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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action

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.

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Barb's picture
Barb
Teacher Northern California

Adina's Deck, a DVD series, approaches cyber bullying in a way that is fresh, engaging & educational! Assessments of Adina's Deck have demonstrated significant & substantial results in educating teens about Internet Safety. I highly recommend this series as a strong resource for use in classrooms and mental health agencies in approaching the serious effects of cyberbullying. They also have 2 other DVD's on online crushes and plagiarism which are equally educational and powerful.

silly79's picture
silly79
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
math_6
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.

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