Frisco ISD and the Olweus Bullying Program

As a Student Assistance Coordinator in Frisco ISD, I had the opportunity to attend a three-day “Training of Trainers” (TOT) for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), hosted by my district. Also attending were James Caldwell, the other Student Assistance Coordinator in the district, and school counselors, principals, and other student services employees from several other states and the Virgin Islands! One of the trainees was a principal who had recently had a suicide at her school that was at least partly precipitated by bullying. It was an intensive and interactive training, which was enhanced by the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the trainees.

The Olweus program is named for Dr. Dan Olweus, a Norwegian psychiatrist who did the first systematic research on bullying in the 1970’s, and this research has continued. The Olweus Bullying Questionnaire (OBQ) has now been administered to over half a million students in the United States, making it the largest national database on bullying among students in this country. Today OBPP is being used in over 6,000 schools nationwide.

On Wednesday, October 20, the most recent data from the program was released. Students indicated that 17% (almost equal numbers of boys and girls) had been bullied 2-3 times per month or more, and 10 percent (almost twice as many boys as girls) indicated that they had bullied someone 2-3 times per month or more. Of students who said they had been bullied, almost half indicated that it had gone on for over a year. The data also showed that most students (65% of girls and 51% of boys) who witness bullying feel empathy for the student being bullied and either think they should help or do help the student. Engaging these “bystanders” to help the child who is being bullied and/or report what is happening to an adult is one of the most important tenets of the OBPP, along with immediate positive and negative consequences (a session with the counselor and negative consequences from the assistant principal, for instance), posting of bullying prevention rules in the classrooms, and consistent adult supervision and intervention.

However, the Olweus program is much more than posting and enforcing a simple set of rules. It has school, classroom, individual, parent, and community components. For instance, each campus forms a Bully Prevention Campus Committee (BPCC) whose members participates in a two-day training, and then trains the rest of the building staff. The school counselor typically chairs the committee, but there are up to 15 committee members to share the responsibility. The trainer for the BPCC is available for at least a year for monthly consultations to help get the program off the ground. Weekly hour-long classroom meetings are held to address bullying issues, teach empathy, and promote inclusion of all students.

The Olweus program has been proven to significantly reduce student reports of being bullied and bullying others. (Typically, reports go up in the first year of implementation, but they go down significantly in the second and subsequent years.) Results have also shown reductions in vandalism, fighting, theft and truancy, as well as improvements in the classroom social climate and more positive attitudes toward schoolwork and school. However, adherence to the components of the program is critical to its success.

In Frisco, James and I plan to start a pilot program with several elementary and middle schools, either in February or early next school year. These will be schools that volunteer to be a pilot school, so they will be ready to commit to the time needed for training and ongoing implementation of the program. We will train the campus committees and consult with them on implementation, all the while working with our own Olweus training consultant. We look forward to our two-day follow-up TOT next year to share our experiences with the trainees we met and worked with last week and to learn from their experiences!

By: Glenda Boyer, Student Assistance Coordinator, Frisco ISD

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