OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program

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Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) claims the be the bullying program based on the most research and the the world’s foremost bullying prevention program. This article provides a Olweus Bullying Prevention Program review and helps define bullying.

OLWEUS was developed by Dr. Dan Olweus, a psychology professor from Norway, and based on his systematic research on bullying, which he has been carrying out since the early 1970s. After three teens died by suicide in Norway in what was thought to be a response to serious peer bullying. Dr. Olweus developed the first version of his program. For more about this program, keep reading.

Dr. Olweus’s interests were never confined to Norwegian schools. His proposals for anti-bullying legislation to protect school children were enacted in Sweden and Norway by the mid-90s. His work with American colleagues to adapt Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to the United States also began in the mid 1990’s, and he worked mainly in conjunction with Dr. Susan P. Limber of Clemson University in South Carolina.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is designed for students in grades 3-10, and its adaptation to high school can be discussed. It is a program of some duration, since it says it can be effective with younger students in as little as 8 months, and with older students may require several years. It is important to note that it is not  a program aimed at the bullies in the school or even just at the bullies and victims: it is a schoolwide program, that is implemented at the school level, the classroom level, through individual students, and in the community.

What Is Bullying?

The definition of bullying that Dr. Olweus uses, according to the FAQs on the site is: “A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the  part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”  The FAQs go on to give a list of forms of bullying including physical and verbal bullying, being threatened or forced to act, being excluded or gossiped about, having property taken or damaged, and racial, sexual, and cyber bullying.

It is important to note that the Olweus program has a circumscribed definition of bullying. First, although bullying may often occur as a pattern of behavior, being forced to do something or having one’s lunch money stolen once is still a problem. It is not clear how one-time incidents fit into Dr. Olweus’s calculus. Second, this definition either excludes, ignores, or leaves to other programs some particularly troubling cases of bullying. By explicitly stating that “Bullying is a form of peer abuse” later in the FAQs, the program rules out consideration of both the bullying of teachers and school staff by students as well as the bullying of students by teachers and school staff. Perhaps they propose that some other term be applied in this situation, but if so, it is not clear from a reading of their FAQs. Third, some very damaging, but subtler forms of bullying are not mentioned, for example, mocking someone through imitating their mannerisms or style of dress or following someone.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has a State School Healthy Policy Database, where you can find the legislation your state has enacted related to bullying, harassment, and hazing, as well as examine the situation in other states. This material is likely to provide your state’s definition of bullying. nasbe.org

Cost of the OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program

The cost of the program consists of the cost of program materials and training, at minimum.

Program materials include a survey for each student which is either $0.95/student or $34.50 for 30 students with scanning services or $28.50 without (in which case the data must be hand entered). The schoolwide guide is $89.95, a single teacher guide is $55.00, the school staff DVD training program is $175.00, and the book Bullying at School is $28.95. The curriculum for Grades 6-12 is $99.00. Resources for grades K-5 are $69.95 and for grades 6-8 are $59.95.  This is puzzling because the program runs from Grade 3-10, and while there are materials for kindergartners, there are none for students in grades 9 and 10. The program “Peaceful School Bus” is $119.00,and a “Complete No Bullying Program Curriculum” for K-8 is $799.00.

Costs of a mandatory two-day training by a certified Olweus trainer (or two) are capped at $4500. Personnel expected to attend are the principal or vice principal, a teacher from each grade level, a school counselor or psychologist, a representative of the school’s nonteaching staff, several parents who are not employed by the school district, a community representative who might have a stake in the program, and other school personnel who might have a particular contribution to make. This likely requires paying for substitutes for the school personnel. Other costs, such as a kick-off event or designating a coordinator for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program could involve even more funds.