaching all students the skills that are needed to interact and form relationships with peers could prevent many incidents of bullying behavior.” This character education course could take the form of “a 15 minute homeroom or advisory period that could be held daily or weekly.”

The tiered framework of PBIS can also be used to provide additional intervention measures in the form of “individualized behavior intervention planning or mental health supports” for both bullies and victims.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t cover what the tiered approach of PBIS consists of, nor does it provide substantial examples or details on what the aforementioned measures would entail.

What teachers can do

In the classroom, teachers should engage students in a conversation around bullying and have them come up with possible solutions. Lawrence states that “lessons about bullying are a key element in program effectiveness.” Trust is also a crucial issue: Students must feel that teachers are their allies and that bullying is never tolerated. As such, Lawrence recommends that teachers intervene consistently and take all reports of bullying seriously.

Teachers should also act as role models for their students by demonstrating caring and empathy toward the entire student body and school staff.

Share your thoughts: As teachers, what classroom activity can you do to foster caring and empathy between students?

Looking for more resources on bullying and PBIS?

Photo credits: Iakov Filimonov, Lopolo /