Middle School Bullying Prevention Program

Principal Investigator:
Terri Sullivan, Ph.D.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) is a comprehensive school-based program designed to prevent youth violence and bullying by improving school climate. Although OBPP is being implemented in hundreds of schools across the U.S., few studies have evaluated its impact on schools in the U.S., particularly schools in urban areas that serve high percentages of minority adolescents from disadvantaged communities.

OBPP’s school environment approach embodies a comprehensive framework to promote school safety that targets risk factors for bullying behaviors at individual, classroom, and school levels. The school component includes forming a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee, training all staff, administering a bullying questionnaire to students, organizing school and parent kickoff events to introduce anti-bullying rules and involve parents (Limber, 2011). The Coordinating Committee monitors the application of school rules (including positive and negative consequences for behaviors), and refines and monitors the school supervisory system to enhance student safety, especially in “hot spots” where bullying behaviors are more likely to occur (Limber, 2006). The classroom component is designed to promote student adherence to anti-bullying rules through regular classroom meetings to discuss bullying and related topics, (Limber, 2006; 2011). The individual component includes “on-the-spot” and follow-up interventions with students involved in bullying incidents and meetings with parents (Limber, 2006; 2011). A community component involves community members in the school-wide component (e.g., by inviting them to serve on the BPCC) and integrates bullying prevention activities in programs after school and/or in the community (Limber, 2006).

This four-year project funded by the National Institute of Justice is being conducted in partnership with an urban school district in Richmond, Virginia. It is an extension of a previous project and will support the continued implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in two middle schools and collection of three additional years of data (four waves of data each year) on proximal and distal outcomes for OBPP based on student reports, teacher ratings, and school and juvenile justice records (total projected sample of 2,545).  Extending this design will provide a clearer picture of the relation between implementation of OBPP and changes in outcomes over time in the schools where OBPP is being implemented.

This project also includes a qualitative study designed to identify barriers and supports to OBPP implementation and capture lessons learned by conducting focus groups with teachers who have been involved in implementing the intervention within the schools. A cost-benefit analysis for OBPP implementation will be conducted by comparing OBPP implementation costs to potential benefits including decreased disciplinary code violations, attendance, juvenile justice involvement, and alternative school placements. Findings will be disseminated through the preparation of manuscripts for submission to scientific journals, presentations at relevant conferences, dissemination to the public, and completion of a final report. Data will be archived for future project replication.