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Harvard Elementary School Researchers Discover the Best Anti-Bullying Program

by Izzy Kalman May 3, 2010 Psychology Today Blog, A Psychological Solution to Bullying

An article in this weekend’s Boston Globe starts out declaring, “After decades of research, no one has yet found a way to reduce bullying in US schools.” The writer then goes on to pin his hopes on a forthcoming study of an anti-bullying program that encourages student bystanders to stand up for victims–an approach which the writer correctly notes has already been shown to be ineffective. However, not having found a better approach, I guess we have no choice but to hope the ones that don’t work will work if we do them more intensively!

I have been teaching kids for decades how to stop being bullied, and the schools and mental health professionals who use my techniques are experiencing wonderful results. And the reason the approach works is that it teaches kids in a fun and powerful way to use well-established psychological principles to handle bullying by themselves, without anyone’s help and without getting anyone in trouble. Unfortunately, I am not a researcher and am not in a position to carry out research that would be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Nor is it easy to find researchers who are willing to do a study on an approach that does not conform to the orthodox academic view of bullying. A serious study on my program was done a couple of years ago by Dr. Kathy McNamara of Cleveland State University and she found the results promising––and she is still looking for a journal that’s willing to publish her study.

I’m always amazed how adults-–including professionals who work with children–underestimate children’s ability to learn how to deal with being bullied. They believe that a kid can only stop being bullied if other people help them! Massachusetts, the home of South Hadley High School, the defendant in the world’s most intensely watched anti-bullying lawsuit, is also home of the Harvard Elementary School. The students embarked on a mission to research anti-bullying programs. Guess what they concluded? I am attaching the letter they sent me so you can read it for yourself.

THE HARVARD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Guidance Department 27 Massachusetts Avenue Harvard, Massachusetts 01451 Phone (978) 456-4145 Fax (978) 456-4146 February 8, 2010 Dear Izzy, We are members of the fifth grade class at Harvard Elementary School. We have a passion to find a way to make a difference how our school handles bullying. As a class we all knew that what we learned in first grade did not help. Many times nothing worked. We wanted to change it so that we could handle bullies better. We had a plan and we hoped it would work. We started with researching different programs and websites recommended by the Department Of Education. We then visited your website and we read portions of your book. When we did, it made total sense. We tried it out in a safe environment ourselves and started to feel more confident about it. Out of all our sources, yours helped us the most. After all this we knew how to handle a bully and wanted to move forward. We researched and brainstormed ideas on how to spread the word. We came up with many ideas such as a power point, play, posters, comic strip, podcast, and a website (our website is Once we started working on our different ideas, our whole anti-bully project started to bud. Now, a few months later, our project is in bloom. It skyrocketed through the roof. People who work for local newspapers are interested in our project. So one day it really became more. CBS New York news is interested in us as well. We now feel that nothing can stop us from spreading the word. Finally, our first grade learning experience is in the dust. Here comes the right way to handle a bully. Lastly, we thank you so much. Your information was the root of our project. You have helped us so much! We would be happy to share more with you, please contact us. Again we thank you so much Sincerely, Your Favorite Fifth Grade Class  

The kids’ work was based solely on the free materials on my website,, plus my $15 book. I created the website and instructions over ten years ago precisely for this purpose–so that kids and schools can learn for free how to solve the problem of bullying. And kids and schools all over the world are using them with great success.

The modern world is wracking its brains out trying to figure out how to deal with the “epidemic” of bullying. It’s like a hydra–you cut off one head and two more grow back. We need a new paradigm. We need an approach that is based on psychology rather than law-enforcement. We need to teach people how to handle the problems of life, not to try to protect them from those problems and to punish problem-makers out of existence. That approach has been failing throughout the world. It is about time that adult researchers recognize what is so obvious to children.

Looking for serious research partners

Are you a psychological researcher who would like to conduct a study that can revolutionize the way society deals with bullying? Or do you know such a researcher? I am interested in collaborating in journal-quality research on my Bullies to Buddies program and will provide whatever assistance I can. But don’t just decide based upon the Harvard Elementary School. Their letter is just a drop in the bucket. I have tons of supportive evidence to help convince the most die-hard skeptic of the value of such a study.

And wouldn’t it be especially nice if Harvard University followed the lead of the Harvard Elementary School?

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