School-Based Bullying Prevention: Handling Unanticipated Problems or Setbacks

It's a Speed Bump, Not a Roadblock

  • Overview

    SecureChanging the culture of bullying at school is not an easy process. It requires careful planning and attention, as well as an understanding that problems will likely happen along the way. You can expect and plan for some setbacks ahead of time, but other problems will be harder to foresee. Although it is difficult to plan for unanticipated obstacles, a strong team and a detailed implementation plan can help you address these issues as they arise. Overall, it is important to not view setbacks as failures but as opportunities to learn important lessons.

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  • Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research

    Steps to Take:  Lessons Learned from the Research

    Understand and prepare for possible setbacks.

    • Plan for staffing problems.
    • Be ready for problems with delivering the program.
    • Anticipate possible funding issues.

    Prepare for unexpected setbacks.

    • Communicate often with team members.
    • Learn about potential problems from other schools.
    • Understand and Prepare for Possible Setbacks

      The best way to handle possible problems is to prepare for them by staying flexible, while also using them as a learning experience to guide your team in the future.

      • Plan for staffing problems. Personnel issues, such as staff turnover and absenteeism, are often the most serious challenges to implementation. For example, an evaluation of Bully-Proofing Your School found that staff turnover affected one school’s ability to coordinate the program. When the program implementation coordinator took a leave of absence, the position was not replaced until the end of the year. This delay pushed back the school’s implementation timeline, and new teachers were not trained on the program until late into the school year. These types of staffing problems are fairly easy to manage if you plan for them. For example, some programs, such as the KiVa Antibullying Program, conduct virtual trainings that can be used by new staff members who join schools already implementing the program. Other programs, such as Positive Action, hold training sessions every year to account for teacher turnover.

      • Be ready for problems with delivering the program. Having a plan ahead of time to deal with delivery issues (e.g., time constraints and technical issues) can help you handle any setbacks along the way.
        • Finding the time to teach the curriculum. An evaluation of Bully-Proofing Your School found that staff members did not have enough time to teach the curriculum and could not integrate program components into the regular school schedule. The school overcame this obstacle by helping teachers set a standing time and day for the curriculum to be taught. Once this schedule was set, teachers were much more likely to stick to the schedule and implement the curriculum into the daily lessons. This issue could have been handled by helping teachers set up a plan for integrating the program into their regular school schedule.
        • Technical Issues. In the internet-based program Success in Stages®, schools and teachers came across a number of technical problems, including teachers using the wrong URL to access the program; slow Internet connections at school, making it difficult to access the program; and inadequate computer lab time for students to finish the lessons. In this situation, all of the technical issues were eventually resolved. For example, rather than downloading individual multimedia components from the Web site, each teacher received a multimedia CD. However, some of these technical issues could have been avoided with careful planning. By understanding the program’s technical requirements from the start, you can avoid dealing with these issues during implementation.
      • Anticipate possible funding issues. When you are implementing a school-based bullying prevention program, funding is always a concern (see Procuring Funding for more information on funding). It is important to prepare for funding issues and have a back-up plan, should issues arise. For example, coaches in the Playworks program, an intervention that teaches students about bullying prevention through structured recess activities, used creative approaches to find equipment when money in the school budget ran short. The coaches borrowed equipment from the physical education teacher or received equipment through donations from parents. Rather than viewing the financial setback as an end to the program, the coaches were able to overcome the obstacle by finding new resources and working together.

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    • Prepare for Unexpected Setbacks

      Some setbacks may occur that simply cannot be predicted. However, having a strong implementation team in place that addresses problems as they occur can help overcome minor setbacks.

      • Communicate often with team members. The implementation team should meet regularly so that unforeseen issues can be handled as quickly as possible (for more information on developing an implementation team, see Getting Stakeholder Buy-in). For example, in the Bully Busters program, teams meet every 2-3 weeks for an hour. The meetings are guided by a lead teacher or school counselor whose job is to help the team assess which parts of the program are working well and which are not working well.
      • Learn about potential problems from other schools. Working with other schools that have already introduced the same program (or who are also introducing it at their school) can help you handle any setbacks. It can also help you avoid some of the problems that they have encountered. For example, in the School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support program, implementation coordinators from different schools meet monthly to discuss areas for improvement. This activity helps teams get feedback on their particular issues and learn from others’ experiences. Likewise, the Positive Action program encourages participants to meet throughout the school year. Small conferences are held once a year to bring together five or six staff members from schools currently implementing the program to share ideas and experiences, as well as discuss any concerns.

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