National Institute of Justice National Institute of Justice. Research. Development. Evaluation. Office of Justice Programs
skip navigationHome  |  Help  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map   |  Glossary
Reliable Research. Real Results. skip navigation
skip navigation Additional Resources:

skip navigation

Program Profile

Steps to Respect®

Evidence Rating: Effective - More than one study Effective - More than one study

Program Description

Program Goals
Steps to Respect® is a research-based, comprehensive bullying prevention program developed for grades 3 through 6 by Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through effective social and emotional learning programs. The program is designed to decrease school bullying problems by 1) increasing staff awareness and responsiveness, 2) fostering socially responsible beliefs, and 3) teaching social–emotional skills to counter bullying and to promote healthy relationships. The program also aims to promote skills (e.g., joining groups, resolving conflict) associated with general social competence. In sum, the program is designed to promote a safe school environment to counter the detrimental social effects of bullying.

Target Population/Eligibility or Target Sites
The program is intended for elementary students in grades 3 through 6, following from the premise that the upper elementary years are a particularly important developmental stage to influence bullying-related skills, beliefs, and behavior.

Program Components
A major aim of the Steps to Respect® program is to counteract children’s negative views regarding their ability to seek help for bullying problems. This critical objective is emphasized throughout the program using three components:

  1. Schoolwide program guide. This component is designed to change the schoolwide environment by intervening at levels beyond the individual child. School administrators and staff establish schoolwide bullying policies and procedures that are designed to encourage discipline that stops problems before they escalate. This allows the entire school to become involved in the effort to reduce bullying behaviors.
  2. Staff training. This component provides training to adults in the school to recognize bullying and respond effectively to children’s reports of bullying behavior. To familiarize staff with all techniques and goals, the staff receive an overview of program goals and key features of program content. Teachers, counselors, and administrators receive additional training in how to coach students involved in bullying episodes.
  3. Classroom curriculum. This component is the core aspect of the program and consists of 11 skill- and literature-based lessons presented over 12 to 14 weeks. There are three grade-based levels of curricula; level 1 is taught at third or fourth grade, level 2 at fourth or fifth grade, and level 3 at fifth or sixth grade. Each lesson is approximately 50 minutes long and applies cognitive–behavioral techniques to promote socially responsible norms and foster social–emotional skills. Specific techniques are used to a) help students identify the various forms of bullying, b) provide a rationale and clear guidelines for socially responsible actions and nonaggressive responses to bullying (that reduce chances of continued victimization), c) train students in assertiveness, empathy, and emotion regulation skills, and d) allow students to practice friendship skills and conflict resolution. Lessons also include techniques to teach children when and how to report bullying to adults.
Key Personnel
This program emphasizes collaboration among the entire school community, including teachers, administrators, and counselors.

Program Theory
Steps to Respect® adopts a socioecological approach to bullying in the school setting, concentrating on the broad-scale impact of social interactions among students on the school environment. Because many children become involved as bystanders to bullying in both helpful and harmful ways, the program emphasizes that all members of a school community must take responsibility for decreasing bullying. Accordingly, the program aims to reduce bullying and negative social interactions by increasing social competence and improving teacher responses to bullying. The program components are intended to promote positive interactions between students and to foster positive norms by creating and reinforcing policies about bullying and respectful behavior. Based on this approach, the program is intended to improve social relationships among students. In theory, improved social relationships will reduce bullying, thus allowing a safe school environment to flourish.

Evaluation Outcomes

top border
Study 1
Observed Bullying Behavior

Frey and colleagues (2009) observed that mean levels of bullying were significantly lower in the Steps to Respect® intervention group relative to the control group. There were no changes in bullying from third to fifth grade in the intervention group, whereas bullying increased within the control group.

Observed Nonbullying Aggression
Nonbullying aggression in intervention schools showed significant declines, and aggression in both posttest periods was lower than in the pretest period for the group who exhibited this behavior at pretest. Specifically, nonbullying aggression decreased by 20 percent in the first year and by 36.4 percent in the second. By 18 months, significant declines in nonbullying aggression were observed within the treatment group relative to the control group.

Observed Destructive Bystander Behavior
Observed destructive behavior was significantly lower in the intervention group relative to the control group. Behavior declined over time in the treatment group, but remained the same in the control group.

Observed Argumentative Behavior
While there were no significant group differences, argumentative interactions declined over time in the intervention group but remained the same for the control group.

