Whenever an incident of bullying happens, it casts a spotlight on the students involved – the bully, the bully-followers, and the student being targeted. Schools can use the incident to cast light on what so often lies behind the bullying – the broken homes, the missing social and emotional skills and the mental health issues that have led to any particular student adopting the role of bully or target. If we pay careful attention, the spotlight can reveal to us the students who are at risk – those who are heading towards significant harm unless we interrupt their trajectory.
The Marin County Office of Education in California (MCOE) has been one of the first to recognize that bullying often stems from, and gives rise to, significant mental health issues. It has long championed the need for real action to make school bully-free. In summer 2013 MCOE invited No Bully to partner with 23 schools across the seven San Francisco Bay Area counties that constitute Region Four. Funding was made available from the California Mental Health Initiative (Proposition 63). The goal of the initiative was to train schools how to implement the No Bully System and staff capacity to respond to the mental health needs of their students. Each school received a full No Bully school partnership for the duration of the 2013-14 school year.
To monitor progress and effectiveness, schools were asked to complete logs at three checkpoints each time that a Solution Team® was used to solve a bullying conflict. The logs included questions about the frequency/intensity of the bullying, along with a rating of perceived personal safety. In 100% of cases the target of bullying experienced an improvement in either the frequency or the intensity of bullying by the third checkpoint, a 3-month follow-up. In over 96% of cases the target experienced a decrease in both frequency and intensity. In 91% of the cases, improvement was noted directly following the Solution Team®.
Significant improvement was also seen in students’ personal safety ratings. Students were asked to rate using a scale of 1 through 5, 5 indicating feeling ‘very safe.’ The average safety rating when the bullying first came to the attention of the Solution Coaches® was 2.71 and rose to 3.96 after the Solution Team® was facilitated. At the three-month follow-up the average reached 4.16.
Numbers aside, these results stand for much more. They demonstrate that every school can with expert training bring incidents of bullying rapidly and effectively to an end. All 23 schools in the San Francisco region now have a shared language around bullying and have institutionalized a system that will enable them to resolve future incidents. This initiative has and will continue to save lives.