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Bold Step 1: Partner
Woman shaking hands with a manBullying is a repeated aggressive behavior where one person (or group of people) deliberately intimidates, abuses, or coerces an individual with the intention to hurt physically and/or emotionally. Bullying can include physical violence, sexual aggression, teasing, social isolation, and intimidation.  
Bullying is widespread. At least one in five children is directly involved as a bully, victim, or both, and nearly 70 percent report witnessing bullying. This dynamic can occur any place where kids connect—in schools, at camp, on sports teams, and online. Recent data show that bullying between children occurs as young as early childhood and lasts through high school. The effects of bullying are damaging to the child bullying, to the child being bullied, and to the overall climate of schools and communities. Bullying creates a climate of fear and disrespect and its psychological effects last long beyond any specific incident. 
No community is “safe” from the devastating effects of childhood bullying—but you can take effective, positive steps toward preventing bullying and stopping it when it occurs. Because bullying is so widespread, it requires a communitywide response. Successful initiatives rely on coordinated participation by school districts, law enforcement, juvenile justice systems, early childhood educators, mental health providers, and others. 
  • As you think about each challenge you will face in stepping up your community’s anti-bullying efforts, brainstorm ideas for partners who have a special strength in that area. Your partnership will need to help bullies and the children they target, and to engage bystanders to take action as well. Choose partners who are ready to cross boundaries. The strategies you come up with together will need to stretch outside the walls of schools, since plenty of bullying between students is enacted off campus. 

    The “Think Broadly” activity can help you determine the partners to bring to the table, and identify community leaders you might not have considered before. “Who Cares as Much as You Do?”  and “Where Does Our Work Intersect?” are both tools to help you envision a diverse, balanced team. Your partnership might benefit from including the following constituencies: 
    • School administrators can be positive leaders in a bullying prevention partnership and can provide primary data from their schools. 
    • Law enforcement and juvenile justice professionals—ranging from school resource officers to local police—can educate students and staff about the legal connections between harassment and bullying. 
    • Early childhood educators can engage parents and young children to stop bullying before it even starts. 
    • Mental health providers can take preventive measures in a community and provide therapeutic interventions for those affected. 
    • Local businesses can serve as community representatives and contribute to financial sustainability. 
    • Members of the media can get your anti-bullying message out broadly and effectively.
    When engaging partners, it is important to have a clear message and to demonstrate how they will benefit from participating in your initiative. Will the partnership solve a problem for them? What will they get in exchange for what they will give? The “Share Your Message” activity and the "How Do We Make Our Case?" tool will help you clearly and concisely convey your message to potential partners, by sharing relevant data and emphasizing the importance of community engagement. 
  • Once you’ve gathered your team, start by sharing the definition of bullying shown at the beginning of this page. Partners may be starting with a variety of ideas about what constitutes bullying behavior and what they consider appropriate responses. If you take the time now to respect and address these differences, your team will be better prepared to encounter those same responses from others as you implement your initiative. “How Do We Create an Agreement for Working Together?” is a tool to help you build from the shared solutions you find.

    Next, you’ll need to agree on terms and determine a shared vision that draws on the range of expertise represented. With the “Where Does Our Work Intersect?” tool, you can help partners learn about each other’s areas of focus. Use the “Connect the Dots” activity to combine the unique talents and priorities of each partner into a single, focused approach. As you craft your shared vision, distinguish clearly what each partner’s role will be and how partners will work together. Partners may be at the table, but until each one understands his or her role and how partners will collaborate, real progress will be difficult. 
    Establishing some procedures and policies for partners to follow will help you work together smoothly. Clarify how often you will meet together, how you will make decisions, and how you will know when you are successful. You can create written agreements (Memoranda of Understanding), especially for partners who will be working closely together. Another useful step is to set up systems for sharing data and information from the beginning, as well a procedure for regular communication. 
Bold Step 2: Plan

A team gathered around a table talkingThere is a wealth of material available for anti-bullying programs to draw on, due to the recent national focus on this issue. Your partnership of community leaders is well equipped to design an action plan that draws on this body of work, and that is also based on your community’s specific needs and resources. As your team improves its understanding of bullying in your community, you can choose evidence-based programs to introduce and state the intended outcomes of each one. The effect of your efforts to reduce bullying will come from selecting proven programs and strategies, and implementing them effectively.  




