One of the most successful anti-bullying programs used in American schools was developed in the 1980s by a Norwegian educator, Professor Dan Olweus, after three adolescent Norwegian boys committed suicide — probably because of severe bullying by their classmates.
The Olweus [Ol-VEY-us] Bullying Prevention Program, which is used in several hundred U.S. schools, has been found to reduce bullying by 20 percent in U.S. schools where it has been adopted, while bullying increased in schools without the program.
Schools adopting the Olweus program usually first conduct a survey to determine the seriousness of the problem, followed by a training period for teachers, administrators and selected students, parents and other school personnel. Anti-bullying rules — and consequences for rule-breakers — are established before the school year starts. In addition, adult supervision is established in places where bullying is known to occur, and the monitors are charged with intervention, not just supervision.
Intervention — a major component of the process — also includes sessions with individual bullies (and their parents) and their victims. “The goal is to ensure that the whole school, and not just a few teachers, will come together and act to make sure students know that 'bullying is not accepted in our class/school, and we will see to it that it comes to an end.' ”
The program has been praised by the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Two other highly regarded programs are LIFT (Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers) and The Incredible Years.
LIFT is a 10-week anti-aggression intervention program that takes place on three levels: the classroom; the home (parents attend six training sessions to learn how to implement the program at home); and the playground, where adults monitor the behavior and reward or warn the students.
According to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime group based in Washington, D.C., LIFT's goal is to “instill social coping strategies in the students and to create an environment that surrounds each child with parents, teachers and peers who are working together to help prevent aggression and bullying. The playground becomes the practice field for these new techniques, and the children come to prize their good-behavior armbands.”
The Incredible Years was designed initially for dealing with highly aggressive children ages 2 to 8. It trains both parents and their children in “non-aggression social skills.”
Carolyn Webster-Stratton of the University of Washington says the program has stopped “the cycle of aggression for approximately two-thirds” of the families in the program. In certain Head Start settings, 80 percent of the kids tested within an acceptable range for problem behaviors within a half hour; only 48 percent of the children not in the program were within the acceptable range.
Several other anti-bullying programs are expected to show good results as soon as evaluations are concluded, including the Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders program, which the U.S. Department of Education has chosen as a “Promising Program” for its Safe and Drug Free Schools program. It has been shown to significantly reduce “bystander support for aggression.”
Operation Respect, founded by the famed folk-singing group Peter, Paul and Mary, also is considered effective with elementary schoolchildren.