Educators' Perceptions of the Factors Influencing the Implementation of Bullying Prevention Efforts in U.S. Schools Open Access
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Over the last decade, school bullying has received considerable media and policy attention; however, attempts to reduce the unwanted behavior through the implementation of numerous bullying prevention programs have been only marginally successful. The issue is not if and why bullying should be stopped in our schools, but how to reduce bullying successfully and systematically across different schools--schools that may substantially differ in terms of resources, student populations, teachers, poverty, and violence levels. Using a sample of 21 educators who over the years worked in 33 different school districts and over 100 schools, this qualitative study examined how educators across different contexts perceived implementation of bullying prevention programs and the factors that facilitate or constrain this implementation. Educators worked in public and private schools from the elementary to high school level, with substantially different poverty levels and student populations. The study was designed as a basic interview study and collected data from district and school administrators, counselors, teachers, and mental health and social workers.The findings indicate that the phenomenon of bullying is beyond the scope of any single program, and there is no silver bullet that can successfully tackle the problem of school bullying. Rather than creating programs that target bullying and focusing solely on bullies and bully-victims, policymakers should consider broader policies that focus on creating a safe, positive, and stress-free school environment where bullying is not the norm, while promoting students' academic, social-emotional, and character skills. The findings suggest that several factors influence implementation, such as financial and personnel resources, training, district and school leadership, social media, high-stakes testing, student socioeconomic background, and stakeholder commitment. The findings also show that these factors not only vary substantially across as well as within states and districts, but also facilitate or hinder stakeholders' ability and commitment with respect to implementation of bullying prevention efforts. This suggests that if implementers of antibullying programs do not account for variations in school contexts and adapt interventions to fit the needs and skills of educators, students, and parents, consistent positive outcomes of bullying prevention programs will remain an elusive goal.