Expert Tips: Bullying Prevention

Get tips from Debi Kipps-Vaughan, Psy. D., in what steps you can take starting #Day1 to reduce hostility and ensure a safe space.

Students in Classroom

An ounce of bullying prevention can make a world of difference to creating a welcoming and inclusive space. We know that you will want to start on #Day1 and so we asked professor and expert Debi Kipps-Vaughan, Psy. D., to share several helpful tips on how communities can take a pro-active in role in preventing bullying.


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  • It is so important to speak up when anyone witnesses bullying. This sounds so simple, but it can be very hard to carry out in front of peers. So we have to talk about this response to bullying and practice it with kids in order to encourage kids to report to adults. It is about being a ‘Bullying Prevention Super Hero’! It takes courage and conviction to speak up. Teach this to kids and help them build their character by feeling proud that they are the ‘brave kid’ who stands up for others!
  • Plug into kids who present as ‘bully victims’. This is the individual that has had negative interpersonal experiences, usually has a more acceptable attitude toward hostile behavior or aggression and has less regard for conventional rules. We need to recognize these individuals and provide intervention to address their thinking and attitudes through cognitive behavioral therapy and social skills training.
  • Be diligent about adult bullying behaviors. This is frequently a difficult subject to address in school buildings and work places. The behavior or adults is a model of behavior for children. It is important to open discussions about adult bullying behaviors in schools and work places to improve the culture for how we treat one another. Adult bullying can often be challenging to address because of the imbalance of power that exists in administration. However, if this is included as a component of an anti-bullying campaign, an avenue can be created to identify and stop the bullying behaviors that occur among adults. What we do as adults trickles down to our children. We ask our youth to be brave and call bullying it out where it occurs, and we have to be brave as adults also.
  • Create ‘Buddy Spots’ in your classrooms and school buildings. This may be a ‘buddy bench’ on the playground or a small sitting area in the classroom, library, or cafeteria where children can go and sit when they need a friend. Teach children to watch for others sitting in these areas and to respond by going and sitting with them as a friend. We need to teach pro-social skills to help children be more inclusive of others.
  • Identify and have discussions with ‘target groups’. Research supports that there are target groups for bullying behavior. Some have been identify as LGBTQ, special needs children, and individuals living with siblings that bully. Encourage children to share their experiences and identify those that bully them. Intervene with consequences for bullies when they bully these individuals. Support target groups by forming groups that help them feel supported and give them a sense of belonging. There is strength in numbers and we need to build a circle of ‘upstanders’ around our targeted youth.

About the Expert

Portrait of Deborah Kipps-VaughanDebi Kipps-Vaughan, Psy. D. is a licensed clinical psychologist currently in a role as Associate Professor of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University. Her interests are coordination of mental health services for children and adolescents under Comprehensive Services Act and Community Services Boards, improving data collection for academic interventions, and anger management for high risk youth.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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