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5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action

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With the release of the film Bully and daily news reports about the devastating impact on students who have been relentlessly bullied, teachers find themselves on the front line in addressing bullying. It is time to move into action. Not In Our School offers solutions-based strategies and tools for change to a network of schools that are working to create safe, inclusive and accepting climates. The core ideas and actions of Not In Our School include:

Identification of Problems of Intolerance and Bullying

The focus is on problems that result from students bullying, harassing or being exclusionary and hateful. Often, harassment is based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, or disability. The first step is to start with a dialogue about the particular problem. Start with a lesson on mapping bully zones.

Solutions Defined by Students and Peer-to-Peer Actions

Students are supported in defining the problems and solutions needed to incorporate peer-to-peer actions, make their schools safe and help bystanders gather the courage to become "upstanders." A student-led anti-bullying assembly is a powerful way to encourage everyone to get involved.

Collective Voice

The entire school community unites to say Not in Our School. This could take many forms -- buttons, banners, slogans, t-shirts, pledges, assemblies and school-wide activities -- but it needs to grow out of authentic discussion and efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds and gender identities. We've created a quick-start download to help launch this effort at your school.

Many activities have been successfully implemented in schools and may be viewed in videos with lesson guides on the Not In Our School website. An array of testimonials from administrators, teachers, and students are available as well.

What is the Urgency?

In three horrifying hate crimes, high school students murdered a transgender Latina youth in Newark, California in 2005, a Latino man in Patchogue, New York in 2008, and an African-American man in Mississippi in 2011. As many as 20 people were involved in or stood and watched the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a Richmond, California high school homecoming dance in 2009. Every day, news outlets report cases of youth who are bullied because they are perceived to be gay. Bullying can lead to serious emotional problems, multiple school absences and higher risk factors for suicide. These incidents have raised national awareness with new anti-bullying laws in 48 states that require schools to take immediate action regarding bullying. New research from scholars at University of California - Davis found that approaches to bullying and harassment have a better chance of success if bystanders, who make up the vast majority, are the focus of efforts to shift social norms. Interestingly, students seeking to move up the social ladder engage in acts of social cruelty, erroneously believing that it will increase their status. In our PBS film Not In Our Town: Class Actions, middle school students take the lead in educating their peers and their teachers in a NIOS anti-bullying initiative that reached 50,000 students following two suicides of local youth in Lancaster, California.

Five Practical Ways to Stop Bullying and Intolerance

1) Recognize and Respond

Bullying and intolerance manifest as verbal, written or physical acts that harm another person.

  • Educate students, parents and staff about taking bullying seriously and how to recognize it. Make an action plan to respond swiftly to incidents and daily teasing.
  • Identify and monitor places where most bullying happens (e.g., on the way to and from school, in the cafeteria, and on the school yard.)

2) Create Dialogue

Create opportunities for open dialogue with youth about bullying and intolerance. Let students lead through peer-to-peer action.

  • Provide opportunities for students to share their feelings, problems or ideas.
  • Get students involved in organizing anti-bullying forums where they resolve problems.

3) Encourage Bystanders to Become "Upstanders"

Upstanders are people who stand up for themselves and others.

  • Model ways for young people to intervene and speak up. Practice with role-playing.
  • Help youth develop effective phrases to reject negative comments or social media posts.
  • Have older students help younger students learn to speak up.

4) Foster Safety and Inclusion

Foster identify safe and welcoming environments that promote inclusion and acceptance, places where students feel everyone is respected and their identity is valued.

  • Connect with young people and create the trust that will help them come forward if they are being bullied.
  • Listen to them, pay attention and offer support when students are upset or sad.

5) Educate Your Community

Partner with others to take joint action in educating students, teachers and parents about bullying in your school and community.

  • Create a coalition of elected, school and civic community leaders to sign a school-wide pledge to say No Bullying: Not In Our School/Not In Our Town.
  • Sponsor a "Not In Our Schools" Week with buttons, banners, slogans, t-shirts and school-wide activities.

A Movement

Not in Our School as a movement and campaign is an effort that asks everyone to change the atmosphere that can lead to bullying and intolerance. Although the process can begin with these five steps, a safer climate for students does not happen overnight. It requires a sustained and collaborative effort of students, parents, educators and community members who work together to model and practice empathy, thoughtful responses and respect for different backgrounds and perspectives. It grows out of authentic discussion and efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds and gender identities. In this lesson idea, "New Immigrants Share Their Stories" students may begin to think about their own relationships in the community.

School needs to be a place where students discover their identities, and where each student feels that a unique identity is an asset to him or her -- and to the world. They need to feel emotionally comfortable in a warm and "identity safe" environment where stereotypes and stereotype threat (the fear of being judged by a negative stereotype) are addressed. Efforts to build empathy and involve students in the process of change can shift the school culture to one where offending or hurting someone else, either in person or online, is not seen as cool. The whole culture can become a warm, caring environment where bullying is much less likely to occur.

Comments (31)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

teacherandstudent's picture
Title 1 teacher from Ohio

I believe being aware of what is going on outside my classroom is a key to preventing bullying. Teachers need to be present on playgrounds during recess and in halls and outside school doors before and after school. My elementary school relieved classroom teachers of all duties and assigned those duties to PE, art, music, and special ed teachers. The classroom teachers do not experience what is going on outside of their classrooms and miss the opportunities to teach tolerance skills.

