Working With Kids Who Bully: New Perspectives on Prevention and Intervention


Walter B. Roberts Jr.

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  • Copyright


    This book is dedicated to all of YOU who are working hard to improve the lives of the children, families, and communities with whom you work. So often your work is unrecognized and underappreciated. Let that not be the case in this instance. Thank you.


    This is another piece in a lifetime of research and advocacy on behalf of helping schools and communities be safe places for all students. It is also the last “installment” of a “trilogy” of efforts to look at how bullying behaviors impact kids, families, and the communities in which they live.

    Through three decades, I have examined bullying behaviors and helped communities develop prevention and intervention techniques and strategies to address them. These approaches have not followed traditional pathways. In 2006, we started the journey with Bullying From Both Sides: Strategic Interventions for Working With Bullies and Victims. That book was one of the first efforts to emphasize the reality that there are two parties involved in the bullying dynamic—one who creates the problem and one to whom the problematic behavior is directed. Where approaches to that date had focused primarily on those who were targeted for bullying behaviors, Bullying From Both Sides began the discussion of how to also approach and better understand the instigators.

    In 2008, we turned our focus again to another nontraditional and overlooked group who plays a pivotal role in helping reduce bullying behaviors—parents. Working With Parents of Bullies and Victims was an effort to encourage educators and others in supervisory positions to see the value in bringing parents into the problem-solving equation. Parents, by and large, to that date had been excluded from the helping process. The truth is that without parental involvement our efforts are likely destined to be far less successful and long-term than desired.

    The next eight years were devoted to intensive advocacy on behalf of safe schools and bullying prevention efforts. These efforts involved public testimony at both the legislative and judicial levels, along with exhaustive efforts to pass legislation in one of the last states in the country to have viable statewide equitable bullying prevention protection in place for K–12 children. I have met the most remarkable people through professional conferences, school and community workshops, and consultations—dedicated professionals, parents, and kids, always the kids. Their experiences and stories helped shape the direction of this book, educated me about their needs, and reminded me of the original mission I devoted myself to in the beginning—to look at the problem of bullying from different angles in an effort to help the kids and those engaged with them to develop the “best-fit” approaches to solving the issue.

    There are many people to thank for this most recent part of the journey. First, I want to thank the editorial staff at Corwin over the last ten-plus years that I have had the honor of working with and who have helped me learn the business of writing professional trade books. Jessica Allan has stuck with me since her first day on the job and believed me all the times I told her, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Next year. I promise. I’ll start on that one next year.” I also owe a great debt of gratitude to Stacy Wagner-Kinnear, who, during her time at Corwin years ago, started me on The Trilogy, as we came to call them, and who sent me an e-mail before a national conference where I was doing a workshop on bullying prevention and inquired about my interest in possibly writing something on the subject. If it had not been for her, perhaps none of these books would have been written.

    I also want to thank the reviewers of the various drafts of this book on whom Corwin depends for publication decisions. Your reviews were kind, complimentary, and helpful. Likewise, I am grateful for the hard work of the copy editors and related Corwin staff who helped turn the draft manuscripts into the final product. I learn so much from reviewers and editors every trip down the book publishing highway.

    We have dedicated graduate students at the master’s and doctoral levels at Minnesota State University, Mankato. They have helped me ferret out resources over the two years this book was in process, collate the massive amount of resources consulted for the final version, and vet references. Those students include Dharshini Goonetilleke, Becca Thompson, and Lauren Solenek.

    I had the privilege of cochairing a select task force created by Governor Mark Dayton here in Minnesota to address the problems directly associated with bullying and the negative conditions that help create them. That group, the Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, was composed of some of the hardest working educational, medical, legal, and community members I have ever met, all committed to ending bullying in the state’s schools. We took testimony from hundreds of parents and students across the state. The recommendations of that task force, along with that testimony, resulted in the historic Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2014. The work with this group further motivated me to move forward in addressing the unmet needs of those who create the problem in the first place, as well as helped me realize that a major paradigm shift was needed to move us away from all that goes with the stereotypical label of bully. Underneath the behavior is a child in need of assistance. Labels help us forget that.

