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School Anti-Bullying Programmes don't work, says Counsellor

Press Release
Steve Taylor
Director 24-7 Ltd

School Anti-Bullying Programmes don't work, says Counsellor and Outcomes Researcher

In the aftermath of the shocking case of a defenceless Wanganui school student being punched, kicked and stomped by what can only be described as a feral student, parents of school children may wish to pause to consider the wisdom of the various anti-bullying programmes available in our schools. I say this because the research evidence to date is quite clear – these programmes, so championed by the Ministry of Education and various academic and professional “experts”, don’t actually work.

The 2004 fourth quarter issue of the School Psychology Review, the research journal of the National Association of School Psychologists, published the findings of Canadian Psychologist, J. David Smith, PhD, of the University of Ottawa, in a paper entitled "The Effectiveness of Whole-School Anti-Bullying Programs: A Synthesis of Evaluation Research." Dr Smith conducted a meta-analysis (a study of studies) of all the research studies on the effectiveness of whole-school anti-bullying programs. The report stated that “86% of victimization outcomes [reports by victims of program benefits] were negligible or negative and the remaining 14% of reported effects were positive (albeit small). For self-reported bullying, 100% of the reported effects were negligible or negative."

A 2009 study entitled “School based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimisation” revealed an 80% failure rate in reducing victimisation by bullies. The study also found that one component of anti-bullying programs, "working with peers" (having students mediate problems, mentor younger kids, or encourage bystanders to interfere in bullying behaviour), actually increased the occurrences of students being bullied.

Currently the most comprehensive examination of school bullying has been provided by Smith, Pepler and Rigby (2004) Bullying in Schools: How successful can interventions be which again revealed that anti-bullying programmes failed in 85% of their applications, while the most widely evaluated anti-bullying program in the world (The Olweus program) has only been initially successful in its study original sample, and nowhere else –ever.

Other observed harmful effects of the anti-bullying programmes have been identified as the promoting of a victim mentality in students which encourages bullies to become more anti-social, wrongful punishment for victims, diverting class time from academic study to deal with bullying issues, turning students against each other, and creating family feuds.

It was philosopher David Hume who stated that “a wise person goes in the direction in which the evidence leads” – if only wisdom was a pre-requisite for the implementation of Social and Educational policy in our schools, and with our children.

As parents, the State charges us with the responsibility of being the Guardians of our children. Part of this role involves parents teaching our children how to stand up for themselves, and (while it may sound unpalatable to some) this includes physical self-defence. The State cannot reasonably expect parents to teach children how to look after themselves in every other area of their life (e.g. self-care, sexual health, alcohol use, and social media) whilst ignoring the very real need to also teach our children how to fight and fend for themselves in the world.

What was both sickening and revealing in the 24 punches, 2 knees to the head, and 1 head stomping in the assault on the Wanganui student was that each and every one of these blows made by the perpetrator went unanswered by the victim – the resources the victim most desperately needed (the ability in that moment to fight back for her potential survival), were absent.

Any programme, philosophy, or law that undermines or chastises a person for legitimate self-defence, is, in light of the above evidence, itself an abusive bully.


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