Bullying In The Classroom: The Ultimate Guide To Stopping It

Smart Classroom Management: Bullying In The Classroom: The Ultimate Guide To Stopping ItChances are one of your students is being bullied.

And if you’re like most teachers, you’re either unaware of it or you don’t know how to stop it.

This is why bullying has become epidemic.

The teacher is the only one in position to put a stop to it, and he or she is ill-equipped to do so.

This isn’t another article about teaching manners or preaching respect.

It’s not about group counseling or community circles.

This is about putting an end to bullying.

It’s about protecting your students and their right to learn and enjoy school without being threatened, terrorized, or picked on.

It’s about stepping in and saying, “I’m your teacher, and you will not be bullied. Not on my watch.”

If you want to be that kind of teacher, if you want to end bullying in your classroom forever, if you want to take a stand for those who can’t always stand for themselves, then keep reading.

How To Stop Bullying

This website can help any teacher get control of, and then thrive in, any classroom. The strategies recommended in each of the more than 400 articles in our archives are at once both simple and effective.

This article is no different. Put the strategies and guidelines below into practice and you will put an end to bullying.

However, it does take a certain amount of work. You will have to follow through. You will have to be vigilant. You will have to be bold. But the rewards for you and your students can be life changing.

Let’s get started.

Take a stand, make a commitment.

Decide right now that you will do whatever it takes to legally, safely, and ethically prevent bullying in your classroom. You must commit yourself to protecting each student’s right to learn and enjoy school, above all.

Know what bullying is.

Bullying is the strong preying upon the weak. It can be a physical advantage or a social advantage. It can be one student or many. It often takes the form of threats, intimidation, repeated cruelty, and/or forcing someone against his or her will to do what the bully wants.

You take care of it.

Don’t wait for someone else to step in. Don’t assume that because you referred the bullying behavior to the principal or a counselor that it’s going to be taken care of. You take on the responsibility and see it through to the end.

Know your school’s bullying policy.

It’s important that you’re familiar with your school’s bullying policy—if there is one. When should a student be referred? What circumstances constitute suspension? What about expulsion? You need to be clear on these matters so you can accurately communicate the policy to your students and their parents.

Work within the school policy.

At most schools a student who physically bullies another student is suspended—as they should be. Also, cyber-bullying can have certain legal complications that can only be handled by an administrator. Make sure you understand what your responsibilities are vis-á-vis your school’s policy, and be sure to follow them.

Have your own bullying policy.

In addition to your school’s bullying policy, you must have your own policy—or steps you take when bullying occurs. You are in a better, more influential position to stop bullying than any principal or administrator. To effectively stop bullying, students who bully must answer to you and his or her classmates.

Send a copy of your policy home the first week of school.

Your bullying policy should be part of the classroom management packet you send home to parents during the first week of school. It’s a smart way to protect yourself from complaints, and it gives parents a chance to discuss bullying with their child.

Make a promise.

At the start of every school year—and repeated regularly throughout the year—make a promise to your students that if they are the victim of bullying, you will take care of it. It’s your job to take care of it. And you will protect them and make it go away.

Make a promise II.

Promise your students that if ever they’re bullied, they can talk to you privately and you will never reveal you’ve spoken. They can slide you a note or ask if they can speak to you at recess about an academic issue. But you will protect their privacy and never let on you learned about their being bullied from them.

Communicate your policy.

Teach your bullying policy to your students during the first week of school. Define bullying for them, model what it looks like, role-play common scenarios, and make clear what happens if they bully a fellow student.

Supervise.

Watch your class like a hawk. Always. Notice body language. Keep an eye on students who are socially awkward, smaller in stature, or less confident. Be aware of those students who have fewer friends, who are alone frequently, or who play by themselves at recess. They are often, though not always, most likely to be bullied.

Keep your ear to the ground.

Victims of bullying are often fearful or embarrassed to come forward. Be proactive. Identify your leaders early in the school year (a key strategy). Check in with them often. Build a trusting relationship with these few key influencers. It’s critical that you’re able to count on them to be your eyes and ears on the playground or whenever you’re away from your class.

Talk to your students.

When you’re working with individual students, ask them, “How are things going? Anyone bothering you? Do you know of any student picking on others?” It takes only a few seconds and if you have good rapport, they’ll give it to you straight.

Don’t discourage tattling.

You can’t protect your students from bullying if you discourage them from telling you about it. The truth is, frequent tattling is a message that the teacher is not protecting the rights of students to learn and enjoy school without interference.

Get the facts.

