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16 May 2012

Student being bullied. istock_14129126Bullying expert Adjunct Professor Ken Rigby will review and evaluate how teachers handle cases of bullying in schools at a seminar at the University of South Australia next week.

Prof Rigby, who is widely published in academic and professional journals on peer victimisation, will use the seminar to outline six bullying interventions used in schools and draw on the latest evidence to evaluate each one.

The seminar aims to assist schools and teachers in handling bullying incidents by examining six major bullying interventions and their reported outcomes.

Professor Rigby says the traditional disciplinary method, where sanctions or punishment are directed at the bully in order to deter further bullying, is the method most widely used throughout the world, especially in cases of physical bullying.

Other interventions include:

  • Strengthening the victim, where the victim is given help to stand up to the bully.
  • Mediation, where the bully and victim meet voluntarily with a teacher or peer mediator. Both students are given the opportunity to tell their side of the story and subsequently to propose possible solutions, out of which an agreed one is adopted.
  • Restorative Practice, the most common method used in South Australian schools outside of the traditional disciplinary approach, is where the offender is required to listen to how the victim feels, reflect upon the harm that has been done and then act restoratively.
  • Support Group Method, a non-punitive approach, involves first interviewing the victim to discover how he or she has been affected and also the names of the perpetrators. Subsequently a meeting is convened with the perpetrators together with other children who are expected to be supportive of the victim. Evidence of the distress experienced by the victim is next shared with the group and each is required to say what they will do improve the situation.
  • Method of Shared Concern, also a non-punitive approach, begins with a series of one to one interviews with the suspected bullies. The practitioner shares a concern about the low well-being of the victim. Once it has been acknowledged that the victim is ‘having a hard time’ the suspected bully is required to assist in some way. Once progress has been confirmed, a meeting with the suspected bullies is convened to plan how the problem can finally be resolved. To this end the victim is subsequently invited to meet with the group.

Prof Rigby says detailed evaluations of the overall effectiveness of these methods in stopping the bullying suggests that the traditional disciplinary approach is no more successful than less commonly used methods such as Restorative Practice, the Support Group Method or the Method of Shared Concern.

“There is no one ‘best method’ of intervention,” he says.

“Choice of strategy should depend on the nature and circumstances of the case and the expertise of the school staff. Teachers need to become familiar with alternative approaches and instructed in how and when they can best be employed.” 

Prof Rigby’s seminar will be held on Friday May 25 at 2.30pm at UniSA’s Magill Campus. More information is available here.

Contact for interview: Ken Rigby office 8302 1371 mobile 0410 035 500

Media contact: Kelly Stone office 8302 0963 mobile 0417 861 832 email Kelly.stone@unisa.edu.au

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