  • Data will guide your team in determining the needs of the community and where to focus your attention. It will also provide a baseline so you can know the effect of your initiative over time. Gathering data from all your partners will give you a comprehensive view from a number of different angles, such as:
    • Bullying rates in schools (where the bullying occurs, different types of bullying, and different populations that are affected)
    • Rates of arrests as a result of bullying
    • Mental health referrals for bullying-related trauma
    Some students are more likely to be bullied, including those perceived to be gay and those with special needs. Make sure to collect data on these groups and pay special attention to ensuring that prevention and intervention efforts help them.
    Your information gathering should also focus on what is already being done in your community to reduce bullying. This information will allow you to avoid overlap, and capitalize on your community’s assets. The “What’s Really Happening” activity will help you identify these resources and determine the gaps where your team can focus its attention. The accompanying “How Do We Know What’s Happening?” tool provides checklists and guidelines to support this important step. 


  • Now you are ready, based on your community’s needs and existing resources, to determine the outcomes that you intend to achieve. The “Create Your Plan” activity and the “How Do We Create Our Roadmap?” tool will help you take the information you’ve gathered and turn it into a step-by-step process for implementation. The roadmap you create will help you stay focused on your plan, through whatever changes occur over time in key staff or community leadership. For each bullying prevention outcome that you identify, appoint a lead organization, determine action steps, identify assessment tools, and lay out a program implementation timeline. 
    The school and community interventions you choose should fit your community’s needs and resources.  Schools may implement classroom-based or whole school approaches to bullying prevention.  Communities and schools can develop social marketing campaigns to improve community awareness about bullying, and to support bystander intervention.  Local radio and cable TV stations may be interested in working with youth to create and deliver anti-bullying messages.  Take a look at the Preventing Bullying website that is part of PromotePrevent to learn more about possible approaches.
  • Before you take action, pause to make sure that your team has systems in place for dealing with unforeseen issues and for troubleshooting problems along the way. The “Create Infrastructure” activity will help you to identify and address roadblocks before you encounter them.  More advice and useful checklists are provided in the “How Do We Build for Success?” tool. Consider the following additions to your bullying prevention plan: 
    • For each program or activity, clearly identify the lead agency and the funding source. 
    • Consider adaptations that may be necessary, such as the translation of materials into other languages, or program accommodations for children with special needs. 
    • Change policies that may hinder your collaboration, such as those dealing with student involvement or with information sharing between agencies.
    • Create a system for hiring, training, and coaching staff to implement bullying prevention programming. Decide whether hiring will be a shared process between partner agencies, and clarify who will manage and supervise each new staff member. 
    • Plan for data collection, storage, analysis, and sharing. One possibility is to partner with an outside evaluator, perhaps at a local college or university, to oversee data collection. 
    • Seek funding sources that will keep your bullying prevention programs running long term.
Bold Step 3: Act

People attending a training sessionAt this point your hard work pays off as partners put the plan into action. Successful bullying prevention and intervention strategies often involve many programs running simultaneously. In order to keep all the plates spinning, partners will need to follow the established timeline, communicate regularly, and use data to make adjustments to programs. 

  • The “Create a Legacy” activity, together with the “How Can We Sustain Our Efforts?” tool, will help you track the many components of your implementation plan. These might include hiring new employees, managing new programs, training staff in new practices, and offering administrative support to guide the programs forward. 
    Changing systems is hard work! All the planning and collaboration that have led up to this phase have prepared your team to cope with trouble spots that can make implementation difficult. Introducing new bullying prevention programming, and especially changing school culture, will in some settings require a major shift. Interagency partnerships, like those between schools and law enforcement, may depend on regular communication where there has been little communication in the past. All partners will benefit from your patience and resilience as your team remains focused on the outcomes you have set out to achieve. 
    Implementation should include ongoing assessment of programs. You have already collected data to show the extent of bullying and its connections to mental health referrals, arrests, and aspects of school and community culture. Now, data collection helps you know whether the programs you are implementing are making a difference, or if you need to make adjustments to be more effective.


  • Partnerships that focus on program sustainability from the very beginning will have the best chance of making change for the long term. The data you gather can help you engage stakeholders in maintaining bullying prevention programs.
    The “Create a Legacy” activity and the “How Can We Sustain Our Efforts?” tool will help your team identify strategies for sustainability in your community. Here are a few that have often proven successful:
    • Establish systems for interagency partnership so that collaborations will last beyond the involvement of the staff members who initiated them.
    • Research long-term funding sources, perhaps splitting financial responsibility among partnering agencies.
    • Seek buy-in from school leaders, public officials, and local business owners. 
    As you identify your successes, remember to publicize them in key areas. The “How Do We Use Data to Communicate?” tool can help you inform your community about the strides you are making to reduce bullying and address its effects. With the support you gain for your programs, bullying prevention may remain a priority in the community for years to come.