The goal of any bullying prevention effort should be to enable students to render bullying, both direct and relational aggression, ineffective no matter where they encounter it—at school, in the neighborhood, online, or at home—and whether or not an adult is present. Education and empowerment free students from adult dependency, allow them to mature their social relationship skills, and create strong, confident, and resilient individuals. But to truly understand bullying and to derive the most benefit from such an education and empowerment course, each student has to understand what it feels like to be a victim; knowing a victim’s story in detail will allow each student to empathize with the victim and sympathize with his or her plight, and will engender a strong vested interest in the solution. Ideally, a course on bullying would be taught to students who have the same bullying frame of reference, a common experience to which they all can relate.
The education and empowerment bullying prevention course that is composed of the novel, Bitopia, and the textbook, Understanding Bullying and Ways to Make It STOP! integrates the two books to provide that common frame of reference. The course starts off by having the students read Bitopia, a fast-paced adventure story that draws students into the topic, contains characters that all students can relate to, and describes an experience of not just being bullied but of overcoming it with the core principles underlying the course’s empowerment techniques. The textbook then addresses the basics of bullying—the who, what, when, where, how, and why—before launching into the specific empowerment techniques that can be used to prevent and stop both direct and relational aggression. Each topic in the textbook contains up to four types of questions designed to reinforce the lesson, ensure a common understanding by relating the lessons to Bitopia, get each student to consider new perspectives on bullying in his or her own life, and provide an opportunity for the students to discuss various aspects of bullying as a group. The references to the novel are also intended to sustain students’ interest during the more academic portions of the course.
The course provides a full education on bullying prevention that can be used in schools lacking a formal bullying prevention program, as well as a foundation of knowledge for all other programs, seminars, and activities on the topic. The materials can also complement bullying prevention and social emotional learning programs such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and Second Step. Individuals who are interested in learning more about bullying, particularly victims who are looking for a solution, can also use the materials on their own, either with an adult or as a self-study. Groups, such as clubs, youth organizations, and after-school programs, can implement the course as well. The course is designed to be covered in approximately ten class periods and does not require any additional resources or advance training.
Note: the novel and the textbook can be used independently (many schools have used one or the other). The novel focuses primarily on dominance aggression, while the textbook covers both dominance and relational aggression.