    Last, but certainly not least, are the two furry friends found in my photo accompanying this book. Murphy and Prairie are two golden retrievers who came into our lives as rescues from abusive situations. Both are certified therapy dogs. They have been by my side the entire trip while working on the manuscript and its various iterations. They are lounging beside me as I write this very page. They are role models for kindness and forgiveness, and I use their stories in my work with people every day.

    We need more kindness and forgiveness in the world. I hope that in some small way this book will enable you to help provide just that for the kids—and adults—with whom you work.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Cindy Corlett
    • Administrator
    • Douglas County School District
    • Parker, CO
    • Regine Dejean
    • School Counselor
    • New York City Department of Education
    • Jamaica, NY
    • Julie Duford
    • Fifth-Grade Teacher
    • Polson Middle School
    • Polson, MT
    • Susan N. Imamura
    • Principal, Staff Developer
    • Hawaii State Department of Education
    • Honolulu, HI
    • Susan Kunz
    • School Psychologist, LEP
    • Conejo Valley Unified School District
    • Thousand Oaks, CA
    • Angela M. Mosley
    • Principal
    • Essex County Public Schools
    • Tappahannock, VA
    • Dr. Tricia Peña
    • Education Consultant
    • E.C.H.O.360 Education Consulting
    • Vail, AZ
    • Brigitte Tennis
    • Headmistress and Eighth-Grade Teacher
    • Stella Schola Middle School
    • Redmond, WA
    • Dana Salles Trevethan
    • Interim Superintendent
    • Turlock Unified School District
    • Turlock, CA

    About the Author

    Photo by John Cross

    Dr. Walter B. Roberts, Jr. is a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University, Mankato, whose research and advocacy are in the areas of bullying prevention, school safety, and mental health. He began his career as a classroom teacher in 1978 and later served as a school counselor before moving to higher education in 1993. In addition to being licensed for private practice, he has extensive public policy experience, consults and testifies with legislators and the judicial system as an expert witness, and is a frequent source with the media on counseling-related issues. Along with his nationwide speaking engagements and university responsibilities, he has authored two books on the subject of bullying prevention, Bullying From Both Sides in 2006 and Talking With Parents of Bullies and Victims in 2008. From 2012 through 2014, he served as cochair of the governor of Minnesota’s select task force on the prevention of school bullying, which resulted in the passage of the state’s Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2014. His research has expanded into the arena of animal-assisted therapy. He and his certified therapy dogs, Murphy and Prairie, visit a wide array of facilities by request.

  • Resources for Consideration

    As I noted in my first book, Bullying From Both Sides (2006), there is no shortage of resources in the Solution Universe when it comes to purporting to solve education woes of all types. So it is with efforts to address bullying behaviors. Most of the solutions, however, have been directed toward dealing with problems after they have occurred, not before.

    These resources are offered for your consideration from a different angle—as potential resources to working with those who seem to create bullying behaviors. Not all of these resources may be relevant for your setting. You have to make a determination as to what works best, for whom, and under what circumstance. We just can’t pick up a book, video, or curriculum and throw it at problems to make them go away. We have to be selective and strategic in our approach to complicated problems.

    Readers are encouraged to cruise resources beyond the few offered here by searching for additional materials by topic or subject matter on Corwin (, Sunburst Visual Media (, Free Spirit Publishing (, Research Press (, or ( But be forewarned—you will be overwhelmed by what you find! Perhaps the few resources noted here will serve as a starting point from which you can branch out and find the best resources for your particular setting. Good luck!

    Classroom Curriculum, Activities, and Strategies

    Alvord, M., Zucker, B., & Grados, J. (2011). Resilience Builder Program for children and adolescents: Enhancing social competence and self-regulation. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    A comprehensive cognitive-behavioral collection of sessions with CD printouts. Can be modified for K–12 grade levels.

