Reacting to Bullying: A Detailed Plan

Bullying, For Parents, Operations, Principal, Safety / /

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This post is a more detailed plan of a summary blog post we have.  You can also check out this video that demonstrates a recommended investigation plan.


1- Communicate what you know as soon as possible to parents.  Sometimes we are hesitant to reach out to parents until we have everything – but we really can and should communicate with what we know.

2 – Learn, learn, learn and question, question, question. Often learning about what is happening is a bit like peeling the onion – so ask lots of questions, do lots of observations.

3 – Take action to support students. Move quickly to make sure students feel safe, supported, and trust that the school is taking care of them.

4 – Prioritize safety.  Prioritize safety – so if desks need to be moved or a student’s schedule needs to be changed, do so.

5 – Stay in constant contact with parents. There are so many ways for parents to play an active role.  It will make parents feel better to be empowered to support their child.

6 – Consequences and interventions.  If one child is threatening or making another child feel unsafe, they do need consequences and interventions. This is important both for the learning opportunity for the student who is bullying – as well as for the safety and health of the child being bullied.Unity


  1. Communicate What You Know
    Once you have heard bullying is happening, start an investigation or inquiry immediately and inform parents.

    Of course parents don’t want to hear that their child was involved on either side of a bullying situation, but better for them to hear from you – and hear from you early.  You are able to build better trust with the parent, especially if their child may have been emotionally or physically hurt, if they hear from you first.

    We know there is often a lot that an administrator can’t say – but here are some things you can say:

    We learned from your child today that they are being bullied by another child.  We aren’t able to share who the child is involved. However, we wanted to let you know we have immediately started an investigation and will keep you updated on what we find.  Meanwhile, what does your child need to feel safe? We will get back to you in {provide a projected timeline}.


    We learned from a child today that they are (or believe they are) being bullied by your child.  We aren’t able to give the name of the child who shared this. However, we wanted to let you know we have started an investigation.  Is there anything you believe is important for us to know about your child at this time? We will get back to you in {provide a projected timeline}.

2. Questions, Questions, Questions
Once you have communicated with parents, you’ll want to begin inquiring with students.   

In this stage, you have to preference the person who feels they are being bullied.  You will want to find out:

    • When is bullying happening?
    • Where is it happening?
    • Who is doing it?
    • Who are other victims?
    • What is happening?
    • What is the source of power?  How is the bully creating or maintainig power?
    • What patterns exist? 
    • Who feels unsafe?
    • What is making them feel unsafe?
    • Where are they feeling unsafe?
    • Do they feel able to stand up for themselves?

You’ll also want to ask the person who is identified as the bully some questions.

    • What are they doing?
    • Provide a description of what you have heard. Are they doing that?
    • Why are they doing it?
    • Do they believe they are bullying?
    • Do they believe their actions are mean?
    • Do they know why they are taking those actions?

3. Take Action To Support Students  

Now that you’ve shared preliminary information with parents, learned more from students, now is the time to take action with students.  

  • Give students strength and freedom to remove themselves from unsafe situation- Give student being bullied an “all-time” hall pass to an assigned safe person.  This is the option to go to a person – the principal, the counselor, an assistant principal, front office staff member, etc. – if they feel unsafe. Of course, this shouldn’t be a permanent solution.  The goal is that in these conversations the student has an immediate place to go – but is also learning some tools and skills to stand up for themselves. Try not to make this a teacher of record because they are teaching and would not be able to pause class most of the time. Also, set clear expectations for the “all-time” pass so student knows what situations he/she can use it in. 
  • Celebrate their courage for telling an adult what happened- After the student removes themselves, they should either write down what happened if they aren’t ready to talk about it now or discuss the situation with the adult they are with. I would make sure student knew that everything they tell adults in the building is confidential and no one will find out who told us. We also had a mantra of “knowledge is power” and if the person being hurt isn’t sharing information, it is almost impossible for adults to keep them safe in the building.
  • Help them a plan with the adult if it happens again– Make a plan with the student of appropriate ways to respond that doesn’t further create an imbalance of power, but also doesn’t include physical or verbal aggression towards the student who is bullying. Here are some ideas of how the child can respond if it happens again while still following steps 1 and 2.
  • Empower students- According to Stomp Out Bullying, the most important thing is teaching students to control their own anger and emotions if being bullied. If the person who is bullying sees that the student is not not affected, they can lose their sense of power. ( also gives some strategies on how to empower students who may be facing bullying. A few of them include:
    • Working with the student on being able to re-focus on all the things he/she is great at and the people who value them
    • Teaching the student to think of the person who is bullying in a silly way to make the situation feel less intimidating rather than seeing the person bullying as scary. 
    • Emphasizing strength in numbers and encouraging the student to always have at least one supportive peer around them. 
  • Strengthen their community- Help students connect with some new friends, allies or champions.  Connect them with students who are confident and willing to be a friend and walk alongside them.