Hugh McNulty's picture

As a guidance counselor I'm troubled by the increase in bullying I've seen in my school. The principal, teachers, and I continue to fight against it, but it's difficult to reach out to all the students with only our words. But I found the answer to my problem when I saw "Bully" this past weekend. I've finally found a way to reach out to my students in a way they can all understand. That is the power of this movie! Bullying must end immediately and with the help of the "Bully" movie we can move forward.

Bill Belsey's picture
Bill Belsey
President, Bullying.org

Thank you for your post.

As a parent, educator, anti-bullying activist and the person who first coined the term "cyberbullying", I would like to share four Websites I have created that seek to prevent bullying through education and awareness. I hope that they may be of help, information and support to others.

The world's most visited and referenced Website about bullying

The world's first Website about cyberbullying

Offering Professional research-based, online courses and Webinars about bullying and cyberbullying for educators and parents

The official Website of the annual Bullying Awareness Week

I hope that these educational resources may prove helpful to you and your learning community.


Bill Belsey

"Where you are NOT alone!"

e-mail: help@bullying.org

Follow us on Twitter: @Bullying_org

William Zimmerman's picture
William Zimmerman
Literacy, ESL Teacher and Creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com

MakeBeliefsComix.com offers some graphic writing prompts about bullying and peer pressure that can be very useful in the classroom to help students express their thoughts and feelings about these subjects. They're free and at: http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Printables_Categories/PrintablesThumbs.p...
If you try them with your students, please give me some feedback on students' responses.
Bill Zimmerman
Creator, MakeBeliefsComix.com and www.billztreasurechest.com

J S's picture
Junior Level Mechanical Engineering

Bullying can be a really sticky situation to deal with in class. I just took an interesting webinar by WEPAN on implicit bias. Project Implicit (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/) is a Harvard-based research effort studying implicit bias. Having the class take their demonstration bias assessment on the web would create an opportunity to engage students about how bullying, disrespect, and other negative behaviors foster implicit bias and create pejorative environments in school. Making implicit biases explicit is one way deal with bias. I applaud you for trying to do something about bully while the rest of us just talk. The WEPAN website http://www.wepanknowledgecenter.org/home has many other good references in its knowledge center that might be helpful.

Heather's picture
K teacher from Alaska

Bullying is a more common problem then people realize. I have found often as a teacher the student who is getting bullied does not come forward and as a teacher I have to be more vigilant in my classroom. Coming forward is often the hardest thing to do for a student being bullied. However being proactive and working with students on Social Emotional Learning makes a big difference. Especially with the younger students. They need the security of safety and I always emphasize that my classroom is safe. My job is not just to help them learn, but to keep them safe inside and out, their job is to keep their classmates safe. Its amazing what a sense of responsibility can do for kids. They take very seriously their job of helping others to be happy and not hurting.

Dr. Rob Garcia's picture
Dr. Rob Garcia
Former High School Engineering Teacher now Author and EdD

In honor of anti bullying month, I am offering my new book, Teen Juggernaut for FREE to anyone that asks for it. Its fully illustrated and offers teens tips on self confidence, dealing with bullies, self esteem, college choices, and how to build a great life. email me at robleegarcia@yahoo.com and Ill send you your free E-book. If you like it, tell someone or share it. I spent two years researching and writing it and our kids deserve the best.....thanks everyone....Rob

Becki Cohn-Vargas's picture
Becki Cohn-Vargas
Director, Not In Our School at Not In Our Town

Link to Free Materials to start a NIOS Campaign http://www.niot.org/nios/quickstart

Video Action Kit: http://www.niot.org/nios/videoactionkit
The Kit contains everything you need to need to launch your own Not in Our School anti-bullying campaign:
* Original Not in Our Town film and lesson guide
* Not in Our Town: When Hate Happens Here film and lesson guide
* 18 short films and accompanying lesson guides
* Sample buttons, posters, and pledges
* Step-by-step guide to begin NIOS at your school

Dr. Rob Garcia's picture
Dr. Rob Garcia
Former High School Engineering Teacher now Author and EdD

Thank you to everyone that wrote and requested a free copy of my book Teen Juggernaut! I was pleasantly surprised to see educators from Lebanon, Mexico, and all over the US who wanted to read it. I hope that you all enjoy it and will use it to make positive contributions to the lives of young people.

I managed to send out copies to everyone that wrote and will be continuing the promotion through October. Email me at robleegarcia@yahoo.com and Ill send you a free copy. College tips, dealing with bullying, choosing a career, building self esteem, and more!! Thanks Edutopia.......


Susan Weikel Morrison's picture
Susan Weikel Morrison
Science Education Program Developer, Sci-Q Systems

This is mostly a K-6 solution:
A powerful tool teachers can use with bullies is to take the bully and victim away from other students and encourage the victim to say to the bully, "I feel _______ when you ______, and I would like you to _________. The bully is not allowed to interrupt, and when they respond they are not allowed to question the victim's feelings. The teacher explains to the bully that they can control their own actions, but they have no control over how others feel. The conversation can continue from there. Since it often takes place during the students' free time, they are both motivated to come to a resolution quickly.

I believe the most effort should be put into teaching kids how to effectively respond to bullies because they will encounter bullies throughout their lives. Good strategies include ignoring mild bullying, deliberately freezing the bully out of your sphere, enrolling the support of friends and authorities, having some fun with humor at the bully's expense, calmly standing your ground, etc. If enough kids are inoculated against bullies, there will be fewer bullies.

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