School culture benchmarks: Bridges and barriers to successful bullying prevention program implementation

H. Elizabeth Coyle, Elizabethtown College


A substantial body of research indicates that positive school culture benchmarks are integrally tied to the success of school reform and change in general. Additionally, an emerging body of research suggests a similar role for school culture in effective implementation of school violence prevention and intervention efforts. However, little research is available that specifically focuses on the elements of school culture that promote the successful implementation of bullying intervention programs aimed at reducing the most prevalent form of school violence. Therefore, this case study attempted to identify the school culture characteristics that supported or interfered with implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program from the viewpoint of school staff key informants in a junior high school in its second year of program implementation. Data were collected primarily from open-ended, semi-structured interviews along with informal observations and analysis of school documents. Themes emerging from the interviews were examined in relation to the findings from the observations and documents. School culture characteristics that supported implementation included a sense of family, warmth, collaboration, and connections among staff and between staff and students, combined with a central focus on learning as the primary mission of the school. Identified barriers to implementation included the local community served by the district that was slow to change and accept differences. Outcomes suggest that, beyond ensuring fidelity of implementing the core components of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, examining the characteristics of a school's culture that promote or impede implementation efforts might further ensure its success and integration. © 2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.