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bully free zone


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Bullying Prevention Taskforce

Contra Costa County Bullying Prevention Task Force

In March 2013, members of the Coordinating Council decided to form a task force to create a collaborative effort to coordinate and disseminate information, resources, and strategies to address the issue of bullying and cyber-bullying in schools.


  • To clarify a common definition of bullying, and establish guidelines for the effective evaluation of bullying prevention efforts.
  • To identify curriculum, resources, best practices, and other strategies to prevent and address bullying behavior in order to provide appropriate training and intervention for parents, school administrators, teachers and students.
  • To establish an easily accessible central location to house information, materials, and other resources available for school staff and parents.
  • To disseminate information to schools and the public in order to heighten awareness regarding the negative effects, along with prevention strategies, related to bullying and cyber-bullying.

The following information is excerpted from Stop Bullying: A Guide for Schools. The toolkit was designed and created from the evidence-based curriculum presented by and adapted from our experiences during our trainings at local schools within Contra Costa County.

What is Bullying?

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be unwanted and aggressive and include:

An imbalance of power. Children who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

Repetition. Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying behavior is an intentional attempt to cause fear, distress, or harm to a young person through unwanted aggressive behavior or intimidation.

Types of Bullying


Physical bullying involves hurting a person's body or possessions.

A student can be physically hurt ranging from minor bruises to severe injuries like lacerations, broken bones, and internal injuries.

Physical bullying includes:

  • Hitting, kicking, or pinching
  • Spitting
  • Inappropriate touching, sexual gestures or groping
  • Tripping or pushing
  • Taking or breaking someone's things
  • Making mean or rude hand or facial gestures*
  • Threatening with or without a weapon


Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean or distressing things.*

Verbal bullying includes:

  • Teasing
  • Name-calling
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Taunting
  • Threatening to cause harm

Social or Relational Bullying

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone's reputation or relationships.

Social bullying includes:

  • Excluding others from the group or leaving someone out on purpose
  • Rolling eyes or hair tossing
  • Ignoring, shunning, or telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone or damaging friendships
  • Embarrassing someone in public or setting others up to look foolish


Using e-mail, social network sites, cell phones, webcams, text messages, Internet sites, etc., to send mean messages, spread rumors, and post embarrassing pictures or videos and fake websites or profiles.

Social networking and Internet sites include platforms such as:

  • Craigslist, Instagram, Facebook, FaceTime, Flickr, Pinterest, Reddit, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Whatsapp, or YouTube (These are constantly changing).
  • And other media or websites, not typically known by adults, such as:
    •, Chatroulette, Kik, Pheed,, Vine, Wanelo, WeChat, or 4Chan (These are constantly changing).*

Facts about Cyberbullying

  • Cyberbullying happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cyberbullying can be done at any time of day or night, and it is much more difficult for a student being bullied to escape the bullying because social media is everywhere.
  • Although cyberbullying may occur less frequently than other forms of bullying, it can have more devastating results because it can involve potentially hundreds of students, depending on where and how comments are posted. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
  • Cyberbullying can involve the posting of pictures as well as statements.
  • Cyberbullying may include anonymous posts with the potential to be distributed instantly to a wide audience. Because posts may be submitted anonymously from anywhere, students who cyberbully may post statements (or images) that they might not otherwise say in a face-to-face situation.
  • Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent. Because cyberbullying can be done without drawing the attention of teachers and other adults, it is often the most difficult form of bullying to spot and address when it is occurring.

*Section adapted by additional information provided by C.O.P.E. and the Rainbow Community Center.


Understanding Bullying Behaviors

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Effects of Bullying

Kids Who are Bullied

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues.

Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Increased feelings of sadness and/or loneliness
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Issues that persist on to adulthood
    • Being bullied may lead to psychological effects from stress and trouble concentrating as well as sleep disorders and severe depression. In rare instances, even suicide.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation
  • They are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.

Kids Who Bully Others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood.

Kids who bully are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
  • Engage in early sexual activity.
  • Have criminal convictions as adults.
  • Abuse their romantic partners, spouses or children, as adults.

Bystanders Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

  • Report increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Miss or skip school.

Why Cyberbullying is Different

  • Kids who are cyberbullied often are bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
  • Cell phones and computers themselves are not to blame for cyberbullying. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment.
  • But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar
  • Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
    • Use alcohol and drugs.
    • Skip school.
    • Experience in-person bullying.
    • Be unwilling to attend school.
    • Receive poor grades.
    • Have lower self-esteem.
    • Have more health problems.

The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide

Media reports often link bullying with suicide. However, most youth who are bullied do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors.

  • Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause.
  • Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history.
  • Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth
  • This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools.
  • Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.

Roles Kids Play

The roles kids play in bullying are not limited to those who bully and those who are bullied. Some researchers talk about the “circle of bullying” to define both those directly involved in bullying and those who actively or passively assist in the behavior or defend against it.

Direct Roles

  • Kids who Bully: These children engage in bullying behavior towards their peers.
    • There are many risk factors that may contribute to the child's involvement in the behavior.
    • Often, these students require support to change their behavior and address any other challenges that may be influencing their behavior.
  • Kids who are Bullied: These children are the targets of bullying behavior.
    • Some factors put children at more risk of being bullied, but not all children with these characteristics will be bullied.
    • Sometimes, these children may need help learning how to respond to bullying.

Even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior. Witnessing this behavior may also affect the child, so it is important for them to learn what they should do when they see bullying occur.

Roles Kids Play When They Witness Bullying

  • Kids who Assist: These children may not start or lead in bullying behavior, but serve as an “assistant” to children who are bullying.
    • These children may encourage the bullying behavior and occasionally join in.
  • Kids who Reinforce: These children are not directly involved in the bullying behavior, but they give the bullying an audience.
    • They will often laugh or provide support for the children who are engaging in bullying. This may encourage the bullying to continue.
  • Outsiders: These children remain separate from the bullying situation.
    • They neither reinforce the bullying behavior nor defend the child being bullied.
    • Some may watch what is going on but do not provide feedback about the situation to show they are on anyone's side. Even so, providing an audience may encourage the bullying behavior.
    • These kids often want to help, but don't know how.
  • Kids who Defend: These children actively comfort the child being bullied and may come to the child's defense when bullying occurs.

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but
just as much to stand up to our friends. – J. K. Rowling

Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time. In some cases, they may be directly involved in bullying as the one who bullies others or is being bullied and in others they may witness bullying and play an assisting or defending role. Every situation is different.

Some kids are both bullied and bully others.

It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because:

  • Those who are both bullied and bully others may be more at risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal ideation.
  • It highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved.


  • Upstanders move from silence into action, thereby stopping the problem.
  • A Bystander may join in on the bullying by laughing or giving it attention, thereby encouraging it. Most Bystanders are silent and the silence is misinterpreted as support for the bullying.

Becoming an Upstander against Bullying or any kind of mean behavior, stops the problem. Upstanders mobilize the entire community to end destructive behavior by creating a school culture where bullying is not tolerated. Some call this Positive Peer Pressure.

Students Most Likely to Be Bullied

One single factor does not put a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and/or two spirit (LGBTQIQ2-S) youth, or those perceived as LGBTQIQ2-S youth,* youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied.

Students who engage in bullying behaviors may target other students because they are perceived to be physically weaker. However, it can also be because they are perceived to be less athletic, less intelligent, less popular, less connected, or otherwise viewed as different from their peers.

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Appearance or body size.
    • Such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”. They may also be perceived as physically weaker and unable to defend themselves or less athletic.*
  • Perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and/or two spirit.*
  • Degree of masculinity or femininity.
  • Performance in school.
  • Such as being perceived as less intelligent.
  • Race/ethnicity/national origin and/or religion.
  • Come from low-income households.
  • Youth with disabilities and other special health needs.
  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem.
  • Are less popular than others and have few friends.
  • Do not get along well with others, are seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention.

*Section adapted by additional information provided by C.O.P.E. and the Rainbow Community Center.

Common Myths and Facts About Students Who Bully

Students who bully are loners.

  • Students who bully typically have larger groups of friends than other students.
  • Students who bully demonstrate more leadership skills than their peers but use those skills to engage in abusive behavior.
  • The segment of their friendship group that they control, usually supports and encourages the bullying behavior.

Students who bully have low self-esteem and are insecure.

  • Research indicates that students who engage in bullying behavior tend to have average or above-average self-esteem.
  • They are good at controlling and manipulating social relationships.

Students bully others because they want attention.

  • Power and control are the two main motivating factors, and while the behavior may draw attention, it is not the motivating factor.
  • Bullying behavior does not stop if adults or peers ignore the behavior.

Bullying is a normal part of children being children.

  • Abusing others is not a normal part of childhood and if reinforced, it will continue often into adulthood.
  • There is a strong correlation between bullying behavior and later patterns of criminal activity.

Only boys bully others.

  • Girls equally bully others too.
  • Types of bullying differ between genders.



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What Doesn't Work

Research shows four commonly used strategies to reduce or prevent bullying have proven to be ineffective against bullying behavior:

Group Treatment: Why it doesn't work!