When you get a report of bullying, take your time gathering the facts. Take notes, interview witnesses, and open a file for documentation. Don’t be in a rush to react—and don’t overreact. You need to find out precisely what happened.

Separate immediately.

Once you’re clear on the facts of the incident, and know who is responsible, act immediately. Separate the bully or bullies from their classmates in an in-class time-out. Tell them why, but don’t lecture, scold, raise your voice, or even ask for a response.

Report the bullying.

If the bullying behavior in any way triggers a consequence in the school’s policy, you must report it—and always if it’s physical in nature. Keep in mind, regardless of how it’s handled in the office, you will still follow through with your classroom bullying policy.

Speak to the bully’s parents.

Call the parents of the bullying student and set up a conference. Be kind and respectful. Just give the facts during the meeting, reading straight from your notes. Tell them simply that bullying is unacceptable, and inform them of how you’re taking care of the problem and how the student will be held accountable.

Speak to victim’s parents.

Let the parents of the student being bullied know exactly what happened and how you’re handling it. Assure them that you’ll do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This is now a critical responsibility and highest priority.

Extended time-out.

Keep the bullying student(s) in extended time-out for one week. Also, keep him (or her) with you, or under adult supervision, during recess. If his behavior is perfect and he is kind to his classmates during the week, then give him a tryout; allow him to rejoin the class on a probationary basis.

Prepare an apology.

Sometime during the one-week extended time-out, ask the bullying student to write an apology to the victim and then memorize it. Ask the victim privately for permission to have the bully address the class. Most of the time they will enthusiastically say yes. If not, writing the letter is instructive and therefore still worth doing.

Send a message.

After checking the work, have the bullying student address the class. Reciting an apology publicly puts her (or him) on record in front of her classmates that she acknowledges her behavior and promises not to do it again. It can be a powerful, humbling, and behavior-changing experience.

Supervise II.

Keep a close eye on both the bully and the victim for weeks after the incident. Know who they’re with on the playground and where they’re playing. Have your leaders keep an eye on them—preferably playing with them. Trust your students, but always verify.

Check in often.

Talk to both students often. Ask how things are going and if they’re having any problems. Never hold a grudge against the bullying student. Give him or her an opportunity to put the past where it belongs.

Check in with parents.

After a couple of weeks check in with both parents and let them know how their child is doing. They need to know that you haven’t forgotten and that you’re going to see it through to the end of the year.

If it happens again…

If you see or hear of more bullying behavior from the same student, which is unlikely if you follow the steps above, then place him or her immediately back in extended time-out for an indefinite period of time.

If the student can’t be trusted, then you can’t leave him or her alone with others. It’s as simple as that. This is the promise you made to each of your students and is the right thing to do. Keep the student in extended time-out until you can trust him/her again—which could take weeks.

When to consider counseling.

If you notice the victim of the bullying incident becoming withdrawn, less social, or unable to enjoy your classroom, then consider referring the student to professional counseling. The bullying student, too, should be referred if the bully-like behavior is repeated.

Be an expert in classroom management.

The truth is, bullying rarely if ever happens in well-run classrooms. When standards of behavior are clearly communicated, when students are held accountable using an effective classroom management plan, and when the teacher is well-versed in fair, effective strategies, then students don’t bully.

Build rapport.

One of the keys to effective classroom management is to build trusting rapport with students. When students like you, trust you, and believe in you and your message, they are tremendously influenced and much less likely to be involved in bullying behavior.

Make your classroom remarkable.

When you create a classroom your students love being part of, they experience a sense of belonging and kinship that spurs them to be both inclusive and protective of one another—regardless of background or personality.

And when all students are considered valuable members of the class, when they’re engaged and motivated, and when they’re busy learning and contributing to a class they really care about, then bullying doesn’t even enter their mind.

How do you create a remarkable classroom? Join our more than 3,600 subscribers (it’s free), pick up a copy of Dream Class, and put the strategies you learn into practice.

Protect Like A Parent

When parents send their children to school, it’s with the assumption that they’ll be safe. It is our responsibility as teachers to make sure that they are—not just from bullies, but from anything that interferes with learning, building friendships, and enjoying the school experience.

Parents instinctively will do anything to protect their children. They’ll go to the ends of the earth to care for them. They’ll stand in front of anyone or anything wishing to harm them. They’ll lift a car above the ground to save them.

We must have a similar mindset toward each of our students. After all, in the classroom we are the last line of defense.

Bullying doesn’t have to be a problem. It doesn’t have to take place in your classroom. It doesn’t have to be part of the daily lives of our students.

You have the power to put a stop to it. You’re the only one with the power to put a stop to it.

The question is, will you?

Thanks for reading.

