The difference in the CirclePoint program starts with our philosophy. We believe that:

  • preventing and stopping bullying starts with an education on bullying, for all community members: students, parents, teachers, administrators, and non-teaching staff.
  • the pervasive aggressive interplay that characterizes student social interactions is normal, natural, and healthy, and that students need to be exposed to these types of interactions to develop into socially-skilled, well-balanced, resilient, and confident individuals.
  • all students should be taught ways of rendering aggressive behavior ineffective, whether faced with it in the course of normal social interaction, as a bullying target, or as a bystander.
  • some students will need adult help in getting bullying to stop and that adults who understand bullying will be best able to provide that help.
  • an environment with strong support for targets and constructive approaches for dealing with aggressors will make students comfortable coming forward and asking for help or notifying adults of a bullying problem.
  • most students bully not with the goal of harming others but in order to improve or maintain their own social status.
  • the drive to acquire status by students can be stronger than their desire to follow rules or “do the right thing.”
  • students, in their drive to attain status, may not always realize that they are bullying and causing harm.
  • the intent behind harmful aggressive behavior isn’t really that important; not only is intent difficult to determine, but it is largely irrelevant to the bullying target.
  • students may not always be aware of the harm they are causing and should be given an opportunity to change their behavior.
  • a consequence should be constructive—one that is directly linked to the bullying behavior and is helpful to the target.
  • leveling a consequence that an aggressor perceives to be an injustice is at best ineffective but, more often than not, counterproductive.
  • the problem of bullying should be addressed at the individual, group, organization, and community levels.
  • through education, we can create conditions to allow parents and administrators to work in partnership to solve a bullying problem.
  • classroom teachers play a unique role in that they perhaps can best understand the social relationships and hierarchies of their students and can use this information to identify and help bullied students and to influence peer groups to make bullying less accepted.
  • parents can do more than just look for “signs that their children are being bullied”; we believe that parents can play a key role by taking proactive action to reduce the chances their children will be bullied and can create an environment of understanding with their children that will increase the chances their child will come to them for help.
  • when a bullying problem arises, all adults who monitor the students involved—from the start of the day through to the end of the day—should be made aware of the problem to ensure that the aggression stops.
  • stopping bullying behavior should not be the end of the process for bullied students; these students should have additional help to reverse the harm caused by the bullying and to heal.
  • every bullying problem can be a learning and growth experience for the students involved and that parents, teachers, and administrators can work together to resolve the problems.
  • “feel-good” events such as school assemblies against bullying, “say no to bullying day,” posters, stickers, and slogans promoting empathy are ineffective at delivering lasting change and not a good use of school resources.
  • terms and definitions should be objective, concrete, and appropriate, ones that every member of the community—adults and students like—can understand.
  • the language used to discuss the problem should reflect the tone and the approach of the solution; it should be objective, rational, and constructive and should avoid stereotyping, labels, and sensationalism.

Our philosophy is not based on our personal notions of what might be effective; our philosophy is based on independent, peer-reviewed research. This research shows that:

  • bullying is a group behavior generally done to attain higher social status (making the harm caused by bullying a by-product and not the intent).
  • peers reward aggressors with greater respect (making appeals not to bully by non-peers, such as adults, ineffective).
  • starting in early grade school years, social status becomes the highest priority for students, above following rules (which renders rules against bullying ineffective) and, for some, friendships (which renders rules mandating inclusion ineffective).
  • student social life is awash in aggression; however, the vast majority of it isn’t harmful (making policing of the student population to identify harmful aggression inefficient and ineffective).
  • punishment for bullying is largely ineffective (aggressors who don’t intend harm, don’t realize the harm they are causing, or use aggression in an environment where bullying is not always recognized or addressed by adults see punishment as an injustice) and even counterproductive (punishment can actually enhance an aggressor’s status, reinforcing the bullying behavior, or be perceived by the aggressor as an injustice, resulting in retaliation against targets or other students).
  • students don’t always recognize that they are bullying and, where peer group norms strongly support bullying, may see the target as deserving of the bullying (also making punishment seem like an injustice).
  • students who have been chronically bullied may not recognize that they are being bullied and may believe their treatment is due to personal flaws (making identification of these students by classroom teachers and others critical to getting these students help).
  • the risk of tragedy for a target and/or his or her peers increases when a support system for targets is lacking (making schools without a robust student support system at a higher risk for tragedy).
  • many bystanders want to do something about the bullying they witness, but they face barriers to action in terms of risk to social status and of becoming a target (making rules that bystanders act without providing them with proper strategies to overcome these barriers ineffective).

Our research sources, including Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Behavioral Education, Journal of School Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, Psychological Assessment, Social Development, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Child Development, Social Development, Journal of School Violence, Middle School Journal, Aggression and Violent Behavior, and Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, to name but a few, are filled with illuminating findings about bullying, many of which show how traditional school processes and programs run counter to what psychologists, counselors, behavioral specialists, sociologists, and evolutionary biologists are telling us about the problem. We invite you to review our sources for yourself. These sources can be found on the MATERIALS page.