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Time is running out on an opportunity to help stop bullying

Courtesy of PeaceMaker Minnesota
If a school has not surveyed its students this year about bullying, it is missing a vital step in its efforts to provide a safe and positive learning environment.

Time is running out on an opportunity to decrease the number of students who experience bullying in our schools. 

If a school has not surveyed its students this year about bullying, it is missing a vital step in its efforts to provide a safe and positive learning environment. Student surveys:

  • Communicate to students and school personnel that bullying is taken very seriously, thereby reinforcing a culture at the school that bullying behavior is not accepted.
  • Give students a voice about what is happening at the school and show that their views are valued.
  • Generate information important to parents and school personnel, making it easier to earn their buy-in for initiatives to create a more positive learning environment.
  • Show the effectiveness of bullying prevention efforts, highlighting success and areas that need improvement. 

There are a lot of ways to assess a bullying prevention program: self-reporting student surveys, peer nominating student surveys, teacher and parent surveys, discipline referrals, suspension rates, etc. Each method has its own limitations and the schools that use multiple measures will have the best information. 

That said, in the 16 years that PeaceMaker Minnesota has funded K-12 schools to reduce bullying, one evaluation tool stands out: the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire sold by Hazelden. 

PeaceMaker Minnesota likes this questionnaire so much that if a school is willing to use it, and continue using it, PeaceMaker will pay for the survey year after year. Here is why:

  • Olweus gives results that are comparable to national averages. With the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire, school personnel can see if results are better or worse than other schools with the same grade levels. 
  • It can provide schoolwide results; every grade from three on up can be surveyed.
  • It is comprehensive – 40 questions with two additional questions that the school can add to the survey, which gives the school actionable information. 

For example, if responses show that students are not telling school staff about bullying or do not believe that adults at the school try to intervene, it could indicate that more staff training is needed. Likewise, if results show that students do not think that students try to stop bullying, then it suggests more could be done to help students to stop bullying rather than to be bystanders.  Knowing where bullying is the most prevalent and what types of bullying students experience is essential to stopping it. Schools cannot change what they do not know, and the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire helps schools to know where improvements can be made. 

Time is running out. Please contact a school close to you and encourage it to administer the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire. The window on this school year is closing, but we don’t have to lose the knowledge that can be gained from a comprehensive student survey on bullying. 

Since its founding in 1998 it has provided more than $870,000 in financial assistance to help schools reduce bullying and teach positive relational skills. To learn more about PeaceMaker Minnesota or the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire visit www.peacemakermn.org or contact Dan McNeil at dmcneil@peacemakermn.org.

Dan McNeil is a founder and the executive director of PeaceMaker Minnesota.

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