What Are You Going to Do to Prevent Bullying?

Secretary Duncan speaks at the Bullying Prevention Summit. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

Secretary Duncan speaks at the Bullying Prevention Summit. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

Cross-posted from StopBullying.gov

When I helped close the third annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Tuesday, my colleagues and I gave attendees a simple charge: what are you going to do to further bullying prevention in the next year?

At the summit we heard about the diverse and expansive efforts of many different organizations – from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to previewing the AD Council’s new campaign targeted at parents. We also heard about the continued commitment of the federal partners to find solutions to bullying through keynotes by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Associate Attorney General Tony West.

In each of the keynotes, panels and discussions over the course of the two-day summit, one key theme emerged: We all have a role to play to prevent bullying, but we must make sure we base our efforts on the best available knowledge, work together so we advance the field rather than reinvent the wheel, and make sure we engage youth.

Our words and messaging around bullying matter.  We must work to combat indifference that sometimes leads to inaction. Even though we all want “zero-tolerance” towards bullying, we need to recognize bullying’s impact on all students in a school, including those who bully. And we must consider whether exclusionary disciplinary policies could make things worse. We must work to find alternative strategies to make sure we hold those who bully accountable, that also allow those students to learn, grow and succeed.

We must also strive to recognize the many other factors, beyond bullying, that contribute to youth’s suicidal ideation and behaviors. Speakers at the summit reminded us that recognizing the other factors that may be involved in youth suicide, and being careful how we talk about it, allows us to better help youth who may be considering it.

Through all of our efforts, we must make sure we ask the youth involved. Over 30 student leaders attended the summit and let us all know, they have ideas and they want to be heard. That is one of the reasons the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention announced the launch of their “Stop Bullying Video Challenge” allowing teens13-18 years-old to submit PSAs on how their peers can be “more than a bystander.”

Ultimately, it is up to all of us to combat bullying and I truly hope this year’s summit has inspired us all to take action.

Deborah Temkin is a Research and Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives at the Department of Education


  1. Together (kids, parents, educators along with the community) we can help prevent bullying as we Rock It Across America with anti-bullying input as we promote happier and healthier minds and bodies. Motivating kids not to bully as we empower kids to choose life over suicide. Rock It helps to jump start the student’s day on a positive note and helps to create a positive and friendly school atmosphere. Great to use as an anti-bullying anthem and it introduces and reinforces positive characteristics such as integrity, compassion, respect and more. Present a Rock It 5 min a day challenge for kids, to help transform from the inside out. Kids form I Rock Anti-bully Clubs to maintain and support bully free zones. Stress that Rock It Across America is more than a one day rally or the wearing of a bracelet or t shirt for the day, but all schools, kids, families, communities throughout the US on a continual bases are taking a firm bold stand to unite to Rock It Across America to change the culture of bullying everywhere. We can also Rock It with an anti-bully empowerment concert tour to let kids know bullying is not acceptable. It is not cool. We can inspire and motivate active bystanders and help stop kids from being a sidekick or silent bystander. http://www.rockingitforlife.com

  2. In almost every case, schools reflect the beliefs and values of our society, and bullying is no exception. While there are many programs addressing the prevention of bullying, all seem to have one common element. The current programs focus on prevention or developing appropriate responses after the bullying events occur. Educators and school reformers must study the total school environment/climate; the beliefs, values, thoughts, and actions of all stakeholders (administration, teachers, para-professionals, students, parents, the community) in order to make a significant impact. A week long anti-bullying program with banners, badges, and conversation may result in a reduction in the acts of bullying for the week, perhaps even the month. Unfortunately, the typical response is that once the campaign is over, the bullying behaviors return over time.
    A climate of respect, trust, and empowerment where all stakeholders are treated with dignity and are valued as both individuals and as vital members of the group has the tendency to reduce bullying across the campus and will often filter into the community as a whole. Perhaps it is time for schools to take a new approach to bullying ~ building respect for all.

  3. Last school year, I initiated an anti-bullying week at our school. The students made posters and placed them all around the school. Instructors wore pins to reflect the message that our school was against bullying. Each day of that week, our administrator discussed what can be considered bullying and ways to combat bullying. It was a great event and I plan on doing it again this school year.

  4. Start bullying prevention in early elementary school. Build empathy and conflict management skills. My 2nd graders write Tattle Notes instead of interrupting my instruction when they have a problem with another students. At our weekly class meeting, we go over each Tattle Note, and the students involved have the opportunity to tell the class whether they’ve solved the problem on their own or not. If they haven’t, I have the two students involved take turns listening and speaking directly to one another about what happened from their points of view, expressing how they felt at the time. I help them clarify what is often a misunderstanding. I ask each child what they would do differently next time, and encourage them to apologize to each other. “Thank you for the apology” is the response rather than, “That’s okay”. When I teach 3rd, 4th or 5th, class members are able to suggest solutions to the problems and point out what should have happened.

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