Observed Victimization Behavior
The mean levels of victimization were significantly lower in the intervention group relative to the control group. There were no changes in victimization from third to fifth grade in the intervention group, whereas victimization increased within the control group.

Observed Agreeable Behavior
There were no observed group differences in agreeable behavior over time.

Self-Reported Direct Aggressive Behavior
There was an increase in self-reported direct aggression at the 18 months’ posttest for the students in the fifth grade in the second year of the intervention, but not in the fourth grade. There were no significant differences between the groups, which both reported increased aggression over time.

Self-Reported Indirect Aggressive Behavior
Students’ reports of indirect aggression increased over time for the intervention group, but there were no significant differences between the groups.

Self-Reported Victimization
Students’ reports of victimization in intervention schools declined across the three time points for the intervention group, but there were no significant differences between the groups.

Study 2
Students Involved in Malicious Gossip

Low and colleagues (2010) found that Steps to Respect® intervention students who gossiped at pretest showed significantly larger declines than their peers in the control group. Additionally, girls were more likely than boys to be involved as gossips, and as targets of gossip. Older students were also more likely to become involved as gossips, or targets, than younger students.

Students who were involved only as targets (20.4 percent) or perpetrators (15.8 percent) were underrepresented compared with students involved in both roles (24.4 percent) or not involved at all (39.3 percent). This pattern was found among boys and girls and among younger and older students.

Study 3
Teacher-Reported Physical Bullying

Brown and colleagues (2011) examining Steps to Respect® found that, although teacher assessments of bullying increased for treatment and control groups, the increase for the treatment group was significantly lower than for the control group.

Teacher-Reported Nonphysical Bullying
No difference was found between intervention and control groups in teacher assessment of nonphysical bullying.

Teacher-Reported Social Competency
Teachers in the treatment group reported little change in social competencies, while teachers in the control group reported declines in social competency, indicating a reduction of 31 percent in the likelihood of physical bullying perpetration in the intervention group relative to the control group.

Student-Reported Bullying Perpetration
No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of bullying.

Student-Reported Victimization
No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of victimization.

Student-Reported Bystander Behavior
Compared with students in the control group, treatment students reported significantly greater increases in bystander behavior.

Student-Reported Bullying-Related Problems
No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of bullying-related problems.
bottom border

Evaluation Methodology

top border
Study 1
Frey and colleagues (2009) conducted a longitudinal extension of a randomized control trial of the Steps to Respect® program, which was a follow-up of a previous study (Frey et al. 2005). The third and fourth grade intervention students (from the sample in Frey et al. 2005) comprised the longitudinal sample for the current study. Data from the original study’s sample was collected for a second year and compared with that of control group students of equivalent grades. Six elementary schools within two suburban districts in the Pacific Northwest participated in the study after being matched for size, ethnic breakdown, and percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches. A matched pair in one district started participating in the 2000–2001 school year, and two matched pairs of schools in another district were added in the 2001–02 school year. The longitudinal sample of the second cohort was completed in spring 2003. Third and fourth grade students in the intervention group were followed for 2 years. Of the 225 students, 95 were assessed in the third grade and again in the fourth grade, and 130 were assessed in the fourth and fifth grades. The delayed-intervention control group consisted of 399 students (132 in third grade, 123 in fourth grade, and 144 in fifth grade) who were tested in the year before receiving the intervention. A subset of 164 longitudinal students and 196 control group students were randomly selected at pretest for playground observation.

To analyze impacts of the program, student playground behavior was observed by researchers and recorded. Playground observations were collected between October and December (pretest) and between April and June (6 months’ posttest) of the first intervention year and again during April to June of the second intervention year (18 months’ posttest). A coding scheme was developed to distinguish bullying behavior from nonbullying behavior, and was divided into five specific measures:

