The SBCUSD Bullying Intervention System

March 23, 2020
The San Bernardino City Unified School District has designed a highly effective method to respond to bullying referred to as the Bullying Intervention System. School staff, students, or parents can call upon the experts assigned to the Bullying Intervention System to assist in conducting an innovative restorative practice called the Undercover Anti-Bullying Team from start to finish.  Despite most schools’ efforts to stop bullying through traditional punitive approaches, it continues to be one of the toughest problems to solve. Suspensions, bullying contracts, schedule changes, or school policing often make matters worse for the student being bullied. In some cases, once adults get involved, the bullying becomes vicious and subversive as well as hard to detect for site personnel.  The restorative practice, the UABT, designed by Dr. John Winslade and Michael Williams, the authors of the book “Safe and Peaceful Schools,” empowers the most influential peers to support the student being bullied. Without revealing too much about the strategy, students are essentially recruited to conduct an “undercover” operation in which they create a specific plan to support the student being bullied until the student rates the problem a zero, indicating the bullying has stopped. The team is then invited to a celebration where the students are congratulated for making a difference in the life of the student. Remarkably, the structured process also enables the student doing the bullying to develop empathy, to change their behaviors for the better, and repair the harm done, which eliminates the need for traditional punishment. Since the beginning of the Bullying Intervention System, 73 cases across the district have been successfully resolved through the UABT approach, while many more have been concluded at school sites where counselors have already been equipped to use the practice. In this case, success is defined when the student being bullied rates the problem a zero, meaning no more bullying is occurring and the student feels safe. Although most restorative experts would agree that no one strategy is 100 percent effective, not one of the UABT efforts has failed to date. In fact, due to the success of the strategy and the system, this approach is now being taught to other districts like the Moreno Valley Unified School District.
Support for this innovative approach from the SBCUSD School Board has been critical in its success. “The bullying intervention system has provided a systematized way to address bullying,” said Assistant Superintendent Lorraine Perez. “We have a process that allows and promotes consistency. This helps to identify practices that work and foster continuous improvement.” It is important to note that even though the SBCUSD Bullying Intervention System was built around the restorative practice, the Undercover Anti-Bullying Team, the whole process also includes:
  • A QR code reporting form.
  • A detailed database.
  • Training through a gradual release model (I do, we do, you do).
  • Responding to other types of non-bullying behaviors. 
  • Efforts to clearly define for the whole community what bullying is and isn’t. 
The overuse of the word “bullying” is problematic for most school districts. SBCUSD Board Member Scott Wyatt stated, “It is important for our families, our students, and our staff to understand there is a distinct difference when it comes to bullying and conflict. The Bullying Intervention System teaches us about the differences of each. When we are able to identify the difference, our staff can be more effective at identifying, minimizing, and deterring bullying in our schools.” In addition to getting everyone on the same page around bullying, perhaps the most critical component to create a districtwide model is that the two district experts, Stephanie Fletcher and Michelle Myers, regularly work alongside school site counselors and administrators until they are fully equipped and confident to run the Undercover Anti-Bullying Teams on their own.  This approach is clearly different.  “Unlike other bullying programs out there, we are not teaching the student being bullied to merely stand up for themselves; sometimes that can backfire by creating new bullies or putting kids with less power in dangerous situations,” said Marlene Bicondova, the director of Positive Youth Development. “Instead, we are teaching the most influential students to support the student being bullied in a highly structured and restorative way.” For more information on the San Bernardino City Unified School District’s Bullying Intervention System contact Marlene Bicondova

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