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Zero Tolerance is a Nonapproach in Bullying Prevention Policy

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Despite no evidence of positive effects and compelling evidence of negative impact, some ineffective bullying prevention policies are still found in schools and communities.  Examples of this misdirection include zero tolerance, giving advice only, expecting bystanders to solve the problem, implementing piecemeal efforts, and peer-only resolution. 
Zero tolerance policies and harsh, punitive consequences are ineffective approaches to bullying prevention. Zero tolerance became a term to describe how states were responding to drug-related crimes in the United States in the 1980s (Skiba and Knesting, 2000). Conventional wisdom at the time said that by showing no tolerance for crimes, meaning no leniency, no second chances, with drug-related charges that we would reduce drug use in the United States. This did not work.  
In an effort to reduce aggression in schools, educational policymakers took a similar approach and began adopting a zero-tolerance stance for aggressive behavior.  Many sch…

The Role of State and Local Policies in Bullying Prevention

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State laws and policies around bullying prevention became a focus for the US Department of Education in early 2010. In its analysis of existing state anti-bullying policies, the US DOE examined aspects of the existing state laws. The department found that while the majority of states had passed anti-bullying legislation, inconsistencies remained, including the definition of bullying. This analysis also brought to light the omission in many laws of a mental health component, the identification of groups most targeted by bullying, and mandatory documentation of identified bullying behavior.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy, and Practice, examined the federal and state laws and policies around bullying. By 2015, every state in the US had passed anti-bullying legislation. At the federal level, no laws exist specifically focused on bullying; however, civil rights laws, anti-discrimination polices, and the Individ…

The Relationship between Bullying and Trauma

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Research- and evidence-based bullying prevention programs have addressed bullying in a systemic and comprehensive way. We now have access to proven methods of preventing bullying and to intervene in bullying situations. While we have made great strides in designing and implementing systems that prevent bullying, there remains a need for intervening at the individual level in order to help children/young people heal from bullying situations. Using the lens of trauma in a bullying situation will fill this need.
We know that a bullying situation affects all involved in many ways, from social and emotional impact to physical and mental effects. Those who are targeted often fall into a learned helplessness that can continue throughout life. The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC) defines trauma as any real or perceived experience that leaves a person feeling hopeless, helpless, and fearing for their life/survival, their safety. Furthermore, the effects of bullying hav…