Note: What happens if the bully is from another classroom? What if you don’t have a self-contained classroom? What if a student is bullied on the way home from school? All good questions and topics for a future article. Please stay tuned.

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45 Responses to Bullying In The Classroom: The Ultimate Guide To Stopping It

  1. Carolyn June 25, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    How do you “get to the bottom” of what happened? The perpetrator (not always a bullying situation, sometimes it’s stealing, cheating, etc.) generally lies and insists they didn’t do it. This is always, always a challenge for me. Hard during class to take them aside – wait until recess? Also, do you have suggestions for long-term and short-term sub situations where I as the sub may not have all these things established?

    • Michael Linsin June 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi Carolyn,

      Please see the article How To Get The Truth From Untruthful Students. A substitute teacher should always refer bullying and other dangerous behavior to the classroom teacher and/or an administrator.

      Michael

  2. Sharon DuBois June 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Thanks for another great article. I had one student in particular that bullied an intellectually impaired girl in my class this semester. Keeping classroom management on course was the key to keeping his behavior in line. I like the idea of a public apology.

    • Michael Linsin June 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

      Thanks Sharon! Glad you like the article.

      Michael

  3. Matthias Heil July 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    A most useful list – thanks ever so much, will try hard to put this into action!

  4. Juanita June 8, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    What if it is teasing and students claim they do it all the time as friends and the other student laughs it off and claims it’s not a big deal? Also, how about two bullys bullying one another (i.e., power struggle)? There really isn’t a noticable victim in the case of two bullys……

    • Michael Linsin June 8, 2012 at 7:00 am #

      Hi Juanita,

      Bullying is bullying. Perhaps the student is laughing it off in front of you to avoid more frequent or more severe bullying. It is your responsibility to do more investigation to find the truth. Also, bullying is the strong against the weak. Although two students equally pushing and harassing each other is behavior that needs to be enforced with consequences, it’s not bullying.

  5. Natalie February 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    What should the student be doing during recess? I understand the apology letter and learning it. However, we’re talking three recesses a day all week (first grader). What if the child gets angry and starts throwing fits (or throwing things) during this period? Is it best to ignore and go about my recess business? Or intervene? Do I give her busy work or does she just sit there in time out during recesses?

    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Hi Natalie,

      The student doesn’t do anything but sit under your supervision. As for your question about temper tantrums, I’ve written about this extensively (Difficult Student category of the archive).

      Michael

  6. lisa February 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    I have a student who’s always bullied by her classmates. One time she said to me and also to her mom that she was bullied by her two female classmates, touched her private parts and after they did they laughed. And my student told me that issued, because that time i saw them, they were laughing so i thought they were just playing inside the classroom (it was their breaktime) so i ignored it and the following day the mom of my student who was bullied complained about happened last day. So we talked and discussed the issue that I will do step to stop it. I talked my two students to stopped it and they promise that they will do it again they after 2 days they did it again by writing is a piece of paper signed by many of their classmates who were the enemy the enemy of that bullied child. Then again the child cried at home telling to her parents that she was bullied again by her 2 classmates and others so because her mom was busy she sent her eldest daughter to accompany her child to school and talk to me about the issue with written papers about what happened to school and even to the years past bullying in the same school. The mother also said that if I didn’t make any action she will bring it to higher position. But when I interviewed her (the mom) she mentioned also about family problem. The bullier’s aunt is a mistress of child’s father.

  7. Scott Mannel June 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    As someone who was bullied myself, I really appreciate this article. I now teach part time at the high school level (I help out with teaching drumline for a local high school marching band) and although I have never really had to deal with this kind of behavior directly, you can bet I will be making that promise to my students at the next rehearsal!

    • Michael Linsin June 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Outstanding, Scott! Way to go! Thanks for sharing.

      :)Michael

  8. C September 10, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Any ideas for a bullying clique?

    I have a terrible girls clique in my classroom. It is creating a classroom dynamic that is not conductive to learning.

    • Michael Linsin September 11, 2013 at 6:27 am #

      Hi C,

      Please email me with more details (grade level, exact behavior, etc.).

      Michael

  9. J. September 15, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    My young nephew (4 yrs old) is being bullied by classmates. And because he is different (ADD), quite rough in his playing, but otherwise quite sweet and not intentionally hurting people, the school he goes to, make him sit somewhere else. Away from all the other kids. His mother is already working on his social skills, but I am surprised that he school seems to be condoning the “if you’re different, you’re bringing it onto yourself” way of thinking. Am I wrong in thinking that no matter how different a child is, you should never allow children to be excluded and let bullies get away with it? Because lets face it, more and more kids get a label “different” these days.