    Beane, A. (2011). The new bully free classroom: Proven prevention and intervention strategies for teachers K–8. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

    Allan Beane was one of the first to develop classroom materials to address school bullying. This revised edition brings the classic into a new century and is still as relevant as the original.

    Breakstone, S., Dreiblatt, M., & Dreiblatt, K. (2009). How to stop bullying and social aggression: Elementary grade lessons and activities that teach empathy, friendship, and respect. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    For those who want activities in the K–6 grade levels, the grades that are perhaps the most important in helping kids to learn the skills of self-control.

    Coombs-Richardson, R., & Meisgeier, C. (2001). Connecting with others: Lessons for teaching social and emotional competence. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    While written for Grades 9–12, this activities book may be better suited for reluctant readers in those grades or Grades 9–10.

    Davis, S., & Davis, J. (2007a). Schools where everyone belongs: Practical strategies for reducing bullying (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Davis, S., & Davis, J. (2007b). Empowering bystanders in bullying prevention: Grades K–8. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Davis, S., & Nixon, C. (2014). Youth Voice Project: Student insights into bullying and peer mistreatment. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    The “Davis Trilogy” contains two resources (Davis & Davis, 2007a, 2007b) and one extensive research effort (2014) on the causes of bullying and suggestions for addressing it. The 2014 report details the opinions of 13,000 students in the United States on their views of the nature of bullying and how to combat it. Maybe we should listen to the kids, eh?

    Dillon, J. (2012). No place for bullying: Leadership for schools that care for every student. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Looks at the perspective of solving bullying from a leadership position within the schools. A great resource for principals and others faced with turning policy into practice.

    Drew, N. (2010). No kidding about bullying: 125 ready-to-use activities to help kids manage anger, resolve conflicts, build empathy, and get along. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

    What more could I possible add? The title says it all! For Grades 3–6. Great for resistant readers. A true Kid Friendly classroom resource.

    Horne, A., Nitza, A., Dobias, B., Jolliff, D., Raczynski, K., & Voors, K. (2012). Empowering teen peers to prevent bullying: The Bully Busters Program for high school. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    An effort to build on peer leadership, this book includes activities and strategies to train students in the upper grades to work with elementary students on ways to prevent and intervene in bullying behaviors.

    Peterson, K. (2012). Activities for building character and social-emotional learning: Grades 3–5. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

    You can never go wrong with a Free Spirit product! Great visual handouts with accompanying CD.

    Wiseman, R. (2009). Owning Up curriculum: Empowering adolescents to confront social cruelty, bullying, and injustice. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Activities and discussion points for adolescents. Comes with a CD to assist the leader with ready-to-use handouts.

    Conflict Resolution

    Barsky, A. (2000). Conflict resolution for the helping professions (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    An international approach to viewing approaches to resolving conflict for helping professionals and those in supervisory positions.

    Riestenberg, N. (2012). Circle in the square: Building community and repairing harm in school. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

    A life-long advocate for safe schools, Riestenberg gives a step-by-step guide to creating effective restorative justice circles in school settings. While perhaps more appropriate for high school settings than elementary, it could provide a framework for use in elementary schools with modification.

    Weinhold, B., & Weinhold, J. (2009). Conflict resolution: The partnership way. Denver, CO: Love.

    A sourcebook for individuals in all positions who are faced with resolving conflict among their respective clientele. Helps the individual to understand the basis of conflicts and how to identify ways to get beyond being “stuck.”

    Zimmerman, J., & Coyle, V. (2009). The way of the council (2nd ed.). Viroqua, WI: Bramble Books.

    Helps the reader learn the whys and hows of solving problems through the Native American council way. An essential companion to Reistenberg’s (2012) book on restorative and remediative efforts in schools.

