Beyond the Incident: Preventing Bullying

Presenter: Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW
View this webinar here.

Dr. Green addressed that childhood bullying primarily occurs in institutional settings and is more than a matter of properly addressing incidents when they occur. He spoke of how to proactively create change and provide adequate adult and peer support for positive feedback and how success is – or ought to be – a basic educational responsibility.


  1. KelleyT says:

    How do you differentiate between bullying and the average, non-thinking child’s reaction to another child?

    • Dr. Green says:

      When behavior is bullying, it is characterized by an imbalance of power between the child or children being hurt and those hurting him/her/them, by an intention to harm the bullied child, and by repetition over time (pattern of negative acts). Therefore, it becomes possible to distinguish between, say, playful teasing and bullying. If the behavior is ‘only teasing’ or play, (1) it is not usually or (more typically) always one child who is the target, (2) when a child is hurt (e.g., cries, is injured, etc.), the other children are regretful/remorseful (because the play has been interrupted, and the object was the play, not the harm), and (3) it is not something that occurs only one time. (This is not to say that there cannot be one incident of bullying, but if it is one incident only it is quite uncommon, and it is a very significant, egregious, very hurtful and very toxic (in terms of the lasting effect it has on the targeted child’s social environment).
      – Stuart Green, 12/1/11

  2. KelleyT says:

    What is the success of past/current zero tolerance approaches, while addressing the current social and political environment that that adults engage in that seems to allow and condone bullying?

    • Dr. Green says:

      Zero tolerance approaches/policies do not work, in the sense that not only does the implementation of zero tolerance not improve any aspect of school culture and climate, or prevent and effectively address bullying, but zero tolerance approaches/policies are harmful, as studies of zero tolerance practices, including a thorough American Psychological Association review of a few years ago, indicate. It is logical that this would be so, since zero tolerance approaches are characterized by the overly automatic (non-nuanced, not developmentally adjusted, not community/stakeholder reflective, not thoughtful) imposition of overly harsh (ditto critiques, heavily focused on suspension and expulsion and nothing else) and punitive (the social equivalent of hitting a child, as opposed to withdrawal of privileges or other effective disciplinary means, including lack of any reflective process on the part of the child who hurt another child – a critical component of any reasonable and effective disciplinary process) penalties. Worst of all, evidence indicates that the automatic, harsh and punitive penalties which characterize zero tolerance are imposed only on those children out of favor with the authorities, including minorities of color.
      -Stuart Green, 12/1/11

    • Dr. Green says:

      Bullying inherently targets children who are or are perceived as different in what is or is perceived as lower status or less powerful ways. Therefore socio-economic status (SES) is commonly part of the picture. But it’s important to note that it is not simply ‘bullying between kids from different socio-economic backgrounds’. If it is indeed bullying, it is (typically, if not always) in one direction only: negative acts perpetrated by those with higher status upon those with lower status. But status goes beyond SES, and SES is never the only variable. A child with lower SES may still have more power than a child who is of higher SES because the lower SES child may be, e.g., more popular, have more friends, be in a gang, be more physically or socially powerful in various other ways, relative to the child who is targeted. High SES alone is not invariably protective or a basis for perpetration of bullying.
      -Stuart Green, 12/1/11

  3. Dr. Green says:

    Q: Our school seems adverse to bringing in somone to do an educator inservice on TS. I am concerned if I require it in the IEP there will be backlash for my child.

    It is disheartening to think that there may be a school that consciously “doesn’t want” ‘TS education’. I would hope that is not so. I would suppose, instead, that school personnel (e.g., administrators, staff) do not realize how important a component such proactive education is to efforts to strengthen school culture and improve school climate in ways that help prevent and address bullying and other school-based violence.
    There are multiple strategies for ‘getting schools’ to do what is important and right, such as proactive TS education, among many other changes. Stronger law is one such strategy, raising the awareness and expectations of parents and other school stakeholders and communities is another such strategy. Lawsuits may ultimately be another such strategy.
    Ideally, schools will take very active steps to prevent and address bullying and all such strategies will be unnecessary. The reason this should occur is that supporting, protecting, engaging, including and facilitating positive social support and relations among students (and
    staff) is an essential aspect of what it means to be an educator and to have a school. Therefore this should all occur without prompting. I really cannot imagine that if a group of parents of children w TS approached a school (or if NJCTS did) to offer such an educational program, that a school would not accept the offer.
    -Stuart Green, 12/1/11

  4. KelleyT says:

    We don’t hear much about bullying incidents from outside the US. Is it as prevalent in other countries?

    • Dr. Green says:

      Bullying occurs in every country and culture. It is known by different names (‘mobbing’ in Norway, ‘ijime’ in Japan, e.g.), and shaped differently according to the culture, but is the same phenomenon, essentially. Comparative studies of bullying across countries are very difficult to conduct and interpret, but studies which have been done find bullying everywhere researchers have looked. Rates vary a lot but bullying is common in all countries. In studies I’ve seen, the U.S. is commonly in the middle of the pack.
      -Stuart Green, 12/1/11