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A Comprehensive Approach to Bullying Prevention

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In this ConnectEd article, find information and resources regarding bullying prevention.

Bullying is an unfortunate, pervasive and unacceptable challenge for students, parents, and educators. Beginning in 2010, with the enactment of Wis. Stat. 118.46, districts were required to implement a policy prohibiting bullying by pupils. To aid in the development of this policy, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction developed a model bullying policy for districts to use as a resource as they develop their own policy. The model policy was directed to include: a definition of bullying, a confidential procedure for reporting incidents, a procedure for investigating incidents, a prohibition against retaliation, the identification of district employees who will be responsible for an investigation, a notification to all guardians involved in the incident, and a requirement for a list of disciplinary alternatives for pupils who engage in bullying or who retaliate against a pupil who reports an incident of bullying. The model policy and other related information can be found on DPI’s Comprehensive Approach to Bullying Prevention website.

The working definition of bullying that the DPI uses is borrowed from the powerful resource In this definition, bullying is viewed as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, and the behavior is repeated, or has the possibility of being repeated, over time. To effectively address bullying, schools should develop a comprehensive anti-bullying program.

Prevention of bullying can be a foundational effort that not only includes an effective policy and set of procedures, but should also consider school climate and the development of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in students. School climate and how safe students feel in school go hand in hand; as students report feeling safer, measures of school climate go up. It may be useful, therefore, for schools to take surveys of students and staff to determine their climate baseline, to which future measurements can be compared. The DPI has a free survey for schools to use in measuring school climate. See the Climate Survey Information website. School districts may also want to look deeper at the root causes of a climate score and consider student responses to school safety and bullying items on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Registration for the fall of 2022 YRBS surveying is open now. See the Conducting a YBRS website. Finally, a good way to glimpse the status of your district’s anti-bullying work is through the DPI’s Bullying Prevention Assessment Tool.

Another prevention-level strategy districts may want to consider is developing SEL skills in their students. See the DPI’s Social and Emotional Learning website for more information.

It’s not difficult to see how students who understand themselves and have empathy for others would be less likely to participate in bullying. The Learning for Justice website (formerly Teaching Tolerance) also has an article on this subject as well as many other resources. See the Empathy: The Antidote to Bullying article.


Finally, the DPI recognizes cyberbullying as the “use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another individual or group." This is a serious issue and happens mainly among young people, but not always. Cyber bullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but they most often know their victims. See the Internet and Online Safety – Cyberbullying website.

Finally, Stop Bullying has a great article on how cyberbullying is uniquely difficult for young people to experience. This article points out that cyberbullying can be persistent, permanent, and difficult for school staff to notice. See the ‘What is Cyberbullying’ article.

Subscriber submission: Brian Dean, Wisconsin DPI’s Student Services/Prevention and Wellness team