Schools should be a place where students can receive a solid education free from fear for their safety and enduring bullying. Bullying has been around for a long time, but in the past it occurred on a much less frequent basis. Today, the high number of shootings and suicides that have been blamed on bullying is cause for concern.

Educators and lawmakers are focusing on ways to prevent bullying instead of dealing with it after it occurs. The U.S. Department of Education funded the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports network 15 years ago in an effort to help students who had severe disciplinary problems or those with special needs. It was eventually altered so that by 2011, every student was included. That same year Illinois school leaders were taught how the network worked and how it could aid in the effort to stop bullying.

Before the network was established, school officials had no formal way of dealing with bullying. It was often handled on a case-by-case basis and by instructing students to behave themselves and not be mean to each other. The network hopes to teach students to have respect for each other, an approach they believe to be more effective than telling them to be nice.

Reducing bullying through music videos

Since the PBIS network was founded, various efforts and programs have been employed aimed at reducing bullying. One school district in Bloomingdale, Illinois, has started a program that includes a club for students. In an effort to teach students respect for each other, a middle school in the district produced a music video with student actors. The video featured a parody of a Katy Perry song and starred an 11-year-old who has been bullied in the past.

Another 13-year-old member of the “Expect Respect” club joined after a teacher extended an invitation to him. He endured bullying two years ago when other students made fun of his Indian accent on the bus. It was severe enough that the boy had to switch bus routes. He hopes that his membership in the club can help others from going through the same things he did.

PBIS network success

The PBIS system has had a positive impact in Maryland schools. According to a 2012 report, schools using PBIS experienced much lower rates of discipline problems than in previous years. The study looked at 29,000 students at 27 elementary schools in the state and found that instances of bullying dropped significantly within two years.

These successes are what schools in Chicago are hoping to replicate through the PBIS system.