Indiana schools are doing a good job implementing the state’s new anti-bullying education law, says Brandie Oliver, a professor in Butler University’s school counseling graduate program.

brandioliver12“From what I’ve seen, schools have done a really nice job interpreting the law, making sense of it, and putting policies and curriculum in place,” said Oliver, who has helped the Indiana Department of Education develop training and compliance resources for educators. “They’re not just doing a one-time touch. They’re figuring ways to infuse this into their curriculum.”

Under the law that passed last spring, the state’s public schools were required to provide anti-bullying training and institute school policies for grades 1-12, effective in mid-October. While many states encourage school anti-bullying programs, Indiana is one of only a handful of states to require them.

Oliver said schools now have a clear definition of bullying: an imbalance of power; a pattern, or repeated acts over time; acts done with intent to cause harm. She said the top five things schools should be—and are—doing to combat bullying are:

1. Training/reporting. Ensuring that training about appropriate responses has taken place and reporting procedures for all school staff, parents, and anyone who has ongoing and direct contact with students. “Everyone needs to know the school’s policy, because even though there are specific guidelines the policy must include, Indiana believes in local control,” she said. “So every school is going to interpret the policy differently. Everyone needs to know how to report bullying, whom to report to, what the process is like, and how adults intervene.”

2. Student involvement. Making sure there is more than one-time training for students. “Bullying-prevention education needs to be infused in the culture of the school,” she said.

3. Support to change behaviors. Implementing structured intervention and support for both targets of bullying as well as non-punitive approaches for students who have been identified as bullies. That means students who are identified as bullies should have the opportunity to have support and learn about their behavior and find alternative ways to respond and behave. “Oftentimes,” Oliver said, “these students don’t have the social skills or the tools to behave appropriately. They need the opportunity to learn empathy and appropriate behaviors rather than just removing them from the school.

4. Parental involvement. Requiring parents of both parties in any bullying complaint to be an integral part of the school’s plan.

5. Timeframes/procedures. Specifying a clear timeline for bullying cases that includes when a report is made, how long the investigation is, and how the outcome will be determined. Also delineate who takes the report, who processes it, and who investigates.

“I’ve been really impressed with the level of commitment that schools are taking with this initiative,” Oliver said.

Butler’s College of Education will hold a Nov. 18 workshop called “Bullying Basics and Beyond: Tools to Respond to the Antibullying Legalization (HEA 1423).” More information is available at


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