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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

silly79's picture
Assignment for a class.

I really do feel that it all comes back to the adult role models for our youth. Teachers can only do so much to help prevent and protect the students. Parents need to be playing a more active roll in preventing their children from becoming the bully or the one being bullied. The lack of parental involvement is a huge part of this. I also think that teachers and administrators, even the other school personnel could contribute more to the prevention of bullying. I know growing up we didn't have lessons about this in the classroom and we rarely were talked to about this kind of thing. Parents need to step up and prevent their children from becoming the bully.

math_6's picture
sixth grade math teacher from western, Michigan!

As a beginning teacher, I am finding that it is incredibly true when people say that teaching on your own is much more challenging than anyone can prepare you for. I currently teach in an inner-city middle school, and as such, the topic of bullying is close to my heart. I have had a few students talk to me about something that a peer said or did that made them uncomfortable or hurt them. I have had students flat out tell me that they feel bullied in our school. And my heart breaks for them. In fact, people have made comments to me about how they never thought that teachers can effective stop bullying. I try to seek out strategies to share with my colleagues about how we might tackle this issue, but I feel bullying is too big of an issue to tackle just in school. How often do we witness cruelty toward others in our day to day lives?

I like the ideas here about educating and involving the community at large. If we are to effectively squash the bullying in society, it really will take the best efforts of us all.

@Barb - I've never heard of Adina's Deck. I think I'll try to locate that resource and possibly bring it to our next team meeting. Sounds like a very relevant and powerful resource!

Mr. A's picture
Mr. A
Second grade teacher in SW Michigan.

I struggle with a group of girls in my classroom that treat others poorly. By themselves they seem to follow the rules and do what is expected of them, but once they get together they make a lot of bad choices. They tease other children about their looks, about their families, and about their intelligence. I've tried using seating arrangements which discourage them from engaging in any negative behaviors, and I've worked with the class on anti-bullying initiatives. These girls are still causing problems for others in places where I can't intervene, such as the lunchroom and the playground. If anyone has any tips or strategies that might help with this I'd appreciate your feedback. I've spoken to the parents of the bullying group about their behavior, and I've worked to empower the other students to stand up for themselves and others when they see bullying taking place.

Shameca C.'s picture

Bullying is something that is going to take everyones active participation in stopping. Parents, teachers, and the community will have to really come together in order to really make a difference.

Andrew's picture

Each day I see some sort of bullying that goes on at my school. As a staff we took a huge leap in being proactive in putting a stop to bullying, yet it still exists. Once a month, for about an hour to two hour, as a staff we present our students with a lesson on bullying. Each time we get to these lessons the students are frustrated with the fact that they have to go through yet another lesson on bullying. The students say things like "what is the point, bullying will still happen" or "Bullying does not happen here." The reluctance/naivety can be very disheartening with a subject of this magnitude. I agree with all of you though in that the parents need to take more of a proactive role in putting a stop to this. We have even instituted nationally renowned anti-bullying programs (Challenge Day and PBS) at our school, yet bullying still happens.
As a school we have offered seminars and discussions where parents can come in and learn about bullying, however they are poorly attended. Bullying to me is very selfish behavior something that is done in order for one to get attention. However the problem with that is one it is morally wrong and two students don't realize the impact their words can have on some else's life. Each and every life it important but it is also fragile. As educators we must continue to fight bullying so that we can save the lives of students. As fellow educators do you have thoughts on what our next step should be? Any insights would be helpful.

forevercampuskiddo's picture

math_6, I currently work in a school district outside of Flint that has embraced the idea of a district-wide anti-bullying approach. I'm not sure if there's a particular program that they're using, but they're serious about extending it to every school and training every staff member - there was a training for non-certified staff just last week. There are regular blue-out days, where students and staff wear blue shirts to show support against bullying, and it's just overall a huge part of the culture here. I work with 5th and 6th graders, and it continually amazes me how quickly and easily they stand up for one another and watch out for each other. I'll add, too, that while this is a mostly-white, suburban district, the school where I work just this year received full Title I status due to the percentage of children receiving free or reduced lunches, so it's by no means an affluent school, and these kids have plenty of problems in their home lives to deal with, too.

forevercampuskiddo's picture

Mr. A, have you thought about or had the opportunity to sit down with these girls (either individually or as a group, or both) and find out why they're behaving the way they are? Perhaps they don't realize that their behavior is so antagonistic - some kids who bully do it because they think it's funny and think that the victim thinks it's funny, too. Maybe they honestly don't realize how hurtful their comments and actions are to others. Or maybe something else is going on with them that feeds that need to harass others. Either way, I can't think that it would hurt to sit them down in a calm moment and ask them about what's going on (with no judgment and no threat of punishment). I do that with a lot of the kids with whom I work, and it's amazing how quickly you can build rapport and trust with kids who see you as an empathetic ally who wants to help them solve these kinds of problems - and how easily that relationship becomes a bridge to keeping track of what's going down both in and out of the classroom. You might also check out Ross Greene's thought-provoking book, "Lost at School," for ideas on sparking that productive conversation with these girls.

forevercampuskiddo's picture

Andrew, that's so awesome that your school is taking these steps! I can completely understand how frustrating that must be, though, to be getting that type of reaction from students. By no means do I think I have a be-all, end-all answer for you - especially since I came into my district in the middle of a district-wide anti-bullying campaign and really have no idea how they got the ball rolling - but I'm curious about the responses of the students. I wonder if they are seeing this program as being just another part of the curriculum that's being foisted on them, like it or not? If they're assigning about the same importance to it as they do on something that they "have" to learn, like math formulas or grammar, then I think it's understandable that they're less than enthusiastic about it. Would it be possible to invite the students to help - or even take charge of - planning an anti-bullying campaign or curriculum? Since bullying is a student-generated and -perpetuated problem, it might be helpful for them to work on their own solutions for solving it, and it will give them buy-in, a reason to be interested in and engaged with what they are learning. Ask them why they think bullying happens, and ask them what they think can be done to put a stop to it. I don't think you can expect miracles right away, but I think if you can keep the door open to student insight and input, you may start to get some good things going after a little while.

joe's picture

Bullying is something that happens in every school, in one form or another. Teacher and administration can only do so much, when it is reported or seen. A lot of the times bullying happens outside of the school setting and brought into the school environment. Teachers and administrators need outside help from parents and adults to help stop what is going on outside of the schools. Recently, the school that I work for, made it a catagory one offence, meaning that it was an automatic three days out of school suspension and an administrative hearing. The students now know that the school community is not tolerating this type of behavior. Letters have been sent home to inform parents and in the beginning of the year parents are asked to come to an open house seminar on bullying. By doing this, the bullying rate has dropped at the school, but it is still an issue there. With the csses that are reported, those students that are the bullyers, are dealt with quickly and prefessionally, with a zero tolerance approach. The part that I am concerned about is that, what are the numbers that are not reported.

Ali Raza's picture
Ali Raza
Parent of 1child

no one has the right to buly other , on the other side the victim should
not sensitive he/she should be strong enough to face this world,

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