  1. Bullying. Physical, verbal, or indirect aggression involving either a) a discernible power imbalance between an aggressor and a target (or aggressors—that is, a group of children aggressing against a single child) or b) repeated aggression, during the same observation session, by a child toward a nonretaliating peer.
  2. Nonbullying aggression. Physical, verbal, or indirect aggression that did not involve a discernible power imbalance or repeated nonreciprocal aggression. Bossy or argumentative behavior was not coded as aggression. Bullying and aggression were distinguished from mock fighting or playful teasing by the absence of mutual expressions of pleasure or interest.
  3. Destructive bystander behavior. Laughter or cheers during bullying events or sustained passive watching while an aggressive act took place within 15 feet of the focal child.
  4. Argumentative social behavior. Nonaggressive, negative acts or statements directed toward another child. This category included behaviors such as acting bossy, arguing, or ignoring another child’s attempts to enter a group.
  5. Agreeable social behavior. Neutral or positive acts or statements toward another (e.g., starting a conversation).
In addition to playground observations, students and teachers were surveyed on student interpersonal and individual behavior. Data was collected over a 2-week period in fall (pretest and 12 months’ posttest) and spring (6 months’ and 18 months’ posttests) of each intervention year. Scales used specific measures to determine student participation in bullying behavior:

  • Direct bullying/aggression. This measure was used to determine whether a student participated in explicit bullying behavior (e.g., “I called kids names at school”).
  • Indirect bullying/aggression. This measure was used to determine whether a student participated in bullying behavior that could create harmful social effects (e.g., “I told my friends to ignore kids I was mad at”).
  • Victimization. This measure was used to determine whether a student had been bullied by other students (e.g., “A group of kids at school called me mean names”).
The study examined longitudinal patterns in bullying-related behavior over 18 months, comparing the longitudinal sample with control students in the same grade. Three-tiered mixed models were used to examine the intervention group students at three periods (pretest, 6 months’ posttest, and 18 months’ posttest). Analyses divided students into those who exhibited specific problem behaviors at pretest and those who did not.

Study 2
Low and colleagues (2010) evaluated the program’s impact on reducing playground relational aggression, as well as the moderating role of normative beliefs and perceived friendship support on changes in aggression and victimization. Six elementary schools participated; conditions for inclusion were that a) 80 percent of all staff voted to participate, b) staff agreed to random assignment to intervention or waitlist control conditions, and c) principals agreed to refrain from introducing similar interventions during the study. Schools within two suburban districts were matched for district, size, ethnic breakdown, and percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches. One of each pair was randomly assigned to the intervention and one to the waitlist control group. Participants were 544 students from six schools in the Pacific Northwest. The intervention group consisted of 296 students, with 225 who had no baseline involvement and 71 who had baseline involvement. The control group consisted of 248 students, with 178 who had no baseline involvement and 70 who had baseline involvement.

School teams in the intervention group developed antibullying policies and systems to handle bullying reports in September and October. Committee for Children trainers conducted standard professional development activities for intervention school personnel in November after school on 2 days. The first day, intended for all school personnel, provided definitions and background information, policies and procedures, and classroom lesson objectives. The second day was devoted to the classroom curricula. Classroom lessons were implemented from January through March. Ten weeks were devoted to skill lessons and rule clarification. Two weeks of literature-based lessons emphasized empathy. Student playground behavior was observed roughly once a week for 2½ months in the fall (October to December), and in the spring (April to June). The 5-minute focal child sampling with continuous recordings was collected in a randomly determined order. Surveys of student beliefs were administered in class at 2 time points: middle November and early May. Items were read aloud to students by one research assistant. A second assistant was on hand to assist individual students.

A description of who is involved in gossip as a target and/or perpetrator was developed for the study. Next, baseline differences in rates of gossip as a function of group, gender, and grade were examined. Means showed participation in playground gossip as rate per hour—a meaningful metric, given that total time on the playground (recesses and lunch break) was close to 1 hour a day in these schools. To assess the program’s impact across group, gender, and grade, the means were then compared.

Study 3
Brown and colleagues (2011) conducted a randomized controlled trial of Steps to Respect® in 33 California elementary schools. Schools were matched on school demographic characteristics and assigned randomly to intervention or waitlisted control conditions. Outcome measures were obtained from a) all school staff, b) a randomly selected subset of third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers in each school, and c) all students in classrooms of selected teachers. The final analysis sample for pre–post outcome analyses consisted of 2,940 students. The Steps to Respect® program was implemented in several phases during the trial. First, during fall 2008, school bullying prevention teams met and collaborated with program consultants to develop the infrastructure to implement and/or sustain school prevention efforts (e.g., handling of reports and coaching for students involved in bullying). Second, in November 2008, school personnel were trained in the Steps to Respect® program. Finally, classroom lessons were implemented in third through sixth grade from December 2008 through May 2009.