    For Educators and Related Supervisory Personnel

    Anderson, S. (2011). No more bystanders = no more bullies: Activating action in educational professionals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    A proposed model for others based on the Safe Schools Team approach. An effort to increase the number of peer interventions though decreasing the benign neglect of bystanders.

    DeWitt, P. (2012). Dignity for all: Safeguarding LGBT students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Understanding the mechanics of preventing and intervening in incidents of bullying directed toward one of the most targeted groups of students in schools and society.

    Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2009). Bullying beyond the schoolyard: Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Two of the leaders in researching cyberbullying offer their suggestions for responding and preventing it.

    Klein, J. (2012). The bully society: School shootings and the crisis of bullying in American schools. New York, NY: New York University Press.

    An often disturbing book on the links between bullying in American culture and the extreme violence and havoc it sometime wreaks in schools.

    Losey, B. (2011). Bullying, suicide, and homicide: Understanding, assessing, and preventing threats to self and others for victims of bullying. New York, NY: Routledge.

    For helping adults in supervisory positions identify those behaviors that may be indicative of those who are bullied resorting to revenge tactics.

    McNamara, B. (2013). Bullying and students with disabilities: Strategies and techniques to create a safe learning environment for all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    Perhaps as many as 80 percent of students with special needs have reported being bullied in the school setting.

    Newman, K., Fox, C., Harding, D., Mehta, J., & Roth, W. (2004). Rampage: The social roots of school shootings. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    A companion to the Losey (2011) book to further increase supervisory personnel’s understanding of the origins of revenge

    Patchin, J., & Hinduja, S. (Eds.). (2012). Cyberbullying prevention and response: Expert perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.

    A collection of some of the biggest names in contemporary cyberbullying research and prevention provide suggestions for understanding and addressing the issue.

    Steiner-Adair, C. (2013). The big disconnect: Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. New York, NY: Harper.

    A fabulous read about the impact of social networking on all aspects of our lives, particularly as it relates to parenting and communication with our kids.

    Strauss, S. (2012). Sexual harassment and bullying: A guide to keeping kids safe and holding schools accountable. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Sexual intimidation in schools places supervisory personnel at risk for legal action and kids in the path of long-term psychological damage.

    For Parents

    The following books are perfect accompaniments to my second book, Working With Parents of Bullies and Victims (2008).

    Benson, P., Galbraith, J., & Espeland, P. (2012). What kids need to succeed: Proven, practical ways to raise good kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.

    Forty developmental assets to help parents and their kids build on family support, school strengths, resistance and resilience skills, and increase self-esteem for all involved.

    Horne, A., Stoddard, J., & Bell, C. (2008). A parent’s guide to understanding and responding to bullying: The Bully Busters approach. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Another excellent manual from Arthur Horne, this one designed to help parents work with their children who have been identified as behaving in a bullying manner.

    Wiseman, R. (2013). Masterminds & wingmen: Helping our boys cope with schoolyard power, locker-room tests, girlfriends, and the new rules of boy world. New York, NY: Harmony Books.

    It was a toss-up as to whether or not to put this resource in this section or the educators’ section. Both need to understand the challenges faced by today’s young males and why “being a guy” isn’t as easy as it used to be.

    Understanding Life as a Target

    Asanti, I., & Kamau, A. (Eds.). (2012). Letters to my bully. Sherman Oaks, CA: Glover Lane Press.

    A collection of poems, essays, and letters from those who have been victimized by others to express their thoughts and emotions. A good starting point for in-class discussions. Caveat: Some of the material is raw.

    Hall, M., & Jones, C. (Ed.). (2011). Dear bully: 70 authors tell their stories. New York, NY: Harper Teen.

    This book, along with Asanti and Kamau’s (2012) book, is another resource to help adults understand what life is like in the crosshairs of a bully.

    Meyer, S., Meyer, J., Sperber, E., & Alexander, H. (2013). Bullying under attack: True stories written by teen victims, bullies & bystanders. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.

    An anthology of writings from those on both sides of the issue, along with those who chose to stand by and not become involved.


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