    • Michael Linsin September 15, 2013 at 8:48 am #

      Hi J.

      I think it’s important to speak with your nephew’s teacher to ask the same questions you’re asking me. I don’t have enough information to give you a reliable opinion.

      Michael

  10. frank charles October 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Very interesting advice keep up the good work.
    Peace and Blessings.

    Frank.

    • Michael Linsin October 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks Frank! I appreciate it.

      :)Michael

  11. Andreina February 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi, I’m a rookie teacher from Venezuela. Here, most schools don’t have specific policies against bullying. Could you tell me more about that?
    Thank you so much.

    • Michael Linsin February 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

      Hi Andreina,

      They vary here from school to school and district to district. Most of my recommendations you’ll find above.

      Michael

  12. D Robinson June 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m in a high school setting and I wrote a plan to deal with bullies for next year. PE, the subject I teach is fertile ground for bullying I’ve found (by the way I’m waiting for my copy of the class mgt book for PE/Art/Music teachers to arrive). I was looking for extra pointers and your article confirms that my plan is on the right track.
    But I have a couple of differences. I’m holding bystanders accountable as well, by (1st) warning and documentation (2nd)contact of bystanders’ parents and (3rd incidence) a disciplinary referral. I didn’t include the apology letter; tried that in the past and found that the letter is not genuine AND I’m trying to reduce the amount of contact between the two parties. I have however been thinking about having students accused of bullying (1st non physical offense) to do a reflection. Right now I have 3 questions in mind:
    1. What is bullying?
    2. Whad did you do that was interpreted as bullying?
    3. What was your desired result from that action?
    I would include their reflection in my file of bullying interventions for the perpetrator along with teacher notes/records. This is only a few of the steps in my plan.
    Any advice?

    • Michael Linsin June 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi D.,

      I think you’re on the right track, and I commend you for making sure you have a plan in place before the school year begins. My only advice is to teach it thoroughly to all your classes and then follow it to the letter. Also, as part of your plan be sure include that you reserve the right to skip to the final consequence if you feel the behavior is warranted.

      Michael

  13. Nina August 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Hello,

    I just discovered all your articles and i really like them. I have one question. What to do when a bully is older (high school)? You can’t really send him to time-out. Is there any other method you can use for older children?

    Thank you for your answer,
    Nina

    • Michael Linsin August 29, 2014 at 6:23 am #

      Hi Nina,

      This question is too big for the time and space we have here. I’ll put it on the list of future topics.

      :)Michael

  14. Linda November 27, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I have a student in my class that mainly targets one child, but also hurts other students. This student has had many consequences, including being suspended. There is nothing that has worked so far. Negative consequences seems to be working better than positive consequences, but overall neither one has shown any improvement. This student will hurt other students even when a teacher is standing right next to them. ‘It’s fun’ is usually the answer when asked why.
    Thanks

  15. Patty March 10, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    How do you control “mean girl” behavior in mixed gender audiences when the “mean girls” are projecting their mean behavior toward the boys. The answers to why are “he’s not as nice as you think he is”. They also create attitude that prevents effective team work in small groups. Suggestions please…I’m not a classroom teacher, but rather a volunteer working with a multi age, mixed gender group

    • Michael Linsin March 11, 2015 at 6:16 am #

      Hi Patty,

      The topic is too big for the time and space we have here. We’ll put your suggestion on the list of future articles.

      Michael

      • Miraya Flores August 26, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

        I work at an afterschool program and I am alone with a class of 25-30. We doing reading, home work, and a there is an academic time. There are also many clubs and activities they can participate in during the day. I am one of the 10 tutors there. I do art and there are other activites such as dance, chior, soccer and so on. I feel like I have a special opporotunity to really do some good for these kids since I am with them for 4+ hours every day. This is my second year working this job and it has been such a special experience. I learned a lot last year and this website has been very helpful in helping me prepare for this coming school year. I really enjoyed my last year and created a special bond with my class, but I was also very inexperienced and struggled for the first few months to find a system that worked for me. It would be nice to see an article for people in my position.
        Since the program has so many privlages, if a certain child has been consistantly disrupting class, being rude, or bullying I will take away a certain privilage for a day or a week depending on the severity of the offense. Do you think that this is an acceptible consiquence inbetween time out and a letter home?

        • Michael Linsin August 27, 2016 at 7:00 am #

          Hi Miraya,

          Way to go! It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your students. Yes, I do think it’s an acceptable consequence for your program.

