Bully prevention in positive behavior support
Ross, Scott W., 1979-
Bullying behaviors are a growing concern in U.S. schools, and are documented to have detrimental effects for victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. Most interventions focused on bully prevention either have limited empirical support, or focus primarily on the behavior of the bully. We present here an alternative approach to bully prevention based on the growing recognition that interventions should be function-based. Bully Prevention in Positive Behavior Support (BP-PBS) gives students the tools necessary to remove the social rewards maintaining bullying behavior through a strong link to school-wide positive behavior support, a discrimination between "being respectful" versus "not being respectful" in unstructured settings, and the explicit teaching of a simple, school-wide response to bullying effective for victims, bystanders, and perpetrators of bullying. This is coupled with an efficient strategy for school staff to use when dealing with reports of bullying including a sequence of questioning and practice. A single-subject, multiple-baseline design across six students and three elementary schools was implemented in an empirical evaluation of the effectiveness of BP-PBS. Results indicated that implementation of the program not only significantly decreased incidents of bullying behavior for all six students observed, but also increased the likelihood of appropriate victim responses and bystander responses, indicating a substantial decrease in the social rewards that served to maintain bullying behavior. In addition, through a pre-post survey, students also reported improved perceptions of the bullying and safety at their schools. Finally, school staff members were able to implement the program with a high degree of fidelity and regarded the program as effective and easy to implement. These findings have major implications for the design and support of effective social culture in schools. Limitations of the research and future efforts are suggested to encourage the field in a new direction with bully prevention efforts, away from overly complicated definitions and interventions, toward a school-wide approach including specific strategies and a reconceptualization of the bullying construct.