Policy Statement on Prevention of Bullying
Bullying is defined as intentional, individual, or collective aggressive behaviors that intimidate and cause the physical or psychological discomfort of another individual or group. It usually occurs within the context of a power imbalance, or perceived power imbalance, and can be direct, indirect, and/or digital. In recent surveys, 20% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school. Bullies and victims are at risk for negative physical and emotional health outcomes. Bullying victimization and perpetration are correlated with adverse outcomes including mood and eating disorders, lower academic achievement, school absenteeism, alcohol and drug use, and self-injurious and suicidal behaviors. Emerging data indicates that certain subpopulations of students are at increased risk for experiencing bullying.
The number of bullying prevention programs has increased substantially since the 1990s, and nearly all states have passed laws specifically related to bullying. School-based responses to bullying, such as Zero Tolerance policies, school assemblies, and peer mediation have not proven to be effective and may even create potentially harmful effects for the victim. In contrast, programs aiming to prevent violence and disruptive behaviors by promoting a positive school climate, such as School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), have had a significant impact on decreasing the frequency of bullying.
To ensure a comprehensive system of care approach to bullying prevention, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends:
- Coordinated efforts by health-care providers, policymakers, educators, public and community agencies, and families to develop evidence-based strategies for prevention of bullying and its sequelae.
- Promotion of public awareness about the nature, impact, and prevention of bullying, including the monitoring, detection, and reporting of all forms of bullying.
- Development of safe schools through school-wide interventions such as PBIS, and incorporating ongoing education of students, staff, parents, youth, and any community members who work directly with children and adolescents about bullying and its effects.
- Assessment of current state-based and school-based anti-bullying policies’ efficacy, including a review of the language to better serve vulnerable populations, such as LGBTQ students.
- Continuous monitoring of the effects of anti-bullying polices on school-based metrics such as reports of bullying, incidences involving violence, attendance, and class participation.
- Referral for victims and perpetrators who experience physical and psychological symptoms linked to bullying for mental and physical health evaluation and treatment.
- Urging state and federal policy makers to adopt, implement, and evaluate on an ongoing basis policies and programs for preventing, identifying, and responding to bullying on their platforms and publication of their anti-bullying policies on their websites.