          Michael

  16. Amy October 4, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    My 2nd grader was threatened by another to be shot with an AK 47…3 times. Now the school wants to move my child. My son is very afraid of this boy not of going to school. I have refused to further traumatized my son by making him move out of a class where he is happy, successful, and adores his teacher. Am I wrong here?

    • Michael Linsin October 5, 2015 at 6:45 am #

      Hi Amy,

      From the information you’ve provided, no, it doesn’t sound like you’re wrong to me. If your son did nothing wrong, I’m not sure how the school can justify moving him.

      Michael

  17. Alice Torres November 1, 2015 at 12:28 am #

    Thank you for your article about bullying prevention. This is one of the most practical ideas I’ve ever read about. As a P.E. teacher the gym is like open season for getting revenge over real slights or imagined slights received in the classroom or during lunch and recess! Therefore I have the tools to deal with bullying prevention. Alice with dreams of a peaceful and harmonious school by standing up for victims of bullying behavior and helping the bully to stop blaming others for their shortcomings!

  18. Brianna November 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Hello,

    I have an extremely difficult class this year, and have found myself on your website nightly reading articles to motivate me for the next day. (Thank You!)

    I have a bullying ‘clique’ in my classroom. 2 girls, 1 boy. Both the girls are average students where the boy is extremely low. When the boy doesn’t attend school, my whole class changes into an enjoyable group of students. When the boy is in class, the 2 girls pair with him and they turn into a group of three that is not pleasant.

    I have been following your techniques closely, but find I can’t keep an eye on all three. If I am controlling the boy, the other 2 girls are continuing the behaviour.

    The boy comes from a single parent household, where the mother doesn’t have time to deal with school matters, and although cares, she has admitted she can’t do anything to help because shes living to get through the behaviour as well.

    any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin November 11, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      Hi Brianna,

      I know it sounds simple, and I’ll be sure to elaborate in a future article, but you must hold them strictly accountable for even the smallest transgression of your rules. There are more details specific to bullying that we don’t have the time and place for here, but I’ll put it on the list of future topics.

      Michael

  19. Lindsey January 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    “Be an expert in classroom management.

    The truth is, bullying rarely if ever happens in well-run classrooms. When standards of behavior are clearly communicated, when students are held accountable using an effective classroom management plan, and when the teacher is well-versed in fair, effective strategies, then students don’t bully.”

    I have pretty good classroom management at all grade levels, however, I often have students that experience bullying in my classroom. I cannot control what goes on outside of class, on social media, in other classrooms, what has already happened to a child through their whole elementary and middle school career, etc., etc. All of that comes to my classroom and me WITH my students. I find that you can OFTEN experience bullying in the classroom, DESPITE solid classroom management and respect.

    Otherwise, the other tips were all spot on! 🙂

  20. A February 2, 2016 at 1:09 am #

    Not if I must wait this is happening NOW what can we do as the parents of students being bullied in front of the teachers and teachers that are timid about their jobs barely doing anything…

    • Michael Linsin February 2, 2016 at 7:42 am #

      Hi A,

      You must go to administration with details about when and how it’s happening and demand that they take care of it. It is their primary job to protect your child.

      Michael

  21. lina May 9, 2016 at 8:40 am #

    My daughter a senior in high school, I think was recently bullied by a substituted teacher. My daughter is a lesbian, has a short hair cut and could be mistaken as a boy. With that said she has had him in the past and he has always had a problem with her. Well on this occasion has took it upon himself they be funny and try to degrade her in front of the class. He took her ” little boy you need to be quiet and continued to call her a boy or sir – while the whole class yelled to him that she is in fact a girl. Then to proceed to call her an it or well I don’t know what it is. She made him call the AP and they removed her from the class. Nothing else was done. I have asked for a meeting with the school, but I’m not sure how to handle it. With all the bulling and obstacles she already has to face, to have to deal with this ignorant teacher makes me sick to my stomach.

  22. popy May 13, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    this was very helpful,thanks

  23. William July 1, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    As a teacher I fully agree with this article and thank you for the suggestions. Now, what about the issue of students spreading untrue rumors about teachers. I work in a middle school where this is a problem even more than the bullying of other students. Some of the teachers this happens with are good teachers that work hard and care. They do try to just do their jobs and be their best.

    • Michael Linsin July 1, 2016 at 10:10 am #

      Hi William,

      I’ll put it on the list of future articles.

      Michael

  24. richie October 29, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    hi good morning
    in my class my child always experiencing harassment and bullying from his classmate. the child feels indifferent every time he harassed. as a teacher what is my role in that situation?
    tnx

    • Michael Linsin October 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Richie,

      I don’t have anything to add to what is stated above.

      Michael