To examine student behavior, school staff filled out the Teacher Assessment of Student Behavior (TASB). The TASB was a brief online survey of students’ classroom behavior, scholastic aptitudes, and student demographic information developed by study investigators after a review of related measures. Teachers completed a separate online questionnaire for each student in their classes. TASB measures were identified to assess Steps to Respect® program efficacy in school and classroom competencies in interpersonal social skills (social competency), and teacher-observed physical (physical bullying perpetration) and nonphysical (nonphysical bullying) acts of bullying. Teachers were instructed on the TASB to respond to survey items using the timeframe “since the beginning of the school year.” Teachers’ responses to the assessments were then compared for treatment and control groups, to provide information on the program’s effectiveness.

Students also filled out self-report surveys for several study measures. In addition to student demographic information (age, gender, and race/ethnicity), students were asked to report on the presence of bullying in the school environment. Students were asked to answer questions on bullying behavior, victimization, bystander behaviors, and overall bullying-related problems in the school. Students’ responses to the assessments were then compared for treatment and control groups to provide information on the program’s effectiveness.
bottom border


top border
One kit for each of three grades (3rd – 4th or 5th – 6th) and school-wide implementation support kit, including training materials, cost $859 with free shipping. Additional grade level kits are $249 with free shipping. There are no consumables in the program, so there are no additional costs per year.
bottom border

Implementation Information

top border
The Steps to Respect® Program Guide presents an overview of the curriculum content, goals of the program, research foundations, and a blueprint for developing a schoolwide policy and specific procedures. The foundation of the staff training component is a core instructional session for all school staff and two in-depth training sessions for counselors, administrators, and teachers in which all staff receive an overview of program goals and key features of the program content (e.g., a definition of bullying, a model for responding to bullying reports). Teachers, counselors, and administrators receive additional training in how to coach students involved in bullying. In addition, third through sixth grade teachers complete an orientation to classroom materials and instructional strategies.

A copy of the Steps to Respect® Program Guide is available online.
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Frey, Karin S., Miriam K. Hirschstein, Leihua Van Schoiack–Edstrom, and Jennie L. Snell. 2009. “Observed Reductions in School Bullying, Nonbullying Aggression, and Destructive Bystander Behavior: A Longitudinal Evaluation.” Journal of Educational Psychology 101(2):466–81.

Study 2
Low, Sabina, Karin S. Frey, Callie J. Brockman. 2010. “Gossip on the Playground: Changes Associated With Universal Intervention, Retaliation Beliefs, and Supportive Friends.” School Psychology Review 39(4):536–51.

Study 3
Brown, Eric C., Sabina Low, Brian H. Smith, and Kevin P. Haggerty. 2011. “Outcomes from a School-Randomized Controlled Trial of Steps to Respect®: A Bullying Prevention Program.” School Psychology Review 40(3):423–43.
bottom border

Additional References

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Committee for Children. 2005. Steps to Respect® Program Guide: Review of Research. Seattle, Wash.: Committee for Children.

Frey, Karin S., Miriam K. Hirschstein, Jennie L. Snell, Leihua Van Schoiack–Edstrom, Elizabeth P. MacKenzie, and Carole J. Broderick. 2005. “Reducing Playground Bullying and Supporting Beliefs: An Experimental Trial of the Steps to Respect® Program.” Developmental Psychology 41(3):479–91.

Hirschstein, Miriam K., Leihua Van Schoiack–Edstrom, Karin S. Frey, Jennie L. Snell, and Elizabeth P. MacKenzie. “Walking the Talk in Bullying Prevention: Teacher Implementation Variables Related to Initial Impact of the Steps to Respect® Program.” School Psychology Review 36(1):3–21.
bottom border

Related Practices

top border
Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs
Aim to reduce bullying and victimization (being bullied) in school settings. Some interventions aim to increase positive involvement in the bullying situation from bystanders or witnesses. The practice is rated Effective for reducing bullying, bullying victimization, and for increasing the likelihood of a bystander to intervene. The practice is rated No Effects for increasing bystander empathy for victims of bullying.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Bullying
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Victimization - Being Bullied
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Bystander Intervention
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Empathy for the Victim

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior
bottom border

Program Snapshot

Age: 8 - 12

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, School/Classroom Environment, Bullying Prevention/Intervention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Committee for Children
2815 Second Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle WA 98121
Phone: 800.634.4449

Program Director:
Sherry Burke
Director of Programs, Partnerships, and Research
Committee for Children
2815 Second Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle WA 98121
Phone: 800.634.4449