4. Prioritize Safety 

    • Do not ignore – For the benefit of the children and school environment, immediately respond to any situations that could be portrayed as bullying. Students who bully are much more likely to have other challenges and behaviors and those who are bullied can suffer from mental health, school, and social problems. 
    • Separate the person bullying and the student being bullied. If class changes or seat changes are needed, make sure to separate the aggressor and victim as much as possible during the investigation. Make sure the person bullying changes classes unless the victim prefers to change his/her schedule. 
    • Create an arrival/dismissal plan- Make sure you have a clear plan for students arrival and dismissal and any times where teacher supervision is decreased. Talk with the student and parent about what is the best and most comfortable option for them. 

5. Stay in constant contact with parents
Though both sets of parents have already been informed, make sure to inform them again. They are partners and advocates in bullying prevention, so letting them know right away will only help. Reach out to if you want scripts of how to start these conversations with parents.

Help parents feel like they can play a role in supporting them student by giving them these tips:

    • Keep communication open with student: Example questions: “How was your day today? What good things happened today at school? What has it been like at lunch/recess/on the bus?  Did anything happen with {insert student bullying’s name}?”
    • Talk with parents of friends: Sometimes friends come home and talk to their own parents about what happened at school – and those parents can give you some extra information.  You can check in with that parent with a text. “Hey. Did John say how school went today for Michael?”
    • Keep communication open with school: Make sure parents feel invited and encouraged to let you know what their student is saying at home. Knowledge is power and parents may have different information than the school. 
    • Discuss the safety plan with student: Make sure parents know, feel comfortable with, and are able to reinforce the safety plan and have parents talk with the student about the safety plan at home if bullying continues. 
    • Consider other unsafe places: Some of the bullying behavior can be happening outside of school.  Brainstorm with parents where else it could happen – on social media, within the neighborhood, or elsewhere.

6. Consequences and interventions
This is obviously a case by case decision, but it is important for the school community to know that bullying is serious. The person being hurt should feel protected and safe and the person bullying should know that their behavior is unacceptable (and understand why it is unacceptable). 

If your school has a social counselor, schedule a time for the counselor to meet with the person bullying and understand why this behavior is occurring. The student should know that they are exhibiting the behavior of a bully, but shouldn’t be labeled as a bully. 

Counselors are great resources to utilize when bullying issues arise and can reduce the occurrence of the same student returning to bullying behaviors. Part of the consequence could be a restorative assignment or activity to build trust back with the school community and victim. Each scenario regarding bullying consequences is extremely different and needs to be handled delicately, so reaching out to principal peers, managers, or school counselors can help with deciding consequences. 

    • Consequence options:
      • Class schedule change
      • Loss of privileges on campus
      • Detention (Saturdays or after school)
      • In school suspension with restorative assignment
      • Out of school suspension
      • Contact police (explicit images)
      • Expulsion
    • Intervention options:
      • Teach proper social skills through advisory lessons. Here is a resource with short videos on social skills to prevent bullying. There are also elementary videos on the website:
      • Behavior plan or contract
      • Referral to counseling services
      • Parent education
      • Revision of IEP (if applicable)

Bullying prevention is a common topic that principals are prioritizing, but is also very intricate and situational. Possip would like to offer a 30 minute one-on-one coaching session to your school to work on bullying prevention concerns you are facing. Please reach out to if you want to sign up for a 30 minute session with a Possip advisor.