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Media Release

October 29, 2010

Six ways of dealing with bullying

Six ways to deal with school bullying.Australia’s leading bullying expert, UniSA’s Dr Ken Rigby, is appealing to schools to consider looking at more than just the traditional intervention method for dealing with bullying.

“There are now several known methods of intervention that have been shown to be effective in many situations but they are simply not being employed in many schools,” Dr Rigby said.

“Cases of bullying are not all alike and therefore may require different methods. There are six major methods of intervention in cases of school bullying.”

Dr Rigby says that research in the UK, Australia and the US shows that about 30 per cent of students report bullying to teachers, but around 50 per cent of students said reporting it did not improve the situation.

“This is a really worrying statistic,” Dr Rigby said. “It seems that schools are not accessing and making use of what is now known about countering bullying.

“Further research undertaken across many countries, including Australia, shows that the disciplinary approach is seen by about 75 per cent of school staff as the most appropriate way of dealing with most forms of bullying.

“This approach seeks to prevent bullying by imposing sanctions or punishments on the offender. It also sends a message to other students about what will happen to them if they engage in bullying. This approach requires a high level of surveillance though, which is often impossible for teachers and counsellors to maintain.

“There are five other ways to deal with bullying that should be considered. Interventions need to take into account the severity of the bullying but also whether there is group involvement. In addition, there must be available skills and training of staff, and interventions need to be consistent with the school’s anti-bullying policy and philosophy.”

The other five intervention methods which are examined and evaluated in detail in Dr Rigby’s book, Bullying Interventions in Schools: Six major methods, published by the Australian Council for Educational Research, are:

Strengthening the victim: this approach aims to help the victim to cope more effectively in interactions with the bully or bullies, for example by training targeted children to act more assertively.

Mediation: students in conflict are invited to work with a trained teacher or peer-mediator to find a mutually acceptable way of resolving a dispute that may underlie the bullying behaviour.

Restorative practice: this method requires offenders to reflect upon their behaviour, experience a sense of remorse and act to restore a damaged relationship with both the victim and the school community.

Support group method: previously called the ‘no blame approach’, it involves speaking with the victim and identifying the perpetrators, after which a group meeting is held which includes the bullies and several students who support the victim, but not the victim. The practitioner describes the victim’s distress and then each person says how he or she will help. The situation is then carefully monitored.

The Method of Shared concern: is a multi-stage process in which suspected bullies are interviewed individually to gain their cooperation in improving the victim’s situation. The victim is then interviewed. Subsequently a meeting is convened with the group of suspected bullies who are required to make a plan to resolve the problem. The victim is then invited to join the group to bring about an agreed solution.

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