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Selecting Effective Anti-Bullying Programs

A Guide for  School and Agency Administrators

New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention supports adherence to well-founded prevention principles and practices to ensure effective program outcomes.  This "critical criteria" checklist was developed by the Training Project Committee of the NJ Coalition as a tool for school administrators and agency directors to use in selecting anti-bullying programs.

The key principle to use in selecting programs is to look for comprehensive and ongoing approaches, as opposed to 'one-shot' events or short-term projects, which are unlikely to have lasting impact or to create cultural change.  Specifically, consider whether the program has the following characteristics:

  1. A framework based on empirical research and a clear and sensible theory.

  2. Involves the entire school community.

  3. Addresses the role of adults in childhood bullying (e.g., modeling of bullying  behavior, implicit acceptance or explicit endorsement of childhood bullying and inaction or inadequate response to bullying).

  4. Integrated elements (program components work well together, fit an overall framework).

  5. Long-term and adequate intensity (e.g., years not months; school-wide effort and impact).

  6. Includes baseline measurements of the nature and extent of bullying in the setting (e.g., anonymous self-report surveys and/or student focus groups) and follow-up assessments to determine the effectiveness of the interventions.

  7. Developmentally appropriate (e.g., language and materials used varies for children of different ages, addresses how bullying changes from pre-school through high school years).

  8. Culturally responsive (e.g., accounts for program-relevant differences in communities and populations; affirming and strengthening cultural, racial and linguistic identities).

  9. Community-based (extends beyond the school/agency, partners with other community organizations).

  10. Parent/caregiver/family-oriented (e.g., helps parents/caregivers address bullying in home and community environments; cultivates partnerships between schools and families).

  11. Actively supports at-risk or targeted students (e.g., by inclusion, by identifying and supporting individual strengths and interests).

  1. Does the program foster a whole-school approach, with collaboration between administration, counseling staff, teaching staff (including coaches) and support staff (clerical, cafeteria, custodial, security, etc.), parents, community members and students?

  2. Does the program foster a comprehensive approach, with interventions at the level of the whole school, the classroom (including teams and clubs) and the individuals who bully and are bullied?

  3. Does the program emphasize training for all staff on identifying, reporting, confronting and imposing consequences for bullying behaviors?

  4. Does the program empower student bystanders to withhold support from or actively dissuade bullying behavior?

  5. Does the program include measures (such as character education, responsive school/classroom and collaborative learning) to improve school climate, particularly the ways in which students, teachers, administrators and other school staff communicate with one another?

  6. Does the program address different forms of bullying (e.g., physical, verbal, relational, cyber-bullying)?

  7. Does the program cover sexual harassment, bullying based on race, culture, gender-identity, disability and other forms of bias-based bullying?

  8. Does the program emphasize measuring bullying in the school or setting, and recommend specific measurement approaches (such as surveys or focus groups)?

  9. Does the program emphasize and offer specific suggestions for rules and consequences for bullying (such as a set of graduated negative sanctions as well as positive sanctions for engaging in kind and considerate behavior) and ensure that rules and sanctions are fairly and consistently enforced?

  10. Is the program proactive, not only responding to bullying incidents when they may become known but creating a telling school in which students and staff are actively encouraged to report incidents of bullying?

  11. Is the program preventive, addressing conditions which lead to bullying (e.g., inadequate support for potential targets of bullying; clique and gang activity; negative adult role models)?

  12. Does the program emphasize the importance of  administrative approval, of identifying clear leadership for the anti-bullying work and assuring that the leadership group receives ongoing support?

  13. Does the program include training and materials specifically for parents, caregivers and families?

  14. Is the presenter familiar with New Jersey's laws regarding bullying, hazing, harassment and discrimination and does the program support the mandates for compliance with the law and identify violations?

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