Applying PBIS to Decrease Bullying

July 20, 2012
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

A priority for all schools is to provide students with an environment that reflects the philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM. A school’s efforts to maintain a safe, respectful, and caring environment are often challenged by those who engage in bullying behavior. Professional and popular media sources—including this website—have recently documented the pervasiveness of bullying and the detrimental effects bullying has on individual students and the school community as a whole. Yet, many schools struggle to develop effective solutions to decrease these challenging behaviors.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) provides us with an effective model for reducing challenging behaviors, including bullying. As with all behavior situations, we need to remember that focusing on the behaviors—specifically and objectively—is more productive than emphasizing labels such as “bully” or “victim.”

Like other behaviors, bullying behavior serves a function for the individual. A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) uses data to identify the probable function and guide the development of the prevention and intervention plan. A school-wide PBIS approach to preventing bullying behavior applies strategies at each of the three tiers of the PBIS model (see diagram below). Prevention and intervention strategies also address the environment, skill building, and staff responses.

Excellent resources for comprehensive information on applying PBIS to decrease bullying can be found in "Reducing the Effectiveness of Bullying Behavior in Schools" [PDF] and "Bully Prevention in Positive Behavior Support" [PDF].

What approaches are you finding to be successful in preventing bullying behavior in your school? What challenges have you encountered? Please share your experiences in applying a school-wide PBIS—or other program model— bullying prevention program!

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