  • The group becomes an audience for students who bully to brag about their exploits.
  • Other group members can serve as negative role models for one another, in some cases even learning from one another whom to bully.

Simple, Short-Term Solutions: Why it doesn't work!

Bullying is a long-term, often-repeated problem.

A workshop or assembly can help identify what bullying looks like and ways to respond, but teachers and students also need support and time to practice and master these skills.

  • Bullying is primarily a relationship problem among students, and longer term strategies are needed to help students and teachers experience supportive and affirming relationships within a caring school climate.

Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation Strategies: Why it doesn't work!

  • Bullying is a form of peer abuse—not conflict between peers of equal power and control.
  • These strategies may further victimize the student who has been bullied.
  • Such strategies incorrectly expect the student who has been bullied or abused to solve his or her own abuse.
  • Sessions and meetings become other opportunities for the bullying behavior to be repeated.

Zero Tolerance Policies: Why it doesn't work!

  • Although bullying behavior is never tolerated, this strategy fails to recognize that bullying behavior is not a permanent characteristic of the student who did the bullying.
  • Bullying is a behavior that can be changed and replaced with more positive pro social behavior.
  • Nearly 20 percent of students are involved in bullying other students, so it is not realistic to suspend or expel 20 percent of any student body.
  • Students who are involved in bullying behavior are suspended or expelled when they may benefit most from continued exposure to positive pro social role models and a caring school environment.

What Works

Research shows that there are simple steps that adults can take to keep children safe.

Stop bullying on the spot. Take these steps:

  • Intervene immediately. It is okay to get another adult to help.
  • Separate the children involved.
  • Make sure that everyone is safe.
  • Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
  • Stay calm. Reassure the children involved, including bystanders.
  • Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Do not ignore it. Do not think children can work it out without adult help.
  • Do not immediately try to sort out the facts.
  • Do not force other children to say publicly what they saw.
  • Do not question the children involved in front of other children.
  • Do not talk to the children involved together—talk to them only separately.
  • Do not make the children involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:

  • A weapon is involved.
  • There are threats of serious physical injury.
  • There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
  • There is serious bodily harm.
  • There is sexual abuse.
  • Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.

Find out what happened. Get the facts:

  • Separate all of the involved students.
  • Get the story from several sources, both adults and students.
  • Listen without blaming.
  • Do not call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

Determine if it is bullying:

  • What is the history between the students involved? Have there been past conflicts?
  • Is there a power imbalance? Remember that imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. If the targeted student feels like there is a power imbalance, there probably is.
  • Has this happened before? Is the student worried that it will happen again?
  • Have the students dated? There are special responses for teen dating violence.*
  • Are any of the students involved in a gang? Gang violence has different interventions.**

Support the students involved. Support the students who are bullied:

  • Listen to and focus on the student.
  • Assure the student that bullying is not his or her fault.
  • Know that students who are bullied may struggle with talking about it.
  • Give advice about what to do.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied student.
  • Be persistent.
  • Follow up.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Never tell the student to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not blame the student for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Do not tell the student to physically fight back against the student who is bullying. It could get the student hurt, suspended, or expelled.
  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse.

Address bullying behavior:

  • Make sure the student knows what the problem behavior is.
  • Show students that bullying is taken seriously.
  • Work with the student to understand some of the reasons why he or she is bullied.
  • Use consequences to teach.
  • Involve the student who bullied in making amends or repairing the situation.
  • Avoid strategies that do not work or have negative consequences.
  • Follow up.

Support bystanders who witness bullying to:

  • Spend time with the students being bullied at school. Talk with them, sit with them at lunch, or play with them at recess.
  • Listen to them.
  • Call, at home, the student being bullied to offer encouragement and give advice.
  • Tell an adult who you trust, like your teacher or coach. You can tell him or her in person or leave a note.
  • Set a good example. Do not bully others.
  • Send a text message or at a later time go up to the student who was being bullied and say, “That wasn't cool” and “I'm here for you.”
  • Help the student being bullied get away from the situation.
  • Help the student being bullied tell an adult.
  • Take away the audience by choosing not to watch and walk away
  • Be kind at another time to the student being bullied.
  • Tell the student being bullied that you do not like the bullying and ask if you can do anything to help.

Respond to the student doing the bullying:

  • Tell the student doing the bullying that you do not like it and to stop doing it (but only if it feels safe to do so).
  • Distract the student doing the bullying or offer an escape for the student being bullied by saying something like, “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now” or “Come on, we need you for our game” (but only if it feels safe to do so).
  • Do not combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied student. Do not, however, use insults or physical violence to defend the student being bullied. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it more difficult for the student.
  • Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurring problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.
  • If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the shoes of the student being bullied. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration and can turn the bullied student's life into a nightmare. You would not want to feel that way
  • Look for opportunities to contribute to the anti-bullying culture of your school through creating posters, stories, or films.

