Across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania school leadership face various challenges to strategically plan for school climate improvement. Following wide-scale implementation of comprehensive approaches, schools continue to articulate the need to “do something” to prevent and respond to bullying. The STAR document contains four levels of bullying prevention practices and provides school building level leadership with a helpful place to start. The resource was given the title “STAR” based on the concept that schools appreciate guidance on how to move from doing what’s expected (One STAR Level) to doing what will have the greatest impact on creating a safe and respectful learning environment (Four STAR Level).
The STAR document was developed by a team of professionals trained in research-based bullying prevention approaches. Their expertise includes the study of all facets of bullying prevention, implementation of research-based bullying prevention programs, development of supportive resources and associated research projects.
The STAR document is intended to be utilized as a self-assessment tool for schools, families and community partners to examine how they have integrated their bullying prevention efforts into improving their school climate. This tool was created specific to Pennsylvania. Level One (1 STAR) addresses the requirements of the 2008 bullying prevention state legislation, which amended the Pennsylvania School Code. Levels Two, Three and Four are relevant to all states/schools/communities and can be utilized to identify strengths, weaknesses and improvement strategies.
Current bullying prevention research continues to support the 10 best practices in bullying prevention listed on the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA )“Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention” fact sheet. The following best practices are addressed in each of the STAR levels:
- Focus on the social environment of the school.
- Assess bullying at your school.
- Garner staff and parent support for bullying prevention.
- Form a group to coordinate the school’s bullying prevention activities.
- Train your staff in bullying prevention.
- Establish and enforce school rules and policies related to bullying.
- Increase adult supervision in hot spots where bullying occurs.
- Intervene consistently and appropriately in bullying situations.
- Focus some class time on bullying prevention.
- Continue these efforts over time.
In compliance with PA law, the school (district) has a Bullying Prevention Policy that:
- Is incorporated into the Student Code of Conduct
- Delineates disciplinary consequences for bullying
- Identifies the school staff person(s) to receive reports of incidents of alleged bullying
- Includes a basic definition of bullying (as outlined in the law)
- Is posted in a prominent location within each school; and is available in every classroom; and is on the website (if available)
- Is reviewed with students at least once every year, and the review includes procedures for reporting
- Is submitted to PDE annually as part of the School Safety Report
- Is reviewed and revised as needed every three (3) years
- Includes information related to the development and implementation of any bullying prevention, intervention, and/or education program utilized.
In compliance with PA law, each incident that qualifies as bullying under the adopted definition is documented and reported to PDE in the annual School Safety Report
Meets all 1 star criteria and:
- Written procedures are in place which include reporting and tracking of bullying incidents
- The school’s bullying prevention/intervention approaches and related consequences are communicated to students and parents
- Includes a rubric of response concerning first time and subsequent incidents of bullying
- The policy includes consequences for failure to respond to bullying
- The school has rules against bullying posted in every classroom and in public areas
- Bullying prevention is either woven into existing curriculum, or is provided through specific lessons (such as guidance lessons or specific bullying prevention curriculum)
- The Bullying Prevention Policy provides for research-based prevention, intervention and/or education programs
- Other school climate improving initiatives (character education, conflict resolution, peer mediation, restorative justice, assemblies, student clubs, positive behavior programs) have clearly recognized and understood connections to the bullying prevention approaches
- The school has conducted outreach and awareness building activities in the local community
Meets all 1 and 2 star criteria and:
- The Bullying Prevention Policy is an integral component of a school’s resiliency and wellness approach
- A framework is in place to support and reinforce positive behavior (e.g. School-Wide Positive Behavior and Intervention Support SW-PBIS)
- Bystanders are recognized for getting help or reaching out to targets of bullying behavior
- A school climate and/or bullying prevention committee is in place
- All staff members (professional and support) are trained and speak a common language in regard to bullying prevention and school climate, and there is a plan in place for training new staff
- All school personnel know how to intervene when bullying is observed and how to follow-up and/or to whom to refer for follow-up
- Students have opportunities to become engaged in school climate improving initiatives
- Data-driven decision-making is utilized in implementing and sustaining a bullying prevention initiative (student, staff, and parent surveys, discipline reports, attendance data, SAP data, etc.)
- A comprehensive bullying prevention program is implemented which includes individual, classroom, school-wide, and community components
- The comprehensive bullying prevention program is evidence-based
- Bullying prevention is connected to all facets of comprehensive safe schools planning (prevention, intervention and postvention)
- Parents and community members have opportunities to become involved in improving school climate
Meets all 1, 2 and 3 star criteria and:
- Bullying prevention is part of the school culture
- Each school year, a minimum of two (2) building level staff meetings are dedicated to the review and ongoing planning of bullying prevention efforts
- Students demonstrate knowledge of how to intervene safely and/or how to get help in response to bullying behavior; and this information is shared as part of new student orientation/enrollment
- Parents representative of the local demographic and members of community organizations serve as active committee members
- School staff understand and can articulate the connection between a positive school climate and academic success
- Rules against bullying have been adopted by the local community and are posted and enforced in youth serving organizations
- Staff are motivated to meet and discuss issues related to bullying prevention and intervention;
- Bullying prevention and school climate initiatives are strategically planned, implemented and sustained district-wide
- School staff understand there is no “end date” to improving school climate
- There is fidelity to the comprehensive, evidence-based program model being implemented
- As part of each student contact, counselors, nurses and other support staff assess student well-being regarding bullying, and school climate in general
- Parents and guardians are knowledgeable about the school’s bullying prevention efforts and are informed in parent group meetings, parent conferences, and when individual bullying situations involve their child
- Changing administration or staff turn-over does not negatively impact the sustainability of bullying prevention efforts
- The school holds a special event each year designed to re-engage and re-energize staff and students in preventing and intervening in bullying
- There is collaboration between school home, and community in promoting bullying prevention and intervention efforts
- The school and community have identified long term goals and outcomes (core results) for children, families, school and community that bullying prevention efforts will ultimately produce
- All stakeholders are committed to designing and delivering services that are respectful of and responsive to the beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse members of the school and larger community.
The STAR document is intended to be used as a guide to help educators, parents and community partners assess bullying prevention efforts and to plan school climate improvement strategies.
Mary Dolan, M.A.
Bullying Prevention Consultant
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Patricia Welle, R.N., M.A.
Retired, Student Services Coordinator
Allentown City School District