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A School Guide to Developing an Action Plan for Students Who May Be Bullied

Addressing an alleged bullying situation is a complex process, which often begins with an investigation to determine if the behavior is bullying (e.g., one sided, imbalance of power, repeated) or is a conflict where two or more parties are equally involved. Schools should refer to their bullying prevention policy to identify who receives reports of bullying. If the investigation reveals that one-sided bullying or harassment may be occurring, individual interventions for both the target of bullying and the student who may be bullying others should be implemented. Waiting for proof that the behavior is indeed bullying can place a targeted student at risk. If initial attempts to stop the bullying behavior have proven to be unsuccessful, it may be necessary to develop a written action plan in response to the behavior. Importantly, administrators or building level teams may choose to not wait and may develop a written plan upon first learning of a bullying situation.

The purpose of an action plan described herein is to help ensure the safety of the student being bullied. Individual interventions for the student who may be bullying others should not be listed in the action plan; the administrator or building level team are advised to document those interventions separate from the action plan. Assigning disciplinary consequences for bullying is common practice; however, research continues to site "zero tolerance" as a misdirection in bullying prevention. Rather, it is important to examine what might be behind the bullying behavior.

Developing an Action Plan for Bullying Situations

  1. Develop an action plan in partnership with parents/caregivers and school officials, as well as the student being bullied, when appropriate.
  2. Remain in a problem-solving mode.
  3. Identify strategies to best assure safety in the present situation and in the event of future occurrences.
  4. Designate who is responsible for each action step.
  5. Provide specific steps for how the student and/or parents/caregivers will report future incidents, including the method(s) of reporting (e.g., paper form, verbal, etc.) and to whom reports will be made (e.g., counselor, teacher, administrator, SAP contact, etc.).
  6. Create or clarify communication method(s) between school officials and parent/caregiver.
  7. Include individual interventions (e.g., referral to SAP, school counselor, an individual who the student feels comfortable reporting to, etc.).
  8. Consult with the building IEP team regarding incorporation within the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, if applicable, and when appropriate. (Bullying Prevention).
  9. Include a date upon which parents/caregivers and school administrators will re-visit the plan and make any necessary adjustments.

School personnel can prepare for an Action Plan meeting by taking the following steps:

  • Review all reports of the bullying situation.
  • Identify any safety concerns of harm to self or others reported to you or the team.
  • Take immediate referral steps if safety concerns are present.
  • Identify where and when the bullying allegedly occurred.
  • Identify the type(s) of bullying which have been reported. (e.g., physical, emotional, relational, cyber-bullying, etc.).
  • Examine your school's documentation process concerning steps taken to address bullying situations.
  • Review investigative steps which have been taken and those which are still in progress.
  • Review any actions and/or interventions that have taken place for the student who was bullying others.
  • Review individual interventions that have taken place to date for the student who reported being bullied. If individual interventions have not occurred, discuss available support options.
    • Examples: parent/caregiver contact, talks with student, counseling referral, SAP, family physician, IEP meeting, etc.
    • Notify the IEP team if the student has an IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Decide who will attend the meeting and how the date, time and place will be communicated.
    • Parent/caregiver may or may not want their child present at this meeting.

Completing an Action Plan Chart

  • Acknowledge parent/caregiver concern and/or frustration over the bullying situation.
  • Remain focused on possible solutions moving forward.
  • Communicate that the school shares their goal of providing a safe and secure learning environment for their child.
  • Have a blank copy of the action plan chart ready for the meeting.
    • It might appear as though the school officials have already decided on action steps if the chart is completed in advance of the meeting.
  • Discuss possible action steps.
  • List who is responsible for implementing each step.
  • Discuss communication strategies. (Examples: School will notify parent/caregiver via email or phone if student reports additional bullying situations. Parent/caregiver will inform school if their child reports additional bullying.)
    • Who should the student report the bullying to?
    • How should the student report (i.e., tell a teacher, use a reporting form, etc.?
    • How will the parent/caregiver be informed?
    • How will the parent/caregiver report a bullying situation? (phone, email, etc.)
    • Who should the parent/caregiver report additional bullying situations to?
  • Agree upon a review date.
  • Discuss intended outcomes of the plan.
  • Provide a copy of the action plan to all parties.