*Additional information about strategies specifically for teen dating violence can be found at
**Additional information about strategies specifically for youths involved in gangs can be found at

Importance of Not Labeling Kids

When referring to a bullying situation, it is easy to call the kids who bully others “bullies” and those who are targeted “victims”, but this may have unintended consequences.

When children are labeled as “bullies” or “victims” it may:

  • Send the message that the child's behavior cannot change.
    • Bullying behaviors can be changed!
  • Fail to recognize the multiple roles children might play in different bullying situations.
  • Disregard other factors contributing to the behavior such as peer influence or school climate.

Instead of labeling the children involved, focus on the behavior.

For instance:

Instead of calling a child a “bully”, refer to them as “the child who bullied”.

Instead of calling a child a “victim”, refer to them as “the child who was bullied”.

Instead of calling a child a “bully/victim”, refer to them as “the child who was both bullied and bullied others”.

Instead of viewing behavior as a permanent characteristic, consider behavior as something that can be replaced or changed.*


Resources/Training Opportunities

Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment
in Your Classroom and School

C.O.P.E. Family Support Center offers training for all school staff
(school administrators, teachers, assistants, office and yard duty staff).
Call (925) 689-5811 or email for more information.

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For School Staff

For Parents

  • – a federal government website managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Videos for children through adults, news releases and more.

For Students

  • – a federal government website managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Videos for children through adults, news releases and more.


Emergency Numbers

Police/Fire/Paramedics/Ambulance – 911

If a crime has been committed or someone is in immediate harm.

Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

If someone is feeling hopeless, helpless, or thinking of suicide.


California Law & Education Codes

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California Law

    1156 – Bullying In Schools

    Redefines California anti-bullying law by expanding the definition of bullying and linking it to academic achievement. It also strengthens policies and procedures to reduce bullying in schools and keep students safe.

  • Requires training of school site personnel in the prevention of bullying
  • Links bullying to academic achievement
  • Gives victims of bullying priority for school transfer, if requested
  • Encourages school districts and county offices of education to include policies and procedures on the prevention of bullying in the school safety plan

    AB 9 Pupil Rights: Bullying

    Also known as Seth's Law,
    Requires schools to establish policies to prevent bullying and to address and be responsive to complaints about bullying

  • Requires school districts to include in its non-discrimination policy a detailed list where discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying are prohibited under existing law—actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity expression, race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.
  • Requires each school districts non-discrimination policy to describe the district's procedure for addressing discrimination and harassment complaints; and be publicized in places for student and parental access.
  • Schools are to include in their complaint procedures a written form for receiving and investigating discrimination and harassment complaints and to act on complaints.

Education Code

Section 201

(a) All pupils have the right to participate fully in the educational process, free from discrimination and harassment.

(c) Harassment on school grounds directed at an individual on the basis of personal characteristics or status creates a hostile environment and jeopardizes equal educational opportunity as guaranteed by the California Constitution and the United States Constitution.

Section 48900

A pupil shall not be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion, unless the superintendent or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has committed an act as defined pursuant to any of subdivisions (a) to (r), inclusive:

Ed Code 48900 (r)

(r) Engaged in an act of bullying, including, but not limited to, bullying committed by means of an electronic act, as defined in subdivisions (f) and (g) of Section 32261, directed specifically toward a pupil or school personnel.

(g) As used in this chapter, an “electronic act” means the transmission of a communication, including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.

(s) A pupil may be suspended or expelled for acts that are enumerated in this section and related to school activity or attendance that occur at any time, including, but not limited to, any of the following:

(1) While on school grounds. (2) While going to or coming from school. (3) During the lunch period whether on or off the campus. (4) During, or while going to or coming from, a school sponsored activity.

Section 48900.2

Permits a student to be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion if the superintendent or the principal of the school in which the student is enrolled determines that the student has committed sexual harassment, as defined in Education Code 212.5.

Section 48900.4

A pupil enrolled in any of grades 4 to 12, inclusive, may be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion if the superintendent or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has intentionally engaged in harassment, threats, or intimidation, directed against school district personnel or pupils, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the actual and reasonably expected effect of materially disrupting class work, creating substantial disorder, and invading the rights of either school personnel or pupils by creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment.

Section 32261

Defines “electronic act" as "the transmission of a communication, including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound or image by means of an electronic device, including but not limited to a telephone, wireless telephone or other wireless communication device, computer or pager.”

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Page updated on: February 28, 2018

Rev: 0.4-010514-BETA4