School bullying has become a serious public health issue for children of all ages.

In a new book by Dr. Michele Borba, recognized educational psychologist and school bullying expert, insight and advice are readily at hand.

Weeks prior to the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Borba made a presentation about raising kids with strong character to an assembly of parents in Littleton, Colorado.

The massacre at Columbine hit Borba hard. So much so, that she spent the next two decades uncovering research-based practices that teach caring adults how to reduce school bullying by creating respectful learning environments.

End School BullyingFollowing a recent speech about those practices, a teen boy approached Borba and said, “All that stuff you said about making schools respectful and teaching kids to care, that’s what we need, you know: respect and caring. It would have kept my brother out of jail.”

He was right. All kids deserve safe, secure, and respectful schools where they feel connected to and cared for by others.

In a new groundbreaking and research-infused book, End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe, and Caring Schools, Dr. Michele Borba offers a thorough guide to reducing school bullying.

Violence and Bullying Are Learned

Today, the nation grieves the loss of seventeen students and staff from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Way too many times since the Columbine shootings, parents, students, and educators have struggled to understand this violence and make meaningful change in schools.

The topic of school bullying, violence, and peer cruelty are sadly interwoven with the rigid politics of guns and mental health. Indeed, the topic is complex and must be understood and acted upon from a variety of fronts.

Gun violence and mental health are clearly linked.

In the meantime, as we wait for politicians to act, Borba provides another fact:

Violence and bullying are learned.

It is a moral imperative to act on this knowledge and create school cultures that are caring and compassionate places for all children. Borba’s book provides needed guidance about school bullying that can help educators make a difference.

6 Ways to Reduce School Bullying and Create Safe, Caring Learning Cultures

Dr. Borba has effectively culminated many years of research and practice to create what she calls, The 6Rs of Bullying Prevention. Presented in her book, along with specific strategies for implementation, they are outlined below.

The 6Rs of Bullying Prevention | Roots of Action


Schools must establish anti-bullying rules and policies that support school values and district and state statutes. Policies must focus on school bullying prevention, feature strong family involvement, and be aimed at building a respectful and caring learning environment.


Schools must teach students, staff, families, and community members how to recognize bullying behavior. This happens through ongoing training and education, and with the goal that all stakeholders learn the same definitions.


Clear procedures must be used to report school bullying. This includes creating opportunities to report with anonymity, involving student teams and peer mentors, and teaching kids the difference between tattling and reporting.


Victims and witnesses of school bullying must learn to respond effectively. This includes mobilizing students to create and implement bully-free norms and building core skills so they can confidently respond with resilience and integrity.


Educators must become involved in identifying students who are vulnerable to bullying and teaching them skills to refuse provocation. This involves building caring relationships with vulnerable students, reaching out to parents, and referring children to psychological services when needed.


Schools must help students replace school bullying and cruelty with kindness. Because bullying behaviors are learned—often at a young age—it is imperative that educators and families help children learn more acceptable and caring behaviors and habits.

School Bullying Statistics Tell a Grim Story

In an interview with Dr. Michele Borba, she shared these sad statistics:

“Bullying happens every seven minutes in every kind of school: private, public, rural, urban, and suburban. Over 70 percent of students say they have seen bullying in their schools. Nearly 50 percent report being bullied at least once during the past month. More than 40 percent of students say they are frequently involved in bullying (two or more times in the past month.)”

These facts have made school bullying “one of the most serious public health problems in our school systems,” says Borba. “Bullying happens in every culture and in every school type.”

Everyone knows that bullying shatters lives—emotionally, physically, and socially.

Bullying also ends lives.

Borba shared a compelling story—one of many that fuels her motivation to rally educators, parents, and community members to act on behalf of children:

Several years ago, she gave a speech on school bullying to an audience in Canada. Following the speech, a father handed Borba a photo of his son and said, “Please. Don’t stop. Keep training adults about bullying. It would have saved my son. Hopefully it will save other children, too.”

During the conversation, she learned that his son was a sixth-grader who hanged himself when he could no longer endure the cruelty of two peers. Borba still carries the photo of the young boy. She promised his father that she would continue her work on behalf of his son and all children.

Borba has kept her promise. School bullying must end; and Borba has become a driving force for positive change.

End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe, and Caring Schools is a comprehensive read for all educators, families, and communities who care about the health, safety, and positive development of children.

School Bullying Must Be Taken Seriously | Roots of Action

Published: February 21, 2018