Bullying Prevention Initiative
Bullying isn't a rite of passage—a condition to be endured as part of growing up. Rather, school-based bullying is the most common form of violence in our society and a major public health issue. Ultimately, it hinders learning and a positive school experience for thousands of children.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying occurs when a child is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions by one or multiple other students. It takes many forms, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, racist, and cyber.
Most commonly, bullying and cyberbullying tactics include stares and glares, teasing, gossip, sexual harassment, ethnic slurs, unreasonable territorial bans, property destruction, extortion, and serious physical assault.
According to experts, bullying is one of the largest issues facing schools today.
- In 2015, 21 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year.(National Center for Education Statistics, 2015)
- Five percent of teenage students report they missed at least one school activity, class, or place in school during the previous school year because they thought someone might attack or harm them. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015)
- The percentages of students experiencing cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18 percent to 34 percent) from 2007-2016 (Patchin & Hinduja, 2016).
- Thirty-four percent of self-identified gay, lesbian, or bisexual students reported that they had been bullied on school property in the last 12 months. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015)
- Third graders who are frequently bullied scored lower in reading, math, and science than their peers who reported that they were rarely or never bullied. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015)
- Bullying prevention programs in schools decrease bullying by up to 25 percent (McCallion & Feder, 2013).
Drawing on the expertise of renowned bullying prevention experts at the Center for Safe Schools, Windber Research Institute, and Clemson University, Highmark Foundation formed a broad coalition of partners to implement the evidence-based Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). Individual schools and entire school districts throughout Pennsylvania use the program today.
In addition, the Highmark Foundation founded the Bullying Prevention Institute in 2007. Since that time, the Institute has coordinated Continuing Education (CE) sessions that have drawn 1,700 participants to nearly 40 events.
Most importantly, the Foundation's efforts have played a critical role in helping thousands of students remain safe at school.
Understanding and Addressing Bullying
Relational aggression comes in two forms: proactive and reactive.
- Proactive behaviors are a means for achieving a goal. For example, a girl is mad at another girl for being "more popular," so she spreads a sexual rumor to ruin her reputation.
- Reactive relational aggression is a defensive response to provocation with intent to retaliate. For example, a child is being teased repeatedly in school and then becomes a teaser himself for protection.
It is easy for parents and other adults to marginalize relational aggression. However, this attitude perpetuates the myth that bullying, peer aggression, and the significant hurt caused by both, are normal "just how kids are" or "a rite of passage."
The research on which the OBPP is founded suggests that adolescents are less likely to be involved in relationally aggressive behavior nonphysical bullying if they are connected to their school in a meaningful way. Involvement in activities, clubs, and sports, having secure relationships with adults, demonstrating empathy, and reporting more forgiveness correlate to lower incidence of relationally aggressive behavior.
Teaching and role modeling healthy, constructive belief systems regarding social interactions, forgiveness, and empathy all appear to be important components of building healthy, constructive relationships.
How can we stop bullying? Highmark Foundation seeks to maintain a public health focus to bullying prevention that encourages learning, builds upon the landmark implementation model created by the Highmark Foundation in Pennsylvania, and ultimately may be successfully replicated by others.
The Foundation's overarching goals and strategies for continuing this work include:
- Supporting continued data collection that substantiates the significance of accomplishments in Pennsylvania and supports the case for broadening OBPP implementation.
- Furthering and broadening the examination of bullying's economic impact and the effects of bullying prevention.
- Through publishing and presentations, documenting and communicating outcomes of these data and accomplishments.
- Continuing support for further technical assistance through the Bullying Prevention Institute (BPI) that assures OBPP fidelity and sustainability, particularly through quality assurance monitoring and high school implementation evaluation.
- Providing key stakeholders with educational opportunities to sustain knowledge and awareness about the critical components to implementing successful bullying prevention campaigns.
For resources and articles on bullying, visit our Resources page.