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Schools can choose from a range of approaches for resolving bullying incidents. The combination of approaches that the school chooses should reflect its culture and values, the community’s values and the type and severity of the bullying incident.
This is a relational approach to school life that is grounded in beliefs about equality, dignity, mana and the potential of all people.
More information on restorative practice(external link) can be found on the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) site and on Australian bullying prevention expert Ken Rigby’s website: Resolution methods(external link) and Bullystoppers(external link)
The traditional disciplinary approach
The use of direct sanctions as punishment to students who initiate bullying someone, and also as a general deterrent. For more information, refer to: Traditional approach(external link)
Strengthening the target
Systematically helping the target to more effectively deal with the person or persons who are initiating bullying behaviour towards them. For more information, refer to: Strengthening the target(external link)
A process by which students in conflict, including initiator/target conflicts, are invited to take part in a session with a mediator, staff member or peer mediator to help resolve their differences without any compulsion. For more information, refer to: Mediation(external link)
Support group method
A process by which students who have initiated bullying against another attend a meeting together with the target. At the meeting the initiator is required to reflect on the harm they have caused, experience remorse and act restoratively towards the target/s. For more information, refer to: Support Group Method(external link)
The method of shared concern
A non-punitive, multi-stage strategy used with groups of students suspected of initiating bullying towards another student/s or students. The suspected initiator/s of the bullying are firstly interviewed individually. The practitioner shows concern for the target and invites each of the suspected initiators to say what they will do to help. When it is clear that helpful actions have taken place, the suspected initiators meet as a group along with the practitioner, plan what to do next and then meet with the target to resolve the problem. For more information, refer to: Method of Shared Concern(external link)
Undercover bullying teams
Another method designed to combat bullying relations. For further information on undercover bullying team, refer to:
Undercover bullying team resources
- Winslade et al. (2015). The effectiveness of “undercover anti-bullying teams”(external link) as reported by participants.
- John Winslade and Michael Williams, “Safe and Peaceful Schools”(external link) (2012).
Are punishment and stand-downs effective?
Students who experience stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsion from school are more likely to experience negative longer-term educational and health outcomes. Therefore, it is important to use these options carefully and balance the safety of the targets of bullying behaviour with the need to support all young people to develop the skills needed to maintain healthy social relationships. It is also important to respect the educational and health (including mental health) outcomes of both the target and initiator of bullying behaviour when considering imposing stand-downs, suspensions, exclusion and expulsions.
In cases where stand-downs and exclusion processes are used, they should always be one part of a comprehensive response. For the Ministry of Education’s guidance on stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions, refer to: Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines(external link).
Resolution process resources
Australian bullying prevention expert Ken Rigby has compiled a list of resolution methods for schools. A summary of this information is available on his website: Resolution Methods(external link)
New Zealand authors John Winslade and Michael Williams (2012) Safe and Peaceful Schools: Addressing conflict and eliminating violence outlines a range of resolution methods, including:
- Peer mediation
- Narrative counselling
- “Circle conversations”
- Undercover bullying teams
- “Facing up to violence” groups
- Restorative conferences
For information on “Safe and Peaceful Schools” refer to Safe